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Civic Impact

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Community Living Toronto uses grant to boost community programs

Community Living Toronto is launching two pilot projects to better integrate participants into their communities, as part of the organization’s broader shift away from site-based day programs towards community-based activities.
Last week the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services announced an investment of $404,097 in the organization, which supports people with intellectual disabilities and their families, as part of the province’s Employment and Modernization Fund. As well as the two pilot projects, the funds will go towards providing staff with the skills to develop community connections and provide participants will community readiness and travel training. They’ll also create a sustainable process for ongoing training-the-trainer programs.
“We’re quite excited. We’re always looking at ways to provide more choices for the people we support,” says Bob Ferguson, Community Living Toronto’s service development manager. “When writing for the grant, we realized we had a lot of components for this already, it’s just putting all these resources into new structures. Having these resources will really help us speed up the process.”
While Community Living Toronto traces its origins back to the 1950s, there’s been a shift over the last couple of decades away from the idea of “sheltered workshops” for people with intellectual challenges, to a more inclusionary model where participants pursue their goals for working, socializing, learning and volunteering out and about in their own communities. That means staff support has needed to become much more focused on finding and networking with community partners, like employers, to link participants with jobs and other opportunities.

They also have to work on making sure that both participants and partners have the skills needed to make the relationships successful. “Most organizations understand community inclusion, but we still need to provide information and support. Usually just having them get to know the person reduces any stress.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Bob Ferguson

At Seedy Sunday, gardeners and farmer share planting strategies

As the ground beneath feet our slowly becomes visible again after a hard winter, gardeners’ thoughts are turning to digging in it.
At Evergreen’s fourth annual Seedy Sunday, horticultural experts and neophytes alike will have the opportunity to buy, sell and trade local heritage and heirloom seeds—as well as the stories that accompany the seeds.
“There’s always been a seed catalogue you can order your seeds from, but the beauty of this event is meeting the folks who have grown out the seeds and having a one-on-one relationship with them,” says Ryan Johnston, project manager of urban agriculture at Evergreen. “The conversations are usually centred around what worked really well in the garden last year, and what are you planning for this year.” By sharing experiences and strategies as well as seeds, participants are more likely to get the best results.
To kickstart these conversations, this year Seedy Sunday is introducing platonic “seed dating” where participants get to talk to other growers for three minutes before a bell rings and they move on to talk to the next grower. Attendees will also be able to chat with food producers who participate in community-supplied agriculture, where consumers sign up for pre-paid plans with farmers.
While large-scale agriculture relies on fewer and fewer varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers—usually the hardiest, not the tastiest—there’s been a renewed interest in sharing heirloom seeds in order to maintain seed diversity. Attendees who check out seed from the Toronto Seed Library, which is hosting the event with Evergreen and Seeds of Diversity, are expected to return the seed after their harvest.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Ryan Johnston

Tales from Regent Park take the stage at storytelling festival

When Dinny Biggs discovered the Toronto Storytelling Festival was hosting events at Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park, she realized it was important to have Regent Park residents themselves up on the festival stage.
“I knew the wealth of stories that were there among the residents,” says Biggs, a former teacher and community worker in Regent Park schools and the Pathways to Education Program. As project coordinator of Village of Storytellers: Regent Park, she helped set up a series of weekly visits where participants would practice telling their stories to small, friendly audiences. The result: About 15 participants will join professional storytellers from around the world during the 11-day event, which starts Thursday.
“Many participants are immigrants themselves and come from countries where storytelling is very much an active part of family life and community gatherings. We wanted this project to help rekindle that,” says Biggs.
In perhaps most overt celebrations of Regent Park’s multiculturalism, the Friday, March 20, program will feature stories from people with roots in Somalia, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Pakistan, told in five different languages, interpreted in English, then again interpreted in five languages different from the original languages. Stories that at first seem to be culturally specific can turn out to be universal.
“I’m looking forward to the pride that these emerging storytellers exhibit in being part of an exciting collection of people. We’ve had participants telling to each other, we’ve had in-house performances where they told to friends and family who were invited to come, but here they’re going to be on stage telling to the public and that takes a lot of courage,” says Biggs. Just two of this year’s Regent Park cohort told stories last year.
For stories where Regent Park itself plays a role, a free video event on Saturday, March 28, will present 30 two-minute stories from locals, gathered as part of the Regent Park Storymap project.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Dinny Biggs

