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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Solution Labs of the Americas

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I am ridiculously privileged to travel in a variety of circles and sectors, meeting amazing people from all levels of communities both global and grassroots.  

This week, I am attending the International Economic Forum of the Americas Toronto Global Forum at the Royal York.  

Last month, I was at Civics Design Camp, organized by the amazing Studio Y alumni Meghan Hellstern.  

For the past few months I have been supporting Toronto Youth Cabinet's Chloe-Marie Brown as she turns the Toronto Grassroots Innovation Forum one-off policy hack into a pilot policy lab program that could fundamentally shape the way community consultation works in Toronto.

Studio Y, by the way, is an amazing fellowship program that provides young people the opportunity to develop the learning, leading and innovation skills our world is in desperate need of.

One of the reasons I think I'm afford this privilege is because of my recognized ability to connect the dots between what is and what can be cross-sector and cross-community.

As I've been thinking about the Toronto Global Forum and the discussion of wicked problems and the emerging potential for cool opportunities, I've found myself asking - if we have so many amazing people in one space, why don't we spend some time brainstorming some of these solutions, policy hackathon-style?

How would you do that, exactly?  Would the IEFA organizers be game to test out a hackathon as part of their agenda?  Could one happen concurrently at MaRS for TGF participants to pop by?

If we're discussing impact and potential action items from the community level (including advocacy to government for policy changes), how might we incorporate them into the mix?

Here's where I'm at right now - tell me what you think.


A modified or separate Studio Y-style program that recruits young leaders from Toronto's marginalized communities.

This program will find emerging leaders and train them in the art of facilitation, hustle, etc. with the goal of being animators, facilitators and problem-owners at a Solutions Lab of the Americas policy hack.  Much as was the focus of TGIF last year, these youth would work with IEFA organizers to align local problem focus with the themes to be discussed at next year's Toronto Global Forum.

Meghan Hellstern would be an amazing organizer of something of this; she's got the experience, the guts and an incredible team of organizers.  To be really inclusive, perhaps AIESEC and my new friend Atena Lombardo could be a partner, bringing in some facilitator/animators from other American countries.

Capital, space, mentors, etc. would be required, but as Studio Y is hiring a new director, now's a great time to explore the potential of this.


Shorten the traditional TGF agenda and leave some space - a day, ideally - at the end for a day-long Solutions Lab.  

It would follow more-or-less the same format as Meghan's Civic Design Camp and may feature, as Open Data Day TO 2015 did, an Idea Fair for social innovators in the same building. 

The facilitators from Phase I would have months of training under their belt and would lead participants through the process of conceiving/prototyping solutions to identified problems - ones discussed at the Forum, but with a local twist.  These solutions could be Apps, policies, programs, whatever the brain-trust involved in the process came up with.


The hack goes on.

Picture some of the brightest minds in the world sitting in a room together, full of energy, optimism and a sense of communal purpose following the main discussions at TGF, ready to roll their sleeves up and solve some problems.

Picture youth who often face great access barriers in trying to find social success leading world leaders in solving problems both global and local.  These newly empowered leaders would go back to their communities with a renewed purpose and new contacts to help bring hope and opportunity to their neighbours.


Then, imagine a televised Dragon's Den review of the solutions with a panel of celebrity sector experts.  The winning idea(s) would have the support of corporate partners for a pilot project.

If the world tunes into sports games, and reality TV, would they tune in to something like this?  
Would local youth and world leaders collaboratively solving problems and being grilled by experts make for a compelling, nation-uniting viewing experience?

Personally, I think so.  Maybe Sean Southey and PCI Media Impact would agree.

There you have it - my morning ideation on how to design-think a program that solves problems, builds community, fosters new collaborations and breaks down socio-cultural silos.

And it took be about 10 minutes to write.

Think what we could accomplish if we committed to making this vision come true together.

Who's with me?

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