Canadian Inspiring Action Spotlight

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November 26 - CULTURE AS URBAN ARCHITECTURE              

Featuring Tim Jones, CEO of Artscape at 5.30pm at MaRS Discovery District

MaRS Global Leadership: Culture as Urban Acupuncture from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

“Sometimes for determinate problems it is necessary to ‘stick some needles’ of good local action that can create new energy, which is the principle of acupuncture”
Jaime Learner, Urbanist and Author Urban Acupuncture

In a few generations, culture has helped elevate Toronto’s reputation from “Hogtown” to a global city of culture. It has helped West Queen West earn Vogue Magazine’s distinction as the second coolest neighbourhood in the world and Regent Park construct a new narrative from the shadows of stigmatization. These transformations have had profound impacts not just on reputations but in delivering a myriad of positive social outcomes and unlocking billions in development and other forms of economic activity. Despite these incredible wins, many still think of culture as a low-priority amenity.

Artscape is a Toronto not-for-profit urban development organization that makes space for creativity and transforms communities. 10 years ago they coined the term, creative placemaking, a practice that leverages the power of art, culture and creativity to catalyze change, growth and transformation of communities.  For decades, public policy has framed arts and culture as a need somebody has to take responsibility for. Urban planners and developers have viewed cultural transformation as a mysterious phenomenon driven by nebulous factors in some kind of organic process.  Artscape CEO Tim Jones believes these perspectives are holding us back in engaging culture as a powerful resource in city-building.

Artscape has gained unique knowledge on the front lines of some of Toronto’s most ambitious and successful urban revitalization projects. Tim Jones and his team have worked to understand how cultural projects can: empower artists as agents of change, contribute to dynamic patterns of neighbourhood evolution and be intentionally leveraged as trigger points in urban growth and development.

Imagine a future where we used culture as a resource to tackle some of Toronto’s toughest problems. 

About the Speaker

Tim Jones_Artscape CEO_highres_by Joanna FosterUnder Tim Jones’ direction since 1998, Artscape has grown from a provider of artist studios in Toronto to an internationally recognized leader in “creative placemaking”: leveraging the power of arts and culture to act as a catalyst of change, growth and transformation of place. Tim coined this term in 2006; today, city builders around the world employ creative placemaking strategies to make cities more vibrant, prosperous, sustainable and liveable. With Artscape, Tim has built an impressive portfolio of unique facilities that serve hundreds of thousands of people annually, and which play an important role in advancing the arts and culture, public policy agendas, private development interests, community and neighbourhood aspirations and philanthropic missions.

After acting as mentor and coach to organizations and governments in Canada and abroad for many years, Tim now plays an active development role in markets outside Toronto. Tim has received many awards for his pioneering work. In 2014, he was recognized by the Geneva-based Schwab Foundation as Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

SEPT 14 – GREENING CITIES, HEALTHY PLANET: Strategies that work, Opportunities for change

Featuring Geoff Cape, Founding CEO of Evergreen at MaRS Discovery District (Toronto, ON)

Greening Cities, Healthy Planet with Geoff Cape – MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Evergreen has evolved dramatically over the past 25 years with a series of projects and programs that have enabled strategic leaps — more often than not — forward. It has been a wild ride, growing from a simple idea into an institutional leader on subjects ranging from restoration ecology and the design of children’s learning environments, to transit planning and lane way housing. We have focused on innovations related to sustainability and cities and a series of complex problems that involve multiple stakeholders. We don’t look for the hardest problems to solve, we look for ideas that are stuck — but ready to move. Over the years Evergreen has defined itself a convenor and a change agent.

About the speaker

photoAs the founder of Evergreen, Geoff has been its CEO since 1990. Evergreen, has grown to include over 150 staff and offices in Toronto, and Vancouver with a collections of programs focused on action and sustainable cities. With a focus on strategy, campaign building and cross sector collaboration, Geoff is a team player who enjoys new ideas and working on complex problem solving exercises that involve sustainability and the revitalization of urban landscapes.

