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Riverdale-Danforth : Innovation + Job News

4 Riverdale-Danforth Articles | Page:

Using digital tools to help St. James Town residents manage their own health care

Let's say you've just arrived in Toronto, moved here from abroad. You'll immediately be faced with a host of challenges—everything from navigating the city's streets to finding an apartment and a job.

Among those challenges: managing your health in an entirely new environment. This includes everything from learning how the health care system works to understanding how to cook nutritious food when you can't necessarily find some of the ingredients that you're used to, or see different fruits and vegetables at the market than the ones you are familiar with.

Enter Self Care Catalysts, a health care company, and local charity Community Matters. They have teamed up to launch a new project in St. James Town, a Toronto neighbourhood with one of the highest concentration of newcomers in Canada. The project, called "Healthy Living in St. James Town" will enable residents to participate in their own health care management by allowing them to create customized platforms that can tackle anything from diabetes monitoring to dietary goals. Users will be able to access their personalized platforms either via mobile devices, or through desktop computers at Community Matters.

Because the majority of the population at St. James Town are newcomers, says Grace Soyao, CEO of Self Care Catalysts,  “many of them do not have an understanding of the health care system in Toronto."

What local community workers realized is that these residents "needed a tool to help educate them about things like differences in the types of food you can buy and consume here versus their home countries. Many residents also have different beliefs about health and how to manage their health—culture essentially defines the way that they manage their health," and our health care system works differently than what residents may have been used to in their countries of origin.

Right now the service is provided in English, but given that many newcomers are also new to English, the goal is to add in other languages over time.

As for Self Care Catalyst, their business model doesn't rely on user fees: the service is free for all residents. What they do is gather information from their user base, stripping out all identifiable information about individuals, and create data sets that they can then sell to governments or health care companies, to help them improve health services based on the real behaviours of specific populations.

"We collect [various] kinds of data and correlate it with patient groups and profiles so that way we are almost collecting voices by patients…that can be used to develop better health care solutions," explains Soyao. So, for instance, with enough information about dietary habits, a data set could be used to generate a more culturally diverse food guide (or to create a series of culturally specific food guides, based on the kinds of ingredients different cultures tend to rely on).

It's a way of allowing patients to participate in their own care, the new partners hope, and also a way of allowing health care providers to learn from those very patients about how to serve them better.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Grace Soyao, CEO, Self Care Catalysts

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Diaspora Dialogues, Toronto Botanical Garden, and more

As befits the season, there are many seasonal job posting right now, especially in the areas of gardening, urban agriculture, and the environment.

Evergreen, based out of the Brick Works, is hiring an urban agriculture program assistant for the summer. Applicants must be under 30 years of age and returning to full-time post-secondary studies in the fall, and will work both on the green spaces at the Brick Works and in delivering programs across the Toronto region.

Green Thumb Growing Kids, a charity that helps urban children learn about how to grow, cook, and enjoy fresh food, is also hiring summer students: they are looking for two garden program leaders to help maintain school gardens and develop children's garden programs. Applicants can be younger in this case—the age range is 15-30—but must be returning to some kind of full-time study in the fall.

Also in this area, Central Toronto Community Health Centres is looking for a garden and program support worker to run weekly programs, maintain a community kitchen, and provide other assistance as needed. This too is a program for students under 30 returning to studies at the end of the summer. Another community organization, the Agincourt Community Services Association, is on the hunt for some similar help: they are trying to find two urban agriculture facilitators for the summer to promote youth engagement in gardening and healthy eating.

Finally in this sector, the Toronto Botanical Garden is seeking a teaching assistant for their children's programs. The assistant will be working with children aged 3-11 enrolled in the Gardens' summer camp programs, as well as help with maintaining the teaching gardens.

Also for students, but in another area of environmental work: TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative, which focuses on energy conservation, has a summer opening for a communications and research assistant to help with their ongoing outreach and marketing efforts.

Moving on to the cultural sector, FACTOR, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings, is hiring a full-time project coordinator to manage an artists' client base. Also looking for a project coordinator is ArtReach Toronto, which focuses on engaging youth who typically have a hard time accessing arts programming. It's a six-month, part-time contract, and the coordinator's primary responsibility will be to develop a series of cultural career workshops.

One last, and particularly noteworthy opportunity: Diaspora Dialogues, which supports diversity in the creation of new literature in Canada, is seeking a new artistic director. The position is part time, and the successful candidate will play the lead role in shaping the overall direction programming takes in future.

Do you know of a great job opportunity? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

Small biz accounting innovators Wave get $750K in financing, triple staff in single year

Toronto-based software company Wave Accounting, which sets out to offer completely free software to small business owners, recently received an investment of just over $755,000 from the federal government's economic development agency, FedDev Ontario. "Anybody in a startup is going to sometimes have to focus on keeping the wolves at bay," says company spokesperson Rob Maurin. "This investment allows us to play in a more strategic way, developing the business with an eye to long-term growth and profitability instead of trying to monetize as quickly as possible."

Launched just over a year ago, in November 2010, the company offers full-service accounting software to small business owners and freelancers. The software produces business intelligence and reports suitable for filing tax returns and managing a business. Maurin says, "It's 100 per cent free, there's no premium features, no limit on transactions, no cap on the size of business." Maurin says founders Kirk Simpson and James Lochrie noticed that almost two-thirds of small business owners--those with fewer than 10 employees--use any kind of accounting software at all, and saw a huge potential market of 29 million such businesses across North America.

Wave makes its money by using aggregated business information from clients--while, stresses Maurin, vigilantly protecting their privacy and information--to offer them targeted deals from other companies. "Let's say we saw that 10,000 small business owners in Canada were each spending $120 a month with cell phone carrier A," he says. "We might go to cell phone carrier B and say, 'Can we facilitate an introduction, if you're able to offer these business owners a savings?'"

Wave is also developing other business software on a for-pay model--Maurin says they are launching payroll management software this month--that clients might fight useful to complement their accounting package.

In one year, the staff has gone from 7 to 21. Maurin says they are still hiring now. "I wouldn't be surprised if next year at this time our staff has doubled again," he says.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Rob Maurin, Director of Community and Marketing, Wave Accounting

Electric car demo centre--and 8 charging stations--now open in the GTA

The California-based company Better Place, who promote the use of electric vehicles, officially opened their Toronto operations earlier this month.  As of March 4, the company is operating a electric vehicle demonstration centre at Toronto's Evergreen Brick Works in the Don Valley just east of Rosedale, where members of the general public can learn more about electric vehicles and see a sample of a charging station.

The project, which received $1 million in funding form the provincial government, also includes eight GTA charging stations that will mostly serve participating corporate partners for now, located in Barrie, Toronto, Bowmanville, Markham, Vaughan and Ajax.

Better Place's North American VP, Jason Wolf, says in a statement that this type of project is part of setting the stage for "mass adoption" as the first-generation of electric vehicles rolls off the assembly lines. "This project highlights some of the key building blocks to get there: government leadership; public education; and a smart network system that scales and delivers benefits to the grid, rather than strains it." In addition to the provincial government, Better Places is working with the City of Toronto and regional utilities in the suburbs.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: John Proctor, Better Place; Leigh-Ann Popek, office of the Minister of Economic Development
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