Communifyers take part in 1000 Dinners TO, a citywide discussion about what can make Toronto better
1000 Dinners TO organized a citywide discussion about Toronto's future on October 7 2014. That night, five hundred people hosted dinners for up to 10 people all across the city to discuss ideas that can make Toronto an even better place. Suggested discussion questions included:
- What makes you proud to call Toronto home?
- How can Toronto attract and retain the best and brightest to continue creating opportunity here at home?
- What is one idea that would solve a problem in your neighbourhood to make it better?
- What is preventing Toronto from tackling inequities in our communities?
- What should Toronto become? How do we get there?
We submitted our ideas to 1000 Dinners TO through their online survey, and they will compile and analyze all the responses, then share them with all of Toronto to see. But meanwhile we feel inspired to share our ideas with you! Read on for Natalie's harvest of the evening's conversation...and share your own ideas by submitting a comment on this page.
What we think Toronto should become:
Ultimately, we would like a city where inhabitants have fair and equitable access to decent livelihoods, dignified shelter and clothing, and healthy, nourishing and delicious food. And we’d like to see Torontonians living happy, healthy, meaningful lives. And we’d like to see people enjoying all those things in a way that can last for future generations.
For a picture of what could be possible for Toronto, and how we could get there, see the recently-published book, Visions: Co-Creating Our Future, by Ottawa author Kaia Nightingale (www.kaia.ca) (and come to her upcoming Toronto events on Sat Nov 15 1:00-3:00 and Mon Nov 17 6:30-9:00!)
What we think would make Toronto a better place:
We need a mythic story that connects us to our roots, that reconnects us with our lineage(s) and the land that makes our lives possible. The story needs to acknowledge the vital gifts First Nations cultures have to offer current-day Toronto. It also needs to invite immigrants and their descendants to dive deep into their cultural heritage to offer the vital ingredients of their countries to a new human unity that Toronto is uniquely positioned to create (e.g. a deepening of the now defunct concept of the Toronto International Caravan).
Such a story is the soil that is needed for our city to come alive and grow in life-regenerating ways. The role of the politician is to create this soil, taking a long view and creating the conditions for new life to come through and flourish. 1000 Dinners TO--and Unify Toronto--could be a vehicle for Torontonians to write such a narrative together.
One problem in our neighbourhoods that could be solved with the right approach or idea:
Our proposed solution:
Neighbourhood-level private social networks would be one fantastic initiative to improve local-level social cohesion, a sense of belonging, and to enable people to get their needs met within their local community by sharing knowledge, skills, goods and services. nextdoor.com has a great platform for this. Let’s bring it to Toronto!
We are also excited and encouraged by many existing initiatives that enable this type of sharing and would like to see financial support and expansion of these initiatives and models. For example:
- Not Far from the Tree (http://notfarfromthetree.org), which picks fruit from privately owned fruit trees in Toronto’s urban forest, and shares them with the owner, volunteers, and food banks, shelters and community kitchens.
- Yes in My Back Yard (http://thestop.org/yes-in-my-back-yard), which connects people who would like to garden but don’t have the space, to people who have space in their yards they are willing to share.
- Little Free Libraries (http://littlefreelibrary.org), a box full of books that people place on their front lawn or on public property, where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.
- Tool Libraries (http://torontotoollibrary.com), which loan specialized tools to community members. Let’s integrate this with the public library systems.
- Seed Libraries (http://www.torontoseedlibrary.org/about/), which provides free and easy access to viable seeds so that as many people as possible are growing their own organic food and also encourages and enables people to save seeds. Let’s integrate this too with the public library system.
- Farming on private property (http://www.neighbourhoodfarm.ca), food growers who use private urban yards to grow food for sale. Government and private subsidies please!
- Skill and knowledge sharing (http://tradeschool.coop/toronto/), alternative learning project that runs on a barter system. People pay for a class with a barter item (like food, supplies or help) that the teacher requests.
- Clothing and other swaps (http://www.swapsity.ca/meets), online swapping and large swap meets. In the last year alone, Swapsity events (aka the Swap Zone) have saved Torontonians a whopping $200,000, recycled 30,000 items and swapped more than 25,000 items.
Another neighbourhood issue we identified:
Features of the model that especially excite us include:
1) the use of private (and public) spaces for collective benefit;
2) the inclusion of breaking bread together, which creates intimacy and builds community;
3) distributed local-level responsibility, where people throughout the city volunteer to host small-scale events, like cells working together as an organism;
4) a “minimal, optimal” structure to support meaningful yet free-flowing conversation;
5) achieving scale through simultaneous self-organized events;
6) an evidence base to ground dialogue (the Vital Signs report)
7) the emphasis on dialogue and constructive ideas rather a focus on problems, positions and debate
8) a meaningful harvest (these surveys culminating in reports, with the involvement of the print and broadcast media);
9) at least one tangible, timely outcome (input for the mayoral candidates’ debate and for municipal politicians).
We would like to see this type of gentle political engagement repeated. This is a way to connect the tiles in the mosaic of Toronto. It is an opportunity to encourage political conversation—something that is not characteristic of Toronto culture. We see this event as the start of an important process that should continue, building toward a shared vision for our city. This kind of process can also develop a culture of caring, intimacy, and humanity in our cities, qualities and practices we need in times of vulnerability to climate change, peak oil, and economic, political and civilizational crisis.
Questions to ask your mayor and councillor:
How would you make Toronto a more resilient city? (The Rockefeller Foundation has recently started a network of 100 resilient cities. They offer financial support and assistance.)