Across Canada, Evergreen has enabled over 7,100 action projects. The largest is Evergreen Brick Works — a unique collection of 16 buildings on a 41 acre campus with exhibit space, community programming, conference facilities, offices, demonstration facilities and a spectacular park setting. More recent projects include work in Hamilton, a lane way housing project, and a strategy to help revitalize the ravines of Toronto.

Geoff is a founding member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum , and a regular participant at the World Economic Forum, Davos. Geoff is founding Chair of the Sustainability Network, and has been recognized as one of Canada’s “Top 40 under 40”, an “Ashoka Fellow”, winner of the Peter F. Drucker Award, and the Governor General’s “Golden Jubilee Medal”. In 2007 Geoff was awarded “Canadian Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Schwab Foundation. In 2010 Geoff Cape was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Sustainable Buildings Canada. Geoff lives in Toronto with his wife Valerie and three boys Toma, Ben and Sebastien, and cycles to work every day—even in blinding Canadian snow storms.


Featuring Al Etmanski, community organizer, social entrepreneur and author


Celebrated campaigner and Order of Canada recipient Al Etmanski has worked to achieve long lasting social change for more than four decades. His successes include the launch of Registered Disability Savings Plans, which now contain more than $2 billion in savings.

In his highly praised new book, Impact: Six Patterns To Spread Your Social Innovation, Etmanski provides an inspirational and practical roadmap for others wishing to transform our society.

On May 12, we came together to celebrate the release of this new resource! As in the book,  Al spoke with candour and warmth about his own journey of collaborations, doubts and setbacks before he reached success.

Al  was joined on stage in Toronto will be local change-makers…

Jack_PearpointJack Pearpoint, Inclusion

Independent Canadian Publisher and catalyst for Inclusion, Diversity, Teamwork and CHANGE!

Lisa BrownLisa Brown, Workman Arts

Lisa uses art as a means to build a deeper and more empathic understanding of mental health challenges in Canada.

LizMulhollandLiz Mulholland

Liz is the CEO of Prosper Canada working with partners in all sectors to develop and promote financial policies, programs and resources that transform lives.

Tim Draimin Photo smallTim Draimin

Tim is Executive Director of SiG National working with its founding partners and allies to foster a culture of continuous social innovation in Canada.

Susan PigottSusan Pigott

Susan is currently consulting with MaRS Discovery District and brings deep experience to this conversation having worked in the non-profit and social change sectors for many decades.

Allyson Hewitt small

Allyson Hewitt

Allyson Hewitt is the Senior Fellow, Social Innovation at MaRS. She leads social innovation programs working on a broad range of projects—from not-for-profits interested in revenue generation to entrepreneurs committed to social change.

About the Speaker

Lasting impact requires deeper patterns of change, only accessible when we look past quick wins and surface-level victories.

Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. He is an Ashoka fellow and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute. He is founding partner of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), BC Partners for Social Impact and co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN). He has received numerous awards for his work with people with disabilities, including the Order of Canada (2014), Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013), and Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal (2005). He lives with his wife Vickie Cammack – who also received the Order of Canada – just outside of Vancouver and delight in the creative pursuits of their five children.

We would like to extend our thanks to an inspiring array of partners.

partner logos


Featuring Tonya Surman, Founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation

Harnessing the power of self-interest for collective impact — MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

What role does self-interest play in our quest for solutions to complex social challenges? The word “self-interest” is virtually taboo in the social change community. However, understanding self-interest, as well as what motivates us as people and what leads others to act, is the key to shifting culture and systems.

Tonya Surman, the founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), has been thinking about the force of self-interest for some time. In this presentation, she spoke about the role that self-interest plays and how we can harness its power for collective impact.

Moderating a Q&A following Tonya’s presentation was Catherine Porter. Catherine is a social justice columnist at the Toronto Star.

Events held at MaRS are hosted in partnership with the MaRS Global Leadership Series.

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