Park Summit celebrates big ideas

Just as the warm weather was setting Toronto’s parks free from layers of snow, participants at the Toronto Parks Summit were setting free their ideas on how to make the city’s parks even more welcoming.
The fifth annual event, held last week at Regent Park, brought together 400 park supporters, including city staff and volunteers from local park groups. They shared innovations and achievements that have come from residents getting involved with improving and programming parks. I asked Dave Harvey, director of Toronto Park People, what impressed him most about this year’s summit.
Creative ideas. From a container café in McCormack Park to an urban angling program to an Orchard Park project where residents made cider from apples picked there, advocates think outside the box. “These are really great ideas for public space and none of them cost much money at all. They just need the community working credibly with the Parks Department to say yes.”
Some ideas catch on like wildfire. When Toronto Park People was founded in 2011, they were regularly getting calls from Torontonians who envied the Ping-Pong tables they were seeing in parks in several US cities. “We were pushing the idea and were getting nowhere. Finally we found a private funder willing to fund a Ping-Pong table in Mel Lastman Square in 2013 and once the first one got in, it led to a couple more. This year there are Ping-Pong tables flying in everywhere and the city is paying for them.”
Parks aren’t just for sports. A partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival presented four movie nights last year. This year TIFF in the Park will present 10 movie nights—and 61 park groups have applied to host them. “People used to go to parks for organized sports or getting away, but now they’re social gathering places, places where you grow food and eat food. You see movies, you hear music.”
Park advocacy isn’t just for downtown types. There’s now at least one parks group in every ward in the city. “The best park is a park that meets the community’s needs and every community is different.”
Sharing and networking produce real results. In the past, parks groups could get frustrated, feeling like they were reinventing the wheel or wading through red tape in isolation. Now groups can share strategies and results. One parks group can point to what the city did for another group and expect to be able to do the same thing. “Particularly after amalgamation, there was a hangover of different rules for different parks and people being told different things about what’s permitted. Now people are feeling they’re part of a bigger movement and the Parks Department is working with them to support what they’re trying to do.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Dave Harvey
Photo: Debapriya Chakraborty

New youth project sparks cross-cultural spiritual connections

At a gathering last spring, a group of about 40 youth involved with YSI Collaborative, a program working to empower young people to make good things happen in their communities, were wrestling with how to create more cross-cultural understanding, especially between indigenous and non-indigenous young people. Somewhat unexpectedly, spirituality became a major part of the discussion. “Not in the traditional theological sense, but people thought it would be great to explore what it means in a bigger context. How do young people relate to spirituality? How is it influenced by where they come from and their social backgrounds?” says Chris Lee, project coordinator for YSI Collaborative.
With a grant from Inspirit Foundation and working with SKETCH Working ArtsThinking Rock Community Arts, the Children’s Peace Theatre and Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), YSI came up with Young Spirit Circles. Described as “a roadshow of sorts,” the initiative will host meetings for young people from four areas of Ontario so they can engage with others of different ethnic backgrounds and belief systems. This month, four change-makers/organizers from across the province are being trained to host these conversations this spring and summer.
This is the first time YSI has deliberately explored youth spirituality.
“The gatherings we run are focused on the individual’s self-transformation, the groups they belong to and the larger systems they’re working in, so we try to approach things holistically,” says Lee. “While we haven’t explicitly talked about spirituality, we do try to create spaces where we can have conversations where people can ask, ‘What is the type of self-care or supports you need? Where do you get your strength from?’”
Indigenous culture remains a component of the program. “One of the trainers is an elder, Gerard Sagassige, who will bring some of his teachings. That will offer a framework, but each community will have its own take on what spirituality means,” says Lee. For example, the event in East Toronto will probably include youth with South Asian backgrounds.
YSI is hoping the gatherings—and the skills gained by participants and the leadership team—will lead to other connections and community transformations. “We’re hoping these young people will listen in ways that change their worldview and allow them to come at things from a more reflective place.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Chris Lee
Photo: Fonna Seidu

