Giving Compass’ Take:
• Ajeev Bhatia, writing for Brookings, describes a community-led initiative in Toronto aimed at rebuilding equitable neighborhoods in the wake of COVID-19.
• What does it mean to have a ‘community-led’ initiative in building back from COVID? What can you do to look into community-led initiatives for equitable systems change in neighborhoods near you?
As cities around the world imagine new ways to “rebuild better” from the pandemic, it is crucial that these efforts bridge the divides that fuel place-based inequities both within and across communities. One way to do so is by strengthening and connecting the community-led structures that mobilize residents, organizations, and institutions into coordinated action for systemic change. A place-based effort from East Scarborough, Toronto illustrates the promise of this approach.
In 2014, the city of Toronto designated 31 of its 140 neighborhoods as Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIAs), meaning those neighborhoods require focused resources and investment to thrive. NIAs are home to some of Canada’s richest diversity, cultural pride, and grassroots organizers. They also share many indicators of structural inequity, including high rates of working poor, deep poverty, racial segregation, dense apartment towers and other forms of housing stock in disrepair, and transit poverty.
Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park (KGO) is a NIA in East Scarborough that faces particularly stark disparities, as the intersecting issues of poor public transit, deteriorating housing, high unemployment, and racism converge to keep approximately 40% of its households in poverty.
Still, KGO has always been home to a strong foundation of community organizations, grassroots groups, and social service entities working to improve residents’ lives. In 2008, one such organization—the East Scarborough Storefront—decided it was time to weave together KGO’s sometimes fragmented community-building efforts in order to advance collective solutions firmly rooted in local knowledge. This work began with a cross-sectoral, community-led design initiative, and has since inspired new public investment in the neighborhood and fostered the creation of a lasting civic organization dedicated to advancing opportunity for residents of East Scarborough and beyond.
Read the full article about Toronto’s community-led initiative by Ajeev Bhatia at Brookings.
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