Post written by Erika Martinez – University of Toronto Student, current CivicAction Leadership Foundation Intern, and ELN member.
A great opportunity to learn and connect with leaders from different backgrounds and professions around the GTHA – that’s what I first saw at ELNstudio3D. But I also realized that the day was packed with others also interested in improving the region through mutual learning, with a specific focus on diversity and inclusion. Each individual emphasizing leadership that encourages the understanding and solving of the biggest problems that our region faces.
The thing that made me most interested in the day was the unique intersectional approach to the different topics. It’s not often that you see affordable housing, access to information and economic opportunity tackled with the lens of inclusion and diversity by people from different sectors in the same room. This unique approach allows for the recognition of different problems and the proposal of more creative solutions.
One of the first statements of the day was the fact that we – as Canadians – always take pride in the diversity of our people, especially when we’re comparing ourselves to other nations. However, the diversity of our people is not reflected in our leadership – where we still see quite a large inclusion gap.
Tim Hockey, Chair of the CivicAction Leadership Foundation Board and CEO of TD Ameritrade, reminded us that racist and xenophobic rhetoric is increasingly infiltrating public discourse in other societies, and events like these are essential to combat it. However, he also spoke of the importance of ensuring that we make an effort to include those who often aren’t included in these conversations, and to ensure the day doesn’t become yet another “echo-chamber” of the same ideas from the same people.
Similarly, the first panel of the day, focused on the Road to Inclusion, Anna Klimbovskaia, Director of Research at RBC, mentioned that a mistake we often make as a community is considering ourselves immune to growing populism. The panel, which also included Farah Nasser (Anchor, Global TV News), Olivia Nuamah (Executive Director, Pride TO), and Michael Bach (CEO, Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion) echoed that now more than ever, we must speak of inclusiveness. They also emphasized that there is still a long way to go in the fight against discrimination and racism in Canada and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Later on, I attended the breakout session “Whose story is it anyway?” where a superstar panel gathered to decode the collection and sharing of information. The panel was composed of: Justin Wiebe (2017 DiverseCity Fellow; Capacity Building Specialist, Youth Opportunities Fund, Ontario Trillium Foundation), Denise Balkissoon (Assistant Editor, Features, The Globe and Mail; Editor-in-chief and co-founder, Ethnic Aisle), Amira Elghawaby (Journalist and Human Rights Advocate), Saadia Muzaffar (Founder, TechGirls Canada), and Bianca Wylie (Head, Open Data Institute Toronto).
The discussion between the panelists focused on the management of data and the individuals who have access to information, as well as those who create the rhetoric and messaging to share it. Very clearly, a main takeaway of the discussion, was the importance of constant reflection on who is behind the statistics and the stories told by the media and government. In our era of rapid access to information and #fakenews, we have to recognize who is in control of the collection and dissemination of data, the people who define how data is used and what kind of stories are told with the use of the data. Specifically the panel identified that a major problem is the fact that minorities are not often represented in the dominant media discourse, and even when they are, they are misrepresented and their stories are told from a stereotyped perspective.
A few of the solutions discussed by the panel included education and persuasion; showing the benefits of telling the right stories to those who control our narratives; showing clear methodologies of analysis and recollection; and above all, being active citizens and using our powers of being the ultimate “users and consumers” of media to explicitly and directly demand the change we want.
While I didn’t get a chance to attend and learn from the other breakout sessions focused on affordable housing and economic opportunity, I did see many attendees contribute their thoughts online. So if you’re interested in catching up and seeing what other attendees had to say, I encourage you to check out the #ELNstudio3D hashtag on Twitter.
For me, ELNstudio 3D was an enriching and inspiring experience. The day allowed me to witness the experiences, perspectives, and motivations of people from all places, communities, and organizations. Which, as a new immigrant and an undergraduate student, gave me a real picture of the abstract ideas and statistics that I receive in class.
But beyond just seeing the bigger picture, the day also left me with a renewed critical eye, inspiring me to continuously give my opinion and raise my voice. I will be continuing this discussion in my own community and amongst the people I know. And as someone who wants to help foster a better region, I will continue to seek out and work with leaders that have the desire to learn and take action for a better future for all.
Were you there for the big moment? 150 rising leaders from across our region got engaged by shaping the future of our region at #ELNstudio3D! This past Friday, more than 150+ bright minds discussed the road to inclusion via action-oriented workshops at #ELNstudio3D. The CivicAction Leadership Foundation and Environics Research also took time to reveal new data on how emerging leaders see and experience inclusion in the GTHA—and the results were eye-opening. The day was truly focused on creating a better, stronger region. Catch up with pictures, and see our Twitter moment here.