TRIEC launches a networking program to foster super-connectors

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council is well-known for its Mentoring Partnership, which pairs new immigrants with mentees in their sector to help them adapt to the Canadian workforce.
With the launch last month of its new Connector pilot project, TRIEC is highlighting the importance not just of skills and attitudes, but of networks, in getting new Canadians onto their career path.
An answer to the fact that most job openings are never widely advertised, Connector matches a new Canadian with an established “connector” in their sector so they can better tap into who’s hiring. After a conversation about the sector’s job market and the participant’s background, skills and areas of expertise, the connector refers the participant to at least three people in his or her own network. Then each of those three people makes at least three more referrals.
“There are so many people who have fantastic skills but they’re unemployed or underemployed who cannot find the jobs that are commiserate with their experience,” says Margaret Eaton, TRIEC’s executive director. “That speaks to the need for this program.”
The idea is adapted from a similar program in Halifax. “What they found was that by the time you get to your 13th cup of coffee or meeting, 42% of the people have found jobs in their field. We think that’s tremendous success from a simple but compelling concept. It’s quite brilliant,” says Eaton.
Being a connector is less time-consuming than being a mentor—a commitment of an hour a week over four months. So Eaton figures the program will tap into a wider range of volunteers, including senior people who can squeeze a coffee date and a few emails into their tight schedules. “I sometimes call it mentoring light,” she says. “Sometimes mentors don’t understand just what a rich resource they can be to a newcomer. This gives than an opportunity to put their toe in the water to see if they like it.”
The pilot project of 50 pairings runs to September. If it’s helping people get good jobs in their field, TRIEC will look at ways to grow the program.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Margaret Eaton

Climate change subcommittee seeks solutions from citizens

Although Toronto adopted its Climate Change Action Plan in 2007, City Hall has not had much focus in its climate change efforts.
So the city’s new subcommittee on climate change, reporting to the city’s Parks and Environment Committee, has been a long time coming. For its first meeting, on March 2 at City Hall, the subcommittee will be looking for help from Torontonians to set the terms of reference for its first two years.
“The committee needs to go and talk to people in all corners of the city and get the best ideas out there, and get people engaged. We need to figure out what we can do at home, in the spaces we live in and spend time in, like work places and community centres. That sort of engagement will get people to appreciate both the challenges and the opportunities in addressing climate change,” says Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, which will be making a presentation at the inaugural meeting.
Toronto’s current obsession, transportation, will obviously be one of the areas the subcommittee will hear a lot about. “If we want to reduce greenhouse gases, we’ve got to figure out ways to make it simpler for people to get around without relying on their cars. How do you develop a transportation system where people will keep their cars at home because the system can get them from point A to point B sooner?” says Hartmann. “The solution is not necessarily going to come from planners sitting in a conference room with maps on the table. It’s going to come from people where they live saying, ‘If that bus routed this way was routed that way and came more frequently, more people would use the bus and keep their cars at home.’”
Once the subcommittee establishes its terms of reference, Hartmann suggests it should be able to take some simple actions within the next few months. Perhaps existing programs like the Home Energy Loan Program or the green roofs regulations can expanded or adapted. Or perhaps citizens will offer up even better ideas for the city to take on.
“While the climate change picture is anything but rosy, the upside is that the solutions we need to take will have a huge positive impact on people’s livelihood, their health and the economy because it will prompt a whole bunch of good economic activity,” says Hartmann.
Toronto aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 levels of approximately 22-million tonnes per year city-wide by 30 per cent by 2020 (6,600,000 tonnes per year) and by 80 per cent by 2050 (17,600,000 tonnes per year).
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Franz Hartmann

