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ELNstudio 2015

Reimagining today for tomorrow: Rising civic leaders generate fresh ideas to revitalize public space at ELNstudio 2015

On Saturday November 7, CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) held  it’s 7th annual ELNstudio. In partnership with the University of Toronto, this year’s ELNstudio powered tomorrow’s leaders to take action today, and reimagined where they live. Almost 200 rising leaders came together to generate fresh ideas and innovative solutions to answer one central question: how might we collaboratively redefine public spaces in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA)?

Emerging leaders from every sector – private, public, not-for-profit, labour, and academia – had a chance to roll up their sleeves and get poised for action.

In case you missed it (or just want to relive a great day of city-building!), check out our news release along with these great articles from Yonge Street Media and University of Toronto News. Be sure to also check out photos from the day and #ELNstudio15!


ELNstudio is a high-impact, action-oriented day of discussion and idea generation. This year’s event will feature unique opportunities to connect with rising and senior leaders through inspirational keynotes, storytelling, a civic engagement marketplace, collaborative working sessions and networking activities. The event will introduce a new approach for rising leaders to solve challenging problems in our region.

View the day’s full agenda here.

Speakers include: 

  • Sabina Ali, Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee
  • Matt Blackett, Spacing Magazine
  • Hamutal Dotan, Globe and Mail
  • Zahra Ebrahim, Doblin Canada
  • Seana Irvine, Evergreen
  • Dave Meslin, Beautiful City Toronto
  • Natasha Mytnowych, Artscape Youngplace and Artscape Sandbox
  • Denise Pinto, Jane’s Walk
  • Michelle Senayah, The Laneway Project
  • Ken Tanenbaum, Kilmer Group
  • Jason Thorne, City of Hamilton

View speaker bios here.


As the GTHA becomes a hyper-dense city-region, our reliance on useable public space increases. The GTHA’s total population is expected to grow by another 2.6 million people by 2035 to reach 8.9 million. (Statistics Canada, 2011) The region will account for more than two-thirds of provincial population growth over the period. It is projected that, by 2035, 51.4% of Ontarians will live in the GTA. (Ontario Ministry of Finance, 2014; City of Hamilton, 2007)

The region’s meteoric growth brings with it new challenges and a need to think differently about the spaces we inhabit. The spaces we live, work and play in are getting smaller, making access to usable, engaging and dynamic public spaces increasingly important.

There’s a unique opportunity for rising leaders to reimagine where we live so that we can work towards creating the public spaces we need for the GTHA of today and tomorrow.

Comprising everything from parks and trails to laneways and sidewalks to collaborative digital space to privately owned community spaces, public spaces are as multifaceted as the region’s inhabitants. We’ll be looking at the public space question through five lenses:

Connecting spaces.

As the GTHA densifies and living and office space shrinks, public spaces play an increasingly important role in people’s lives. There’s an opportunity to think about new ways to optimize use and accessibility of public space in our region. How might we create better connections to, with, and between public spaces?

Hybrid spaces.

Spaces in our region can often have many uses, but sometimes there’s more we could be doing with them. There’s an opportunity to think about how we make them more exciting through art and culture. How might we animate public spaces?

Community spaces.

Many of the GTHA’s 6.5 million residents (Statistics Canada, 2012) care about the communities they live in and how they interact within them. There’s an opportunity to think about how we support residents to engage with their communities as it relates to public space. How might we help bring individuals together as a community through public spaces?

Non-traditional public spaces.

Investments in public space are not keeping pace with what city residents need and desire — whether it’s parks, libraries, public spaces and other traditional community spaces. (Municipal Art Society of New York, 2015) There’s an opportunity to think outside the box and create new public spaces from existing spaces in the region. How might we redefine non-traditional spaces, and turn them into public space?

Technology and public spaces.

Technology is becoming an increasingly important part of modern life, but we don’t often think about the connections between this and the physical spaces we inhabit. How might we explore where and how digital and public spaces meet?

Let’s tackle these opportunities together. Take a look at our pre-reads here. 

CivicAction’s ELN is in partnership with the University of Toronto to host ELNstudio 2015. Please see a full list of our partners and supporters here.

UofT logo


CivicAction’s ELNstudio is the largest gathering of CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN). Over 150 rising leaders working in different sectors from across the GTHA come together each year to collaborate with other rising leaders and incubate innovative city-building projects to tackle challenges and opportunities.

CivicAction’s ELN has a track record of success. In previous years, rising leaders have generated high-impact projects such as Toronto Homecoming, Project Neutral and the Pan Am Path.