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Reimagining today for tomorrow: Rising civic leaders generate fresh ideas to revitalize public space at ELNstudio 2015

TORONTO (November 9, 2015) – This past Saturday, at CivicAction’s 7th annual ELNstudio, nearly 200 rising leaders rolled up their sleeves to explore how we can develop and improve access to public space across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). With over 100,000 new people calling the GTHA home each year[1], participants pushed themselves to think differently about the use, engagement and adaptability of our shared spaces within the region. The most promising ideas emerging from the day will move on to a dragon’s den style pitching session next spring, competing for project funding and ongoing support.

“Young leaders embrace collaboration as the new civic currency. ELNstudio gives them the voice and platform to come together to make our region a better place to live, work and play,” said Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO, CivicAction.

CivicAction, in partnership with the University of Toronto, brought the best and brightest minds together for ELNstudio 2015. A diverse panel of experts fueled the dialogue and broke the mold, bringing different perspectives to the question: how might we collaboratively redefine public spaces in the GTHA? Keynote speakers included:

  • Zahra Ebrahim, Lead, Doblin Canada
  • Dave Meslin, Community Choreographer, Beautiful City Toronto
  • Denise Pinto, Global Director, Jane’s Walk
  • Ken Tanenbaum, Vice Chairman, Kilmer Group
  • Jason Thorne, General Manager of Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton
  • Hamutal Dotan (moderator), Focus Editor, Globe and Mail

From 2008 to 2013, the average size of condo units in Toronto dropped by over 200 feet, while the population of residents living in apartments increased to 42 per cent.[2] As backyards give way to balconies, public spaces are instrumental in maintaining our quality of life. Attendees faced this reality after hearing from the panel, and participated in working sessions to take action and create new ways for the GTHA to connect, share, and benefit from public space.

With everything from parks and trails to laneways and sidewalks, the discussions were as diverse as our region’s residents. Some of the most compelling and thought-provoking ideas were:

  • A “New Canadians Cafe”: A mobile pop-up space to connect new immigrants to employers, as well as other resources and information that they often struggle to find.
  • Do-it-yourself Documentaries: Documentaries shot through phones and accessible devices, by neighbors for neighborhoods. Screened in a public space to showcase how each individual utilizes their public spaces.
  • A “Sick Public Spaces” Application for Youth: An application which would contain information about informal public spaces, allowing youth to use technology to identify spaces that might not be seen as public space.

“There was such great energy and enthusiasm at ELNstudio,” said Irene Quarcoo, ELNstudio Co-Chair. “We saw some incredible ideas and conversations come out of today that have great potential.”

Although CivicAction’s ELNstudio happens only once a year, rising leaders, with the help  of CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network, have developed more than a dozen high-impact city-building projects, including Project Neutral which helps neighbourhoods become carbon neutral and Toronto Homecoming, an initiative that helps talented Torontonians living abroad to return home.

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Our thanks to CNW Group for sponsoring this announcement.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Sarah Harris
Director, Communications
T (416) 309-4480 x 508
M (647) 267-4997

About ELN: CivicAction’s ELN is a diverse network of more than 900 emerging civic leaders committed to advancing the GTHA. The ELN harnesses the power of this emerging talent to create a connected, collaborative Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and catalyzes action in the form of high impact, city-building projects. Each year, the ELN also hosts an annual city-building conference called ELNstudio, which brings together over 100 emerging leaders to tackle real city issues and incubate ideas. Now in its 7th year, CivicAction’s ELNstudio has a track record of success. Follow ELN @elnonline or join the conversation with #ELNstudio15.

About CivicAction:  For over a decade, CivicAction has played the role of neutral sandbox – bringing together senior executives and rising leaders from all sectors to tackle some of our region’s toughest challenges. CivicAction sets a non-partisan agenda, builds strategic partnerships, and launches campaigns, programs and organizations that transform our region. To find out more visit

[1] Toronto Foundation 2015 Vital Signs Report

[2] Statistics Canada; G+M citing Urbanation Inc. Feb 22 2013

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