Visioning Scarborough

Community Design in Action

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Anne Gloger on School for Social Entrepreneurship

Today, unlike last Saturday, it was a beautiful sunny spring day when I made my way out to Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park (KGO), the East Scarborough community in which I work.  I came out to meet an inspiring group of budding entrepreneurs and share with them the story of the East Scarborough Storefront.

When I got home, my partner asked me what I had hoped to get out of the day.  I paused and reflected that in going to work today, I honestly, didn’t have any particular goals.  I came out to talk about the Storefront because Zahra Ebrahim (archiTEXT) had asked me to.

But I came away with so much.


As I greeted residents who were at the Storefront on this sunny Saturday to either provide or receive income tax help, join with other residents in an MS support group, dig out the dormant garden, lead or participate in an art class, or to cook up a storm in the Eco-Food Hub kitchen, I was struck by the thought that this is what true community space looks like. Residents were in the forefront, leading, participating and working together!

I walked through the Storefront and I could feel the enthusiasm and the sense of community.  And then, with two young residents, Khushbu and Ajeev, our architect Paul Dowsett (sustainable.TO), and Zahra, we talked about it.  We had sort of sketched a rough outline of who would talk when (and we didn’t even stick to that), we actually launched into the presentation with hardly any prior planning…and magic happened.

We all, independently of each other, spoke about the work that we do together in the context to collaboration, trust, process and grounding in community leadership.  We spoke about what it means when youth connect and engage to create something beautiful, in this case the design of a building (the Storefront’s building).  We talked about trusting their vision, their ability to use new tools and ideas to make sound decisions.  We spoke about what being a “co-lead” on a project means…when there are so many leaders.  We talked about the connections we all find in our philosophies and values and about our shared commitment to going on this journey together.  We talked for a long time; we talked with passion; and we meant every word.

At the end of the presentation one of the very engaged and motivated students from the School of Social Entrepreneurship asked how we can collaborate with so many people…how do we make it work…?

And that’s when I was able to bring theory to life.  In the literature on Social Impact coming out of the Stanford Centre for Social Innovation, a new term has been coined that describes the role of the organization that connects people to one another, shares information and finds and builds on opportunities: it’s called a “backbone” organization.

The Storefront is a neighbourhood “backbone” organization.  As such, the Storefront is able to play the connector, convenor, facilitator and supporter roles that are often invisible, but allow the vibrancy of days like today to happen.


The tax clinic happened because of motivated volunteers: recruited by one Storefront staff, supported by another and trained through a third. The intentional and proactive connection of residents to resources meant that the residents who volunteered and those who needed income tax help were connected to each other.

The art class was possible because of the passion, skill and dreams of a resident leader: supported by a Storefront platform that helps to nurture all aspects of resident organizing.

The partnership with the MS society was nurtured as Storefront nurtures all partnerships: by supporting the work that they want to do.  The gardeners were drawn together and their productive clean up day pulled together by the invisible threads of the Storefront staff.  And cooking in a beautiful commercial grade kitchen, is only possible because of  the connecting and convening of youth, mentors, funders, artists, architects and so many more in a complex web of innovation.

I am so excited to be a part of the neighbourhood “backbone” organization that, on this sunny day in April had the community’s space, the East Scarborough Storefront buzzing with activity and vibrancy.  It’s something that can’t be read about in the literature…it has to be lived.  I was so glad to be able to share it today with the students from the School of Social Entrepreneurship.  And, I’m glad that I get to live it, not only today, but every day.

-Anne Gloger

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Closing the Gaps: Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods

2013 Cities Centre Event_Header

On Thursday night, The University of Toronto’s Cities Centre and United Way Toronto held a special event exploring how we can continue to work together to support Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods. This event examined the journey since 2005, lessons learned and steps moving forward.

Panel Members and Speakers:

  • Denise Andrea Campbell, Social Development, Finance and Administration, City of Toronto
  • David Hulchanski, Professor, University of Toronto
  • Zestaline Kim, North York Community House
  • John Lorinc, Journalist
  • City Councillor Jaye Robinson, Ward 25 Don Valley West
  • Susan McIsaac, President & CEO, United Way Toronto
  • Graeme Stewart, ERA Architects

Read United Way’s Building Strong Neighbourhoods Progress Report here.


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UTSC workshop series supports local residents

University of Toronto News: Working with Scarborough community to tell its story

By: Andrew Westoll

A good story can be incredibly powerful, capable of educating, enlightening and inspiring an audience. A well-told story can even change a life.

That’s why the University of Toronto Scarborough’s English faculty partnered with the East Scarborough Storefront to conduct a community storytelling workshop series.

