United Way, a Think-Tank on Community Issues in York Region / Centraide, un labo d’idées sur les enjeux communautaires dans la région de York

The following story first appeared on the United Way York Region website on March 31, 2014 and is reposted here with permission.

Ce récit a été publié la première fois sur le site United Way York Region, le 31 mars 2014. Il est repris ici avec permission.

Participants at a United Way York Region community eventUnited Way York Region’s Board of Directors consists of a diverse group of community leaders and key decision makers who provide vision, strategic leadership, advocacy, accountability and stewardship to United Way. Passionate about the community, our volunteer Board members are dedicated to United Way’s mission of improving lives and strengthening neighbourhoods across York Region.

The Community Engagement and Research (CE&R) Committee is a group within the Board that acts as a think-tank on community issues in York Region. This committee plays an integral role by providing valuable information upon which the Board bases its decisions on where and how United Way’s funding can best be invested to improve the quality of life for all York Region residents.

“The CE&R Committee is comprised of a diverse set of community volunteers as well as leaders from the education, health and social services, law enforcement and business sectors,” states Elaine Walsh, Chair of the CE&R Committee and a United Way York Region Board member. “The committee members bring exceptional research skills and experience and a valuable perspective on social and community issues to help us understand and report on the needs and issues that face York Region.”

The CE&R Committee develops and oversees knowledge mobilization and dissemination and community engagement activities that help United Way York Reg

ion identify and address critical human service needs in our community. As a leader in building civic muscle and helping positively change community conditions in our neighbourhoods, the CE&R Committee is at the forefront of conducting innovative research and developing reports on critical issues that affect York Region’s nine municipalities.

For example, in 2008 the CE&R Committee released …if addressed, a report which kicked off a year-long dialogue across York Region on the defining issue of our community: the intersection of pace of growth, the changing face of growth and the places where said growth occurs. In 2009, after more extensive research, the CE&R Committee released addressing OUR STRENGTHS, which confirmed that York Region was a community of communities, each with unique, specific needs. The report essentially helped shape United Way York Region’s three strategic priorities: helping kids be all they can be, moving people from poverty to possibility and building strong neighbourhoods. As a natural progression to the if addressed series, United Way York Region has since launched two Meeting House series that revealed the need for a strong social infrastructure in York Region.

“Working with community partners, the information gathered and analyzed by the CE&R Committee from the valuable discussions that took place from all the Meeting House sessions revealed the need for increased social infrastructure within our rapidly growing communities,” states Ms. Walsh. “In Every Neighbourhood, United Way York Region’s unprecedented $30 million in 3 years campaign was created to answer this need and ensure that residents are able to access the community supports they need close to home.”

Moreover, the CE&R Committee has also played an important role in shaping our Strength Investments funding initiative. This unique program goes beyond the traditional way that United Way York Region supports agencies and programs and invests in residents, businesses and faith groups to work collaboratively on innovative and shared solutions to complex social issues. In short, Strength Investments supports neighbourhood change from within.

“The CE&R Committee is a passionate group of individuals with a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experiences in many areas within our community. We work hard and are extremely proud to be a part of creating a positive impact in the neighbourhoods in which we work and live in,” concludes Ms. Walsh.

upStream Open House – Getting Fresh in York Region / Soirée porte ouverte d’upStream : fraîcheur garantie pour la région de York

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

York Region Food Network is addressing the issue of food security through an interesting and innovative project. Through collaborative partnerships and a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, upStream Aquaponics has been launched to pilot sustainable and healthy food development throughout the year.

Le réseau alimentaire de la région de York (York Region Food Network) aborde le problème de l’insécurité alimentaire par un moyen original et innovant. Grâce à des partenariats et des collaborations, et avec une bourse des Centres d’excellence de l’Ontario, upStream Aquaponics a entrepris de guider, au cours de l’année qui vient, le développement durable de l’offre d’aliments sains.

AquaponicsYork KMb had the pleasure of attending an Open House for a project led by the York Region Food Network (YRFN) which has realized development of an aquaponics lab – an urban agriculture innovation hub.  This facility is located in Newmarket, ON, steps away from the GO train station in Newmarket.   Approximately 30 people attended to learn more about the aquaponics lab and to tour the facilities.  YRFN Executive Director Joan Stonehocker addressed the crowd in attendance, identifying that this experiment is an important step for YRFN and the local community to address sustainable food development, healthy eating and food security for neighboring communities.

The KMb Unit at York University was approached by YRFN to partner in support of a research and development opportunity for their successful Ontario Centres of Excellence application, which provided direct funding support for the development of the aquaponics lab.  According to YRFN, the lab is producing 800 heads of lettuce each month and almost 150 tilapia.  Food is distributed through the Good Food Box program to underprivileged residents in the community, local restaurants as well as through an emerging retail operation.

With food insecurity identified by YRFN and United Way York Region as a community priority, KMb is a proud partner of this project and is seeking engagement from interested researchers on an ongoing basis.  Efficacy, economic, health and environmental themes are all prevalent in the development of an aquaponics lab.  Our office was also proud to support an event on Friday April 4, which YRFN hosted around Food Waste.  York graduate students and researchers from the University of Guelph participated in the presentations and workshops that were aimed to promote education, awareness and an action agenda around food security and food waste management in York Region.

