Many people, regardless of how passionate they are about their city, would hesitate to give up a beautiful weekend afternoon to sit indoors and discuss neighbourhood associations. But on Saturday, April 6, 2019, that’s exactly what happened. Roughly 200 curious Toronto citizens and leaders from residents’ groups, neighbourhood associations, parents’ and seniors’ groups, gathered at Toronto City Hall’s Council Chambers for the city’s first-ever Neighbourhood Summit. Hosted by the Toronto Atlas of Neighbourhood Groups and Organizations (TANGO), this meeting was the first step in building a formal neighbourhood association network to enable deeper citizen engagement.
Over the course of the day, TANGO’s small but mighty team led workshops on volunteer management, fundraising, advocacy and urban planning. Participants heard from delegates doing similar work in London and Guelph to better understand the potential of umbrella organizations like TANGO to support local communities. Attendees also provided feedback on TANGO’s Toronto-wide digital map that shows existing neighbourhood associations and groups.
As participants mingled, they bonded over shared priorities. “Neighbourhood associations from across the city have never been in the same room. By being together, we found out that they all face the same challenges,” says Cheryll Case, TANGO’s research lead. “Knowing this makes TANGO’s job a bit easier, because we can focus on what needs to be addressed.”
But the most energizing moment came towards the end of the day. “We put forward a motion to explore the creation of an umbrella organization for all Toronto neighbourhood associations,” recalls Cheryll. “The yeas were loud and joyful, and there were no nays.” This endorsement also meant the group was committing to increasing their diversity. “We wanted existing members of neighbourhood associations to know that they’re still in this, but that there are more voices coming in,” said Zahra Ebrahim, TANGO co-lead and Vision 2020 philanthropist. “In that room, we got permission to expand the model.”
Next up, Zahra, fellow co-lead Dave Meslin, and the whole TANGO team will develop the organization’s structure and decide what services it could provide. They’ll start by reaching out to neighbourhood associations across the city to learn how they can best support these groups to achieve their individual goals. They’ll also look at how umbrella organizations in other cities operate, update their digital map with new toggles and features, and begin planning their next summit.
TANGO’s launch comes at a time when the city needs it most. “Toronto Foundation is proud to have supported this first-ever summit,” said Julia Howell, Toronto Foundation’s vice president of community engagement. “We look forward to seeing their impact toward building a more democratic, equitable, and resilient city.”
Read more about TANGO’s neighbourhood summit here.