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So, Rob Ford is Mayor! What do we do now?

So, Rob Ford is Mayor. I’ve been sitting on Facebook (my social media of choice) and watching the pain, fear and sadness descend on my friends and colleagues. There is shock that this happened? How could it? What does this mean? Who did this to us? But, they hate us gay, Chinese, cycling, latte drinking intelligentsia? Should I move?


Ever the optimist, I have been thinking about what this means for us? For democracy. For electoral politics. For the Centre for Social Innovation. For us – the citizens of Toronto.

As many of you know, I have a healthy disdain for both politics and (so-called) democracy… I think that they are both over-rated and we use them as an excuse for inaction. Somehow we think that this is all we have to do. I believe that the real solutions are amongst us – among the citizens of this great city and our ability to work and co-create together.  Yes, we need strong allies in government, but the creativity, energy, activism of Toronto hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, it is challenge and adversary that breeds innovation and action. Oh, I can feel the anger turning into action already.

A part of me is super excited about what we can do and create together now. Just think about how powerful Rob Ford is as a magnetic attractor – think of the energy that he will galvanize. Think of the conversations and collaborations that we will be forced to have. And most importantly, think of the urgency that this deficit of progressive leadership will mean for new leadership to emerge. It will be up to us as citizens to create new solutions. It is up to us to engage and understand all perspectives. It is up to us to build solutions that transcend left-right politics.

Yes, we will have to find ways to interface with city government. But a good idea is a good idea… a solution which embraces those that voted for and against (and not at all) is a good solution. Perhaps our challenge is to start thinking differently about who we serve? Perhaps we need to reinvent the ‘bigger is better’ paradigm or our fundamental understanding of the role of government. Certainly, we need to focus on systems change.  To start, I personally want to know more about who voted for Rob Ford and why? Ultimately, our solutions have to serve everyone.  

And I am feeling more ready than ever.

The Centre for Social Innovation is working on creating a City Innovation Lab of sorts. We are starting to cluster some amazing new and existing members on the 3rd floor of CSI Annex. We have been loosely moving forward with an  ‘emergent’ approach, not entirely clear what exactly will galvanize it. Perhaps we now have our answer.  

Here are some of the design principles that we have been playing with:
-    create a space for emergence
-    make sure that it engages citizens
-    co-creation is king
-    convene, converse, collaborate
-    more do, less talk… focus on prototyping…
-    test global methodologies… experiment
-    defy old style politics… rise above
-    add value… always add value
-    serve the commons… it is all about the space between

So, this morning, I wake up with great hope. What an awesome new energy is changing our landscape? What creativity will this brew? What anger will this trigger? What collaborations might emerge? What new brains might be engaged? What solutions will be created?  
Perhaps the timing is perfect… CSI is finally ready to really serve the city. So, as shocked as I am, I am also incredibly excited. Just think of the fun we will have changing the city together.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about what we will need to do to keep our city great…and make it even greater… and please I beg you, let this be more about solutions than a fight. Fighting is what got us here. A solution is what will unite us.


Always inspiring

What a great post, Tonya, and one that reflects my own thinking - I stand ready to work with the new "opposition" to keep Toronto moving forward.

We're going to see the size of government shrink dramatically over the next four years, meaning that such "frills" as the environment, arts & culture and social services will be reduced in scope or eliminated entirely. This is a big gap that we will need to step up and fill.

I also anticipate that we will have little or no international leadership position. For Toronto to continue to demonstrate it's international leadership on matters like climate change, it will be left up to those non-profits, businesses, etc who work in international circles.

What do we do now???