KMb engages in a wide range of activities bridging and enabling research to help inform public policy and professional practice.  Based on the samples I was able to consume following the Open House, YRFN and their upStream project are well positioned to have a significant and positive impact on communities in York Region.  Add a nice balsamic vinaigrette and we’re taking KMb to the next level!

Aquaponic Lettuce

communityBUILD / BÂTIR ensemble

David Phipps, RIR-York

CommunityBUILD is a unique partnership between community, business and the university that is creating a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region. Combining the assets of different sectors creates opportunities that none could support working alone.

BÂTIR ensemble est un partenariat unique entre la communauté, le monde des affaires et l’Université. Son objectif est de créer un réseau de soutien et d’appui aux entreprises d’économie sociale de la région d’York. En alliant leurs atouts, les trois secteurs ouvrent des possibilités qui ne s’offrent pas à chacun d’eux pris isolément.

build: construct (something) by putting parts or material together (Oxford English Dictionary)

BUILD: a program of ventureLAB “designed to support entrepreneurs of technology ventures – especially first time entrepreneurs.” (http://bit.ly/1pKUsW6)

communityBUILD: a program of ventureLAB (VL), United Way York Region (UWYR) and York University designed to create a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region.

This past week communityBUILD ran the first Mash Up. Mash Up sought to identify new ideas to address to grand challenges in York Region: youth employment and food security.

Jeremy O'Krafka, Mentor Network

Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Network

An open call was made for innovators and their supporters to submit ideas that addressed one or both of these grand challenges. Twenty nine ideas were submitted. Nine were selected to come to the Mash Up. Within 45 minutes of the first day these were down to four: one addressing food security, one addressing youth employment and two of them addressing both.

Over two days of Mash Up and one day of work the four teams of between three to six team members worked with mentors from VL, UWYR and York to develop their ideas. These four ideas were then pitched to a panel of social entrepreneurs and community builders. Each had the chance to secure $5,000 of consulting services, become a VL client and receive VL mentoring.

  • Upstream New Gardens Initiative is a project of York Region Food Network that sought to build on its existing hydroponics facility and use sale of hydroponic lettuce to fund Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Networkfood awareness programs.
  • Mentor Network seeks to match youth job seekers with experienced mentors who will use their own networks to help make a match between youth and the 80% of jobs that are never advertised through traditional recruitment methods such as job fairs. Mentor Network will pilot with Seneca College students.
  • Hon’r Snacks places healthy food snack towers in offices and proposes to use youth from the NEET (not in employment, education, training) group to stock the towers.
  • Cultivating Opportunities builds on the established therapeutic connection between nature and young people living with mental illness and addictions to provide farmers with steady employees. Youth with lived experience of mental illness and addictions will work on the farm and be paid in vegetables that they can then sell as healthy food baskets in farmers markets or to office workers.

From a one minute pitch on Monday morning to a 10 minute presentation on Thursday all four groups successfully went on a journey with their mentors through the Lean Start Up and the Business Model Canvass.

Keys to success of the Mash Up were:

  • A clear call for projects addressing critical issues important to York Region
  • A well structured journey
  • Mentors to guide along the journey so that teams were actively supported every step along the way
  • Experienced judges to provide critical feedback
  • A pool of talent in York Region and the GTA open to growth and opportunity
  • Three partners each bringing unique assets to the table

communityBUILD is a partnership between the academic, community and business sectors. It is not a campus centric incubator. It is not charity. It combines the power of lived experience in community with the discipline of business with the perspective of academia. Each partner contributes unique assets that combine in complementary ways to create a system of supports for social enterprise. The Mash Up is the first roll out of communityBUILD that has already helped four new ideas move toward implementation. They aren’t social enterprises yet but they have started on a path that will support their early exploration.

Neither VL, UWYR nor YorkU have a mandate to support social enterprise. Only by working together and combining their assets could a regional system of supports for social enterprise be developed that promises to grow from the Mash Up into a new player in the social and economic infrastructure of York Region.

See coverage of communityBUILD in the Toronto Star.

 

Commnuity BUILD - Mashing Up at the Markham Convergence Centre

Community BUILD – Mashing Up at the Markham Convergence Centre

 

communityBUILD Mash-Up

United Way York Region, York University and ventureLAB have come together to create an entrepreneurial community event in York Region called the communityBUILD Mash-Up. 

Centraide de la région de York, l’Université York et ventureLAB ont travaillé conjointement à la mise sur pied dans la région de York d’un évènement communautaire pour entrepreneurs, le « communityBUILD Mash-Up ». 

communityBUILD posterJoin United Way York Region, York University and ventureLAB in the launch of the communityBUILD Mash-Up, a competition searching for social entrepreneurs tackling two York Region challenges: Food Insecurity and Youth Unemployment.

Are you a non-profit looking to launch a new program, or have you been keeping a project on the back burner? Apply for the communityBUILD Mash-Up, an intense two-day start-up workshop and competition created to tackle two challenges in York Region; Youth Unemployment and Food Insecurity.

Are you interested in tackling a challenge? Looking to create a difference in your community? United Way York Region, York University and ventureLAB have come together to launch communityBUILD Mash-Up. An intense two-day start-up workshop and competition created to help tackle two challenges in York Region; Youth Unemployment and Food Insecurity. Apply for a chance to win a $5,000 venture consulting grant and to become a ventureLAB client!

Apply to the communityBUILD Mash-Up for a chance to win a $5,000 consulting grant to pay for expert advice for your social venture and to become a ventureLAB client: venturelab.ca/communitybuildmashup