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Youth voice is integral to the future development and success of Toronto. Believe us when we say the young adults in this city are keyed up, tuned in and passionate as ever about having a say in guiding Toronto to being the best it can possibly be.

On Saturday, May 13th, The DIA conducted a series of workshops for the TYC (Toronto Youth Cabinet) Summit for Toronto Youth Week at City Hall. One of the themes this year was “civic engagement.” Part of the DIA mandate is the focus on developing and engaging a new generation of civically-minded youth in Toronto. The TYC Summit couldn’t have been a more appropriate conference to attend. We are beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to tap directly into such political, environmental and passionate young people.

Participants were treated to the kickoff of a new project for the DIA called: Project potaTO (People of Totally Awesome Toronto). Project potaTO uses an open discussion forum and creative activities to encourage participants to communicate their thoughts on how their city works for them and what they hope for the urban future. At this point in time, it is a think-tank workshop to help the DIA inform future action-based projects. Large and small group discussions, as well as individual expression are guided and encouraged to determine what an ENGAGED citizen looks like. How do individual needs vary, differ and compare to neighbourhood needs and city-wide needs?

Participants were asked to express visually, verbally and orally what their perspective was on what Toronto is doing great, where it is somewhat successful, but could do better and what could it drastically improve on – especially things that are functioning city requirements?

When observing expressed thoughts throughout the workshops, it was clear to see that there were definite commonalities of issues, themes and topics expressed among the participants. This was especially fascinating to see despite their coming from different demographics whether by age, gender, race, religion, culture, neighbourhood, educational background etc.

What the city does great:

  • Festivals, events, multicultural food fairs and activities
  • Education System
  • Food
  • Diversity and Inclusiveness
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Toronto Public Libraries
  • Entertainment: sports, music, theatre
  • Grassroots not-for-profit organizations

Where the city is somewhat successful

  • TTC and public transit
  • Cycling and walking paths
  • Socio-economic inequality between neighbourhoods and pockets of the city
  • Youth engagement opportunities, including employment and employment assistance
  • Clean energy
  • Construction
  • Homelessness and street life
  • Partnerships between community groups and organizations
  • Tourism

What the city requires but needs to drastically improve

  • Environmental consciousness
  • Public transit and TTC
  • Road construction
  • Accessibility and affordable housing
  • Job inequality

An engaged citizen requires and desires:

  • Access to resources, and transparency from the city on where and how
  • Access to amenities
  • More green spaces to support fitness and mental well-being
  • Food security: access to natural, healthy, affordable, nutritious food
  • Free community spaces for socializing, working, including after-hours locations
  • Better transit system
  • Affordable housing
  • Proper infrastructure

Thanks to Michelle for putting this post together!

Photos from the TYC

Blair is a trained playwright, designer by trade, and traveler for life. He is the Executive Director of the DIA and loves all kinds of food.

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