Okay, so call me "Pollyanna" Michael, but I think that we just have to roll up our shirtsleeves and be even better at building a healthy, strong and inclusive Toronto - regardless of the current occupant of the mayor's office. The circumstances change, but the challenges remain pretty much the same. Here's my two-part strategy:

Continue to "reach in" within TO: Build the networks, the platforms for collaboration and innovation within Toronto, support each other in practical ways, identify the old and new tools that we need to do our work, engage powerful new friends and embrace our old allies; and,

Continue to "reach out" outside TO: Strengthen our networks nationally and internationally, appropriate good ideas and make them even better in TO, learn lessons from others, strengthen our capacity for information-sharing, collaboration and sharing of practical resources (including new social finance initiatives).

The dynamic has changed in the mayor's office at TO City Hall. But we're still engaged in the collective process of building a better city, and we can't give up just because of an election.

Phew - glad I got that out. But don't think that I underestimate the challenges thrown up by the municipal election.

Martin Luther King used to say that every revolution inevitably triggers a counter-revolution. We have to expect these challenges, and factor them into our work.

Let's be smart, strategic and relentless.

Everyone seems confused about

Everyone seems confused about who voted for Rob Ford. Well... it may be news to some of you but Toronto is much larger than just the downtown core. Those in the'rest of the 416' decided to have a say. Like it or not, we share Toronto with right wing voters. Surprise! They obviously felt their needs were not being met. That blame lays on the shoulders of Mayor Miller. He was not the Mayor for the City of Toronto as it is today....just the Mayor of downtown.


Just to clarify - you have a "disdain for democracy"? So what, you're an anarchist? And why do you need to build the stereotype "latte, gay, etc." Yawn, it's just so boring. You must realize and take into account just how many people voted for the man. So why do people like you wonder, aghast, how this has happened. It just turns out that people really don't identify with the vocal, whiny minority.

Who voted for Ford, and why

Just in response to the opening paragraph, "they hate us...Chinese..." Maclean's actually reported strong support for Ford among members of Chinese-Canadian business communities. I think we all might be surprised to find out who actually voted for Ford, and why.


I live in the east-end Chinatown at Broadview and Gerrard and not a single one of my neighbors, who are all Chinese and a few Vietnamese, voted for the him.

So, just to be clear.... the

So, just to be clear.... the mentioning of Chinese was just an illustration of the type of things that I was hearing on facebook...accusations of racism, fear of racial groups being called names... assumptions that voting right wing and be a racist are aligned... the re-tweet of Glen Murray's would be another such illustration.... 

Much needed

Much needed words given how discouraged an election result like this can make one feel.

I wholeheartedly agree that this is exactly the time to galvanize and rally around strong collaborations.

The compassion and creative energy of this city runs deep and will not be brought down by any one mayor or handful of councillors. Inherently change is what people are looking for and system change (which you're helping to foster) is really the grandmother of all change.

So we move forward.

Thanks for your words and the vital work you're doing each day.

Thanks Myles...

Thanks Myles...

Thanks Tonya, great post!

The Toronto Cyclists Union has learned much since our launch in May of 2008 and we are proud to be part of the CSI community of change makers. Now, more than ever, we'll need the support & action of our longstanding members, along with many new supporters, in order to insure our ability to continue working hard on behalf of all cyclists to improve cycling conditions city-wide. If you ride a bike for transportation in Toronto, please consider becoming a member of your cycling advocacy organisation, the Toronto Cyclists Union -

Oddly I too woke up a much

Oddly I too woke up a much more hopeful. I think this result is going to bring a lot of people together, and in my case it has re-ignited my passion for a lot of issues I care deeply about.

My solution: youth outreach

How about csi mentoring the Steeles L'Amoreaux Community Youth Hub, found in a racialized and impoverished area of Toronto. It seems to me this collective of youth groups is having trouble finding a programme director and could really use your expertise in setting up an effective hub.

I am new to Toronto and job hunting and have run into both of your organizations. There seems to be a strong potential win-win link here.

Re My solution: youth outreach

Hey there! We'd be happy to meet with you to learn more. We may not be able to provide ongoing, dedicated support - but we would be delighted to hear more about your vision and your challenges, and to offer our input. Reach out to