“There is such a great energy in the room,” says Daniel Scott Tysdal, a poet and lecturer in creative writing at UTSC who spearheaded the new program. “I thought it might take a while for people to get comfortable, but right away they were into the exercises, listening to one another and sharing their stories.

“It’s been a really fun and rewarding experience for us all.”


Daniel Scott Tysdal conducts a storytelling workshop with community members (photo by Ken Jones)

The weekly six-part series, ‘Telling Our Stories,’ combines mini-lectures, writing exercises, class discussions and readings, introducing participants to the varied tools available to the storyteller. Students learn about the importance of sensory details, believable plots, character motivation and other aspects of narrative. They also discuss the all-important question, “What does it mean to tell your story?”

The goal is to inspire local residents to see their own stories as vital, and to give them the tools to begin expressing them.

Tysdal says the concept for the series was inspired by a quote from the writer James Baldwin:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world,” wrote Baldwin, “but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

As with any good story, inspiration for the neighbourhood workshops came from multiple places.

“It speaks to our belief that the so-called ‘ivory tower’ doesn’t actually exist,” says Tysdal. “When I look at my colleagues across the university, I see so many of us giving public lectures, organizing public events, participating in outreach and sustaining a practice of getting involved in our local community.”

The workshop series is free and open to anyone who wants to learn about the practice of storytelling and try their hand at the art form. Tysdal is joined in teaching the series by colleagues from the English department: Claudia Hoffman, Neil Dolan, Sonja Nikkila and Anne Milne. More than 20 local residents ranging in age from 25 to over 70 are participating in this first series.

And while the benefits for the aspiring storyteller are clear, Tysdal and his colleagues also reap great rewards from the program.

“Whenever I’m teaching I’m also learning, and I’ve learned things from the participants in this class that I haven’t learned anywhere else. I see story in a different way now thanks to my students.”


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200+ Participate in KGO Annual Clean-Up

As anyone who has been talking to me over the past couple of months knows, I have been deep in thought about complexity, emergence, collective impact and the Storefront model.  I have been struggling with concepts of evaluation and how neighbourhood “backbone” organization such as ours can use shared measures to articulate impact…

It’s been an intense couple of months with lots of discussions, readings and, last week, a three day conference with 150 other backbone organizations struggling with the same issues.  I have been playing with the idea of blogging about it all, but got so lost in heady conceptual discussions, that I wasn’t sure where to start…

Then today, a blustery, cold Saturday in April, I went out to KGO (Kingston Galloway/Orton Park , the neighbourhood in which Storefront is located) to participate in the annual clean up event.  I got there 20 minutes late and, along with a group of youth I didn’t yet know, began to roam the neighbourhood for a good place to dig in and get cleaning.  It was hard to find.  We went to the vacant lot, normally strewn with litter: it was pristine.  We went up and down Lawrence Avenue E and nowhere was any litter to be found.  Clearly others had been there before us.

We did finally find an area leading into the ravine that was sorely need of a clean up and worked hard to get the garbage into bags.  As I wandered through the neighbourhood this morning, I met dozens of fellow garbage collectors.  Among them, a local pastor, dozens of local youth, resident leaders organizing small groups, our MP John McKay, a senior’s group, a group of local bank employees and our library’s area manager.  In all, more than 200 people caring for the neighbourhood and enjoying working together.

So, it occurs to me that I can measure the results of this morning’s efforts: I can take before and after pictures of the neighbourhood and see that it is tangibly much cleaner.  I can count the 145 bags of garbage the City picked up after we were done.  And I’m sure with a bit of research I could cite studies that show that a cleaner neighbourhood has a positive impact on individual health and economic success of local businesses.

I believe, however, that the biggest impact comes from a diverse group of people creating a culture of working together, getting to know each other and feeling a sense of accomplishment.  We live in a culture where individualism is revered and isolation is all too prevalent.  I believe that social change is only possible if we change that culture in ways that the people of KGO demonstrated this morning.

The people out there this morning in the cold and the wind know that together we can accomplish things that alone are just not possible…how do you measure that.

By: Anne Gloger, East Scarborough Storefront Director

DSC_0024 DSC_0034 DSC_0042 DSC_0047 DSC_0054 Heris from the City & KGO

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Mapping our Networks

Mapping our Networks

Yesterday, the partners on the KGO Tower Neighbourhood Renewal project came together and began the process of evaluating the nature and the impact of the relationships connected to our project. The team mapped not only the relationships amongst those directly involved, but also those who were indirectly affected by their involvement on this initiative. The result was a visual cacophony that is the starting point of a compelling argument for the broad reach of this project and the resulting impact on communities, organizations, and individuals beyond the borders of KGO.