Announcing our 2019 Vital Ideas & Leadership grantees!

The following ten organizations were chosen by our selection committee to receive one-time grants of up to $50,000 to support innovative initiatives, professional development and program evaluation. The group reflects a depth and breadth of critically important work in the city. We hope you will consider them in your giving plans.
This is our final round for the Vital Ideas & Leadership program. Started in 2017, Vital Ideas & Leadership integrates components of our prior Vital Ideas and Vital People grant streams. Stay tuned as we launch a new small-grants program in the fall to raise the voices of organizations and leaders working to close the gaps highlighted in our Vital Signs report and address growing inequities in our city.
Thank you to the members of the 2019 Vital Ideas & Leadership selection committee: Jason Samilski, Creative Director, CUE; Toyo Ajibolade, Founder and Executive Director, Lady Ballers Camp; Lindsay (Swooping Hawk) Kretschmer, Executive Director, Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council; Lauren Albert, Principal and Executive Optimist, impACT giving; Seema Shah, Toronto Foundation Fundholder; Allison Meserve, Toronto Foundation Fundholder; Hadielia Yassiri, Head of Strategic Wealth Planning, Forthlane Partners; Alan Kriss, CEO, Specialisterne Canada; Martin Ship, Toronto Foundation Fundholder.

2019 Vital Ideas & Leadership grant recipients


CANVAS workshop in action

CANVAS Arts Action Programs – The C-Word
(Trustee: SKETCH Working Arts for Street Involved and Homeless Youth )
CANVAS Arts was founded to prevent sexual violence, homophobia, and transphobia through the delivery of interactive, arts-inspired education on consent, gender equity, and LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in schools, summer camps, and communities in Ontario. The C-Word is an innovative 2.5 hour program that provides a safe space for youth to have conversations on consent and rape culture, helping them to build concrete skills to develop safe, positive relationships.
Toronto Centre for Community Learning & Development (CCL&D) – Virtual Social Change Hubs
CCL&D offers programs in adult literacy, leadership development, immigrant integration, civic engagement, and skills development to residents in Regent Park, St. James Town, and Moss Park communities. Virtual      Social Change Hubs will allow CCL&D to run their Immigrant Women Integration Program (IWIP) virtually, through technological infrastructure, at community centres outside of the downtown core, increasing the number of annual participants. The IWIP is a free, full-time, 7-month program that provides newcomer women with training, certificate courses, 200 hours of workplace experience, workshop delivery skills, and hands on experience researching and running a community project.
Facing History and Ourselves – Toronto Partner Schools Network
Facing History and Ourselves provides professional development and classroom resources to middle and high school educators, helping them to teach about the consequences of racism, antisemitism, and violence through the lens of historical case studies. They want to enhance their impact by building their capacity to launch a Toronto-based network of partner schools. These local school networks are part of Facing History’s organization-wide Partner Schools Network, which grew out of the experience that the Facing History approach is most effective when it is infused into programming throughout an entire school, rather than a classroom-to-classroom basis.
Homeless Connect Toronto – Youth Initiative
Homeless Connect Toronto

Homeless Connect Toronto currently coordinates an annual one-stop-shop event that brings together organizations that provide essential resources (housing, employment, health care, etc.) and other dignity restoring services (haircuts, dentistry, foot care, etc.) under one roof, for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Toronto. Despite the levels of youth homelessness in the city, youth have been underrepresented at these events. Homeless Connect Toronto plans to develop and execute a youth-specific event coupled with additional youth leadership workshops throughout the year to help address this issue.
Lay-Up Youth Basketball – Mental Health Assessment & Training Program
Lay-Up Youth Basketball launched in 2014 as a project under the Regent Park Duke of York Children’s Foundation (RPDYCF) and consisted of two weeks of free, high quality basketball camps. They now run year-round after school programming and on-going summer camps in six high priority neighbourhoods across the city. After identifying mental health supports as an overarching constant need in their programs, Lay-Up is providing high-quality training to their staff and formalizing their mental health curriculum and initiatives (with the help of consultants), in order to incorporate them directly into their programming.
North York Women’s Shelter – High Risk Working Group
North York Women’s Shelter actively supports women and children to build lives free from violence by providing non-judgmental safe shelter, advocacy, and a range of initiatives and services, including 24-hour crisis support and wrap-around services. They want to deepen the impact of their legal program by formalizing their approach of providing comprehensive legal support to women in high risk situations, by pulling together a permanent working group of highly experienced and established legal experts. The objective is to address unmet legal needs with an innovative, specialized response that goes beyond the limited capacity of frontline Violence Against Women shelters.
Second Harvest – Expansion in Scarborough
Second Harvest is the largest food rescue organization in Canada and is a global thought leader on food recovery. They work to capture surplus food before it ends up in the landfill, negatively impacting our environment. Second Harvest has developed and launched, an innovative, user-friendly online platform that serves as a conduit between businesses with excess food and community agencies offering food programs, ensuring that good food can be rescued on demand and used to meet the needs of those living with hunger in our city. These funds will allow Second Harvest to expand this initiative with a special focus on Scarborough.
Together Project – Refugee Social Capital Accelerator 
(A project of TIDES Canada)
Together Project

Together Project fosters integration of Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) newcomers by facilitating access to social networks. They match volunteer Welcome Groups of five or more Canadians (or established newcomers) with GAR newcomers to develop social capital, which helps to foster newcomer independence and rapid and durable integration. Together Project wants to deepen its impact by enhancing their model through further social capital research (building off of Toronto Foundation’s benchmark study), developing and formalizing relevant curriculum for volunteer training, and strengthening their evaluation and reporting mechanisms.
VIBE Arts – Mentorship Program
VIBE Arts engages young people living in marginalized, low-income Toronto neighbourhoods in high-quality and accessible arts education programs that are collaboratively developed with community and education partners. This funding will allow VIBE to create more structure around their mentorship program and recognize it as the second pillar of their work. They will work to build organizational capacity around their mentorship curriculum and to create more scheduled milestones, evaluation metrics, and a transformed program model, allowing staff to more easily support young artists.
Visions of Science Network for Learning – program participant

Visions of Science Network for Learning – STEM Learning Ecosystem
Visions of Science works to advance the educational achievements and positive development of youth from low-income and marginalized communities through meaningful engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. They offer hands-on experiments and activities through their clubs and regular workshop offerings. Visions of Science is looking to expand their full programming model to an additional 10 low-income communities over the next two years and to create new ‘modified opportunities’ for an additional 20 communities. They will accomplish this by adapting to the needs of different communities and offering alternative engagement models (ie shorter term workshops, summer camps).