Brainstorming ways to build better cities

How can Canadians living in cities work together to make their cities better places to live? And what should governments and policy-makers be doing to help them?
To find out, the We Are Cities project is asking city-dwellers from across the country to participate in roundtable discussions to “build a vision and action plan to make Canadian cities healthy and exciting places to live, work and play.” Launched this month and led by Evergreen CityWorks, We Are Cities is an offshoot of the Cities for People project to raise awareness, create networks and produce ideas around building better cities. While Cities for People is an ongoing “experiment” to increase collaboration and test ideas, We Are Cities will wrestle with policy and research barriers, ultimately offering a Canadian policy agenda for better cities.
“The idea is for citizens and organizations to do two things,” says John Brodhead, executive director of Evergreen CityWorks. “First, to put on the table a vision for a sustainable, resilient city. But also some prioritization of that so we don’t get a laundry list and we can make some choice about what are the most important things and how we’re actually going to get there. These things are rarely free, so we’ll look at the resources we need to execute the vision we’ve laid out.”
There are no official roundtables; the idea is that community groups and other interested parties will jump in to host their own. Brodhead is hoping more than 50 groups across the country will conduct local discussions. We Are Cities has provided tips for hosting roundtables, a way to upload the ideas that get generated and a web portal so hosts can connect with each other.
So far seven roundtables have been scheduled around the GTA, including one this week at Urbanspace Gallery. That gathering will zoom in on several topics, including how the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games will affect the city, whether people will use the Union Pearson Express, the future of the Gardiner Expressway and the impact of recent TDSB school closures.
The roundtables, along with interviews with experts, will be captured in an action plan that will be released by late 2015 or early 2016. “I really don’t know what’s it’s going to look like. It’s really going to be a co-created model. That’s the exciting part and the scary part,” says Brodhead. “The way we’re creating is different and the way it needs to look should also be different. We’re exploring things with artists on how to visualize it. We’re talking to novelists about how to turn it into a novel. While we’ll have the base action-plan document, we’re going to find other ways of telling the story.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: John Brodhead

Ryerson launches sports-tech startup competition

In the last year or so, Toronto’s sporty side has attracted much more global attention. The upcoming Pan Am and Parapan Games, the 2016 NBA All-Star Game and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey are just a few of the events that will draw even more eyeballs our way.
So Cheri Bradish, Loretta Rogers Research Chair in Sport Marketing at the Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, wondered about ways the city could capitalize on that attention, presenting Toronto as a hub of sports innovation. Not just on the business side of sports, but also innovation for players themselves, both professional and amateur.
The Next Big Idea in Sport Competition, with $100,000 in prizes plus other startup supports, is designed to nurture companies working on innovative sports technology. Launched last week by Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), in partnership with Rogers Communications, the competition may tempt companies and individuals dabbling in sports technology to scale up their efforts and commercialize their ideas.
“We knew we needed something that would create the first cohort in this space,” says Bradish. “A competition really allows us to reach out, get some media and marketing recognition. In addition to the competition, we’ll be co-zoning with companies already in the DMZ that are doing sports and entertainment work.”
Organizers will pick 10 projects from the applicants they receive. They might be working on biometric wearable sensors to collect and analyse data during games, social-media technology that delivers a new fan experience or innovations in the business of sport management. These 10 finalists get a four-month residency in the DMZ’s new sports-focused startup incubation program, which will provide them with free co-working space and services, business development opportunities, access to industry experts and mentorship from a network of sports and business leaders. At the end of the four months, judges will chose the three top teams, who will be awarded cash prizes: $50,000 for the first-place team, $30,000 for the second-place team and $20,000 for third.
Within a day or two of launching the competition, Bradish says they’ve received almost 20 notes of interest from teams interested in entering. Applications close May 1; the finalists will be announced May 11.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Cheri Bradish

Are co-ops the business model of the future?

We like democracy in government so much, maybe we’re ready to embrace more democracy in the marketplace.

A first-ever conference of GTA co-ops coming up next month will explore how cooperatives and credit unions in sectors ranging from housing and finance to food and energy can work more closely together to provide more democratic alternatives for consumers, workers and communities.

“What cooperatives are about may be the economic model we most need in the 21st century with income disparity and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few people,” says Larry Gordon, regional manager of the Ontario Co-operative Association. “People are going to be more interested in making sure the way we organize our economy is more accountable to society, and does a better job of meeting the needs of people.”

An idea that caught on back to the Great Depression, co-ops let consumers, workers or other stakeholders own part of an enterprise and participate in decision-making. Although Ontario lags behind provinces like Quebec and Saskatchewan, there are more than 1,300 co-ops here, about 500 in the GTA. While many Torontonians are familiar with the housing co-op system, they may be less familiar with member-owned institutions like credit unions and worker-owned retail co-ops.

