Together we truly can learn from this experience. We can imagine a better city and we can build it, too.
Toronto's Vital Signs 2021
Tips for Taking Action
At the end of each chapter in the 2021 Toronto's Vital Signs Report, you'll see tips relevant to each issue area. Here we've outlined some more general insights and considerations to help you engage with the issues.
Volunteering matters. Some organizations rely on volunteers to help deliver their community services. But public health measures have caused volunteer hours to drop 38%, leaving many nonprofits stretched thin to meet community needs.
As we return to in-person activities consider volunteering as a way to support the sector while learning about the city’s evolving needs.
Consider the type of volunteer work you want to engage in:
- You may want to be hands-on or working face-to-face with clients. For example: mentoring, providing services like meals, support clients navigating government services, engaging in social activities etc.
- Or perhaps you prefer a supporting in a more strategic capacity or working behind the scenes. For example: sitting on a board or a planning committee, writing grant applications, organizing donations etc.
Consider the type of organization you want to engage with. You may have heard about the ABCs – agencies, boards, committees - each of which will have different objectives for volunteers.
Beyond the better recognized organizations consider volunteering with grassroots and neighbourhood mutual aid groups that are often formed to meet a specific and hyperlocal need.
Consider the scope: hyperlocal, citywide and beyond.
The data shows that inequality is experienced disproportionately by certain communities. Consider volunteering with organizations that are focused on serving these populations: youth, Indigenous , racialized, newcomer, women, and low-income.
At a time when almost half of organizations are reporting declines in revenues, financial support matters more than ever. These tips can help maximize the impact of your donations:
Unrestricted donations – those that don’t come with terms dictating how to use a donation and enable charities to use their expertise – are the most helpful and have the greatest impact.
Long-term commitments are ideal to help charities plan. If you make several donations to a charity throughout the year, consider becoming a monthly donor, or if possible, make a multi-year pledge.
Expand your philanthropy beyond the big and recognizable organizations. Include local small-to-medium sized organizations that are reaching communities on a more day to day basis.
And get hyper-local by donating to grassroots initiatives and mutual-aid groups. Though you may not receive a tax receipt, these groups play an important role in responding to community needs.
Create a philanthropic plan that aligns your interests and charitable goals with the evolving needs of the city.
Use resources like the Toronto’s Vital Signs report and the Good to Give Guide to make informed decisions about donating towards the greatest needs. For example, you might consider supporting:
- Organizations that are providing essential services that have backlogs and long wait times.
- Services in underserved neighbourhoods and communities.
- Culturally relevant supports such as food and healthcare.
- Wraparound services that support broader issues. For example, if you want to support those experiencing gender-based violence, donate to shelters but also consider legal aid, affordable housing and other key services.
Support initiatives specifically designed to support communities that have been traditionally excluded from opportunities. Getting to know the recipients of the Black and Indigenous Futures Fund is a good place to start.
Join a giving circle to partner with fellow residents to create a greater impact.
Advocacy is essential for influencing change. In fact, some community organizations say they have been better able to advance their work because of the rising awareness of social justice issues. There are many ways to be an advocate and/or ally.
Give your support to public petitions and policies that protect marginalized residents and speak up with they don’t. Understand that some communities are still in emergency mode and will be for some time. Supporting them in the immediate and long-term needs to be a priority.
Understand how systemic racism and discrimination can impact mental health and quality of life outcomes, and how this knowledge should help re-shape the status quo of our systems, institutions and processes.
Familiarize yourself with the organizations doing the heavy lifting to fight inequality in your community and across the city. Keep up to date with what they are working on by following them on social media and subscribing to their communications. This can also help expose you to new voices and perspectives outside of your usual circles.
Be an active and engaged constituent by:
- Tracking and monitoring upcoming legislative changes and expressing to elected officials how they should vote to best reflect the community's needs.
- Engaging regularly with your elected officials - especially on issues of equality - to keep them accountable.
- Sitting on a community planning committee or attending meetings.
- Participate in community consultation processes for neighbourhood development projects.
Supporting organized community action campaigns that might involve:
- Creating and signing petitions.
- Demonstrations and protests.
- Letter writing or phone zaps.
- Attending pre-budget submission meetings related to key issues impacting your community.
- Developing grassroots responses to community challenges.
Our private life is where we make our most personal decisions and there are countless opportunities to align our actions with creating change.
As a consumer, support local, social enterprise, and other socially conscious and community-oriented businesses when possible.
Bring environmental consciousness to your daily routines from what you buy and where you invest, to how you get around and what you eat.
And consider how you can make your home more environmentally friendly including:
- Retrofitting for maximum energy efficiency.
- Incorporating natural infrastructure in your landscaping. Elements like green roofs, de-paving and replacing lawns with rain gardens reduces the risk of flooding and lowers surface temperatures.
- Aim to reduce your household's waste.
If you have a rental unit in your home, consider lowering the rent you charge to make it more affordable.
Parents, advocate at your child’s school for supports for all students.
Continuously seek to learn and understand the experiences of marginalized communities in our city to inform your civic engagement.
Many of us spend a significant portion of our daily lives at work, making decisions and providing services that reach the public. Thus, organizations can play a significant role in creating change.
Incorporate volunteering into your organizational culture by giving employees dedicated time, partnering with an organization or program in need of volunteers and matching volunteer hours with a donation. You may also consider donating your services pro bono.
Approach all services, projects and deliverables with universal design and accessibility considerations.
Create and support employee resource or affinity groups and committees dedicated to furthering equity throughout your workplace processes and the services you provide.
An alarming number of Torontonians say they are anxious and experts are warning of the far-reaching implications into all aspects of our lives. Our workplaces will need supportive mental health policies as we transition into our new normal and beyond.
Advocate for furthering better labour standards, including paid sick days, changes to minimum wage and rules around equal pay for equal work.
Adopt frameworks designed to create inclusive economic opportunities, like the Community Benefits Framework, which currently has four initiatives: 1) Social Procurement Policy and Program; 2) Housing Now Initiative; 3) Rexdale Casino Woodbine Community Benefits Agreement; and 4) Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation, and Technology Program. An additional 10 new community benefits initiatives are currently being reviewed.
Support hiring practices by reaching a broader range of candidates through job boards dedicated to historically marginalized communities such as: youth, newcomers, women, racialized, and Black and Indigenous people.
Assess and reduce your organizational carbon footprint by introducing environmentally friendly policies and procedures.