Leading an All-Hands-on-Deck Effort (and How DiverseCity Fellows Played a Part!)
A profile on 2018 DiverseCity Fellow Alumna Brad Bradford.
TIME IN THE DIVERSECITY FELLOWS PROGRAM
How would you describe your Fellows experience? What were the biggest take-aways for you both during and post program?
For me, the DiverseCity Fellows program was one of the most transformative experiences I’ve had in my early career. Coming together each month, listening, and learning from a group of rising leaders was, and remains, a huge source of inspiration.
Why are programs like these important?
Broadening perspectives, sharing ideas, and
finding inspiration. Despite the magnitude of challenges facing our region—it’s
impossible to leave the program without more hope, more optimism, and more
resolve to make a difference.
Since completing the program in 2018, I’ve remained in contact with all of my cohort. They continue to provide valuable advice, experience, and friendship that I carry with me everyday.
LIFE AS A CITY COUNCILLOR
What made you want to run for Toronto City Council?
I was working at City Hall in the planning department, and had a first-hand look at the promise of local government. The longer I was there, the more I felt Toronto could benefit from different perspectives, generational voices, and a leadership model that made room for new voices. The decision to run was gradual, but came from a place of wanting to make a positive difference, and exploring the different ways we can do that. Less complaining, more action.
What do you wish more people knew about running for public office or engaging with local politics?
The opportunities and pathways to create change exist. We always talk about community-led change—listening to residents, understanding their issues, and then charting a response to address them as best we can. Whether that’s improving surface transit routes, citing a location for a new women’s shelter, or bringing a pizza oven to a community park, these are all things we’ve been able to do over the past 18 months. But I wouldn’t be able to do it without listening to an engaged group of Torontonians showing me the way.
Email and engage with your councillor. Volunteer in your community. Bring a problem solving attitude to the challenges we’re facing. And if you’re interested, consider running for office.
ABOUT COVID & ITS IMPACTS:
What is the greatest challenge that COVID has created in our cities/communities? Is tere a silver-lining in all of this?
Some folks suggest that pandemics would be a great equalizer, impacting people regardless of socioeconomic circumstances. We’ve seen that hasn’t been the case. In fact, it’s exacerbated the existing challenges and pressures facing many people in the city, and brought greater exposure to the gaps.
We will need to find a new way forward, but out of this crisis comes an opportunity to drive transformation. If we revert back to the way things were, then we’ve really missed the moment. This is an opportunity to consider Toronto in a different light and chart new hopes and aspirations for our city. From there, we need to evaluate our policy and process, and determine the best way to get there.
You recently helped raised over $200,000 for the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation through #CrushCOVID. What did you take away from that experience—and more importantly, how are you still standing?
The community’s response was completely overwhelming, and really speaks to how much we all appreciate our frontline healthcare workers. In many respects, we’re seeing the best of humanity, and how we can provide a collective response to the crisis. This was one example of many, where Torontonians are stepping up and helping out.
I’ll spare you the details about the damage done from a 24 hour bike ride, but spirits remained high.
As a member of the Mayor’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force, you’ve been vocal about the need for additional supports for small businesses like a stop to commercial evictions. What can DiverseCity Fellows do to help support their local businesses during this time?
Small businesses are suffering a cash flow and liquidity problem. Expenses continue to mount and revenue is limited or non-existent. But there are a bunch of online platforms connection local businesses with consumers: Distantly.ca, ToGo Toronto, Rally for Restaurants etc.
We also recently launched a new initiative called shopHere. We’ve partnered with Shopify and others to help main street stores up their e-commerce game.
And if you’re not already busy, CivicAction is fortunate to have you co-chair our Re:Action Task Force. Can you share a bit about why you thought this was important? What do you hope it’s able to accomplish?
This is a catalytic moment for transformation in our city. I want to make sure that we’re tapping the best and brightest in Toronto to bring a generational lens to the discussion about recovery and rebuild. I want to make sure your fingerprints are all over it. This matters because ultimately, it will be our generation, and the ones following, that solve the problems we’re facing today. This is the start of that work.