Gordon says the one-day conference will allow participants to break down the walls between sectors to find new ways to work together. For example, maybe a housing co-op can find a better way to partner with a worker’s co-op that does green-building retrofitting. Attendees will also learn about emerging co-op trends in organic food and energy. With co-ops like Solar Share, for example, members buy bonds to raise capital for investments in solar power so they earn interest while creating more green energy options.

Along with shared ideas and a shared sense of purpose, Gordon is hoping the conference will ultimately produce a GTA co-op network that will help attendees continue their conference collaborations.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Larry Gordon

Voluntary Sector Reporting Awards celebrates GTA not-for-profits for their transparency

Donors, foundations and governments are expecting more and more transparency and accountability from charitable organizations. They want to know exactly and clearly where their contributions are going and how they’re used.

The Voluntary Sector Reporting Awards, now in their seventh year, don’t quite have the same ring as “the Oscars.” But they have taken on an important role in rewarding organizations across Canada that excel at explaining their mission and telling stakeholders what they’re up to.

For the 2014 awards, handed out last week at a luncheon ceremony, organizations serving the GTA or based here picked up the top prizes in several categories. Toronto-based Canadian Feed the Children won for top international focused organizations, March of Dimes Canada won for national focused organizations, Toronto-based Vita Community Living Services/Mens Sana Families for Mental Health won the category for organizations with total revenue over $10 million and Aurora Cultural Centre won for organizations with total revenue under $1 million. (GTA ousider, United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, took the award for organizations with revenue between $1 million and $10 million.)

“It’s all about an organization saying it’s going to be as accountable and transparent as possible,” says project manager John Suart, who worked with the CPA-Queen’s Centre for Governance and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, which jointly present the awards. This year more than 140 organizations from across Canada entered.

“This whole movement, which we’re a part of, to have charities more transparent and accountable is certainly a multifaceted one, and part of it is our being the largest charity awards in Canada,” says Suart. “We’re seeing more and more reporting. It’s definitively a trend.”

Judged on their annual reports, organizations are recognized for high standards in bookkeeping, as well as presenting their goals and activities in a clear, accessible way.

Winning organizations receive $5,000 each. Canadian Feed the Children and United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington have each won three years out of the past five, earning them the title of Exemplary winners.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: John Suart

Futurpreneur set to help more young start-up businesses, with less funding

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week made a very high profile announcement of a $14-million investment in Futurpreneur Canada to help young entrepreneurs start their own businesses, the funding was actually less than the organization received from the feds two years ago. And that’s the way they wanted it, says Futurpreneur CEO Julia Deans. In fact, the $4-million decrease was by request.

“It’s a good news story,” says Deans. “In the past we’ve had to raise all the money that we use for both our loans and our programs and operating expenses. But now with our track record and strong repayment we’ve had from our young entrepreneurs, we’re going to be able to get money on a commercial basis from the private sector for our loans. So the money we raise goes to the program and our operating. We’re now able to sustain a lot of our operations using private-sector capital. It’s good news and it’s a story that others will be looking closely at.”

The program, founded in 1996 as the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, provides young wannabe business owners with help developing a business plan and making a loan application. It also provides mentoring, networking opportunities and other resources to help them get their businesses off the ground. Their entrepreneurs have been solid enough as business people that more than 90 per cent are able to repay their loans—a rate attractive enough to financial institutions to take them on directly. That means Futurpreneur can use its funding to focus more on delivering the program itself. Over the next two years, they predict that 2,700 young entrepreneurs will access the financing and programs, potentially creating 2,250 new businesses and 10,800 jobs.

Since 1996, the organization has created 7,500 businesses and an estimated 29,800 jobs. Last year, participants created 500 businesses in Ontario, many of them in the GTA, The first startup to receive funding 19 years ago, a garage and repair shop in London, Ontario, is still in operation.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Julia Deans

Metcalf Foundation offers cash for cycling champions

Although the city itself is responsible for providing public cycling infrastructure, bike lanes alone won’t make Toronto safer for cyclists. Changing attitudes and focusing attention on the importance of cycling for health, the environment and as a way to reduce gridlock is also essential. Culture is as important as hardware and asphalt.

The Metcalf Foundation has launched a new grant program for charitable organizations working on cycling solutions. “This is brand new for us,” says Andre Vallillee, the foundation’s environment program director. “We expect we’ll be funding initiatives that include community outreach, network building and convening, research and policy analysis, as well as broader engagement initiatives. We want to ensure there are partners on the ground actively helping out as champions.”

Looking at a survey that suggests that more 70 per cent of Torontonians would cycle more if the infrastructure was improved, the foundation decided it had to step in. “When we compare ourselves against other Canadian cities like Vancouver and Montreal, we feel we’ve got quite a bit of work to do to catch up to ensure the City of Toronto has access to a wide range of safe cycling options.”

Vallillee says the foundation is hoping to see cross-sectoral proposals, hopefully with non-traditional partners in public health, the environment and local economic development like Business Improvement Areas (BIAs). The amount of funding available depends on what gets pitched.

“There’s no cap or a requirement for a certain number of years. What we’re looking for is a work plan, goals and strategies. At that point we’ll get a better sense of what kind of resources are required,” he says.

The deadline for applications by registered charities is this week; funding decisions will be made by the end of March.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Andre Vallillee

Harbourfront Kuumba Festival reinvents Black history for 20th anniversary

For his first attempt at programming Harbourfront’s Kuumba Festival, one of the city’s longest-running Black History Month celebrations, Sergio Elmir faced the unique challenge of marking the festival’s 20th anniversary.

“We had to honour the community, represent them correctly and honour the legacy of Kuumba with a fresh perspective,” says Elmir. “The 20th anniversary was a catalyst to do something special.”

So the team decided to go back to the future for this year’s festival, which runs February 6 to 8, looking ahead by embracing the past in the form of the Afrofuturism artistic movement.

“It’s a concept that was coined in the 1990s, but it’s been around since the ’60s and ’70s,” says Elmir. “The idea was that the Black community was pursuing their own freedom through sci-fi-related elements and concepts. For example the idea of leaving the Earth to conquer a Black planet was a concept introduced by [famed jazz musician, poet and philosopher] Sun Ra years ago, but now it’s been adopted as an aesthetic and a style. If you look at André 3000 or Janelle Monáe, the way they dress, the way they make their music, it’s all very futuristic. But we’re not just looking at the style but the history of Afrofuturism as a movement.”

Along with the panels and film (1980’s classic Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise) that deal directly with Afrofuturism, the program plays around with the broader theme. February 6’s We Got Next! program features performers Pierre Kwenders, Keita Juma and Shi Wisdom, “which is really the next generation of Afro-Canadian musicians.” Broader still is Kenny Robinson’s Nubians on the Waterfront Comedy Show.

The complete Kuumba Festival program is available here.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sergio Elmir

Andrew Graham wins CivicAction's first Emerging Leader Award

Both up-and-comers and veterans were recognized by new awards at CivicAction’s MetroNext celebration last week.

The more familiar name was former Toronto mayor David Crombie, who won the first ever CivicAction Lifetime Achievement Award for Civic Leadership for his “history of civic engagement and commitment to make the GTHA a better place to live and work.”

Taking home the inaugural Emerging Leader Award was Andrew Graham, who has been part of CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) since 2008. Graham co-founded Toronto Homecoming with Eva Wong Scanlan to attract and retain top talent by connecting Canadians working abroad with professional opportunities in the Toronto Region. He’s also the co-founder of Borrowell, again with Wong Scanlan, an online consumer lending startup that provides affordable loans to Canadians with good credit.

“I was really surprised and flattered,” says Graham. “I’ve been very proud of my association with CivicAction and I think I’ve gotten a lot out of it in a bunch of ways. I’ve been able to build skills and build relationships outside of work. I met Eva through CivicAction. We learned that we worked together well and decided to start a for-profit business together.”

Toronto Homecoming was founded about five years ago as project emerging from ELN. “We’ve helped hundreds of Canadians who are abroad who want to return to Toronto to come back and build those connections by building an organization that’s sustainable.” In a transition that’s taken place over the last few months, Toronto Homecoming has found a home at the Toronto Board of Trade.

Graham moved to Toronto in 2008 after living abroad. “My girlfriend of the time, now wife, was not in the same city the first few years I was here. So I always joked that I was looking for ways to stay busy and stay out of trouble outside of work hours. CivicAction was a great way to do that.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Andrew Graham
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