Toronto: A Hub of Innovation


Toronto was the second of the CSCLeaders 2014 Part Two programmes, which took place 8-11 July. 20 participants from across the Commonwealth came together to explore the CSCLeaders 2014 Challenge on the social and economic value of technological innovation in the context of a city very different to those they visited in Part One earlier this year. Part two programmes are also open to alumni from previous years.

Participants enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect whilst immersed in the communities and organisations of Toronto, one of the safest and most culturally diverse cities in the world. Toronto - and Canada as a country - is known to be a nation of immigrants. Its open and welcoming nature has made the city of Toronto home to more than 2.8 million people. In fact, 51% of the residents of Toronto are not born in Canada! 

Key issues of poverty, immigration and gang related crime were explored through visits to different community organisations, such as FoodShare, and local neighbourhoods, including a tour with neighbourhood police officers and young people which was a real highlight.


Toronto is a hub for innovation, evident through all the organisations visited. For example: Waterfront Toronto, which has been awarded the title Global Intelligent Community  of the Year; Ryerson University, which has established zones such as a digital media zone and fashion zone to support technological and social innovation that's making a difference to people around the world and Cisco, which is using technology to give some of the most remote communities in the world access to education and support services. This spirit of innovation sparked new ideas from the participants, re-igniting their passion for developing the project ideas generated at Part One.

It was also a great opportunity to meet with Hugh Segal, one of the speakers from Part One and a huge supporter of CSCLeaders, who has recently stepped down as Senator and taken on a new role as Master of Massey College, part of the University of Toronto.  Hugh hosted a wonderful dinner where the group were addressed by the Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who shared his thoughts on some pressing global issues.

Toronto was a chance for participants to delve deeper into the Challenge and look at various models that could work with a culturally diverse population. Strong examples of successful collaborations across civil society and government sectors provided an insight into the spirit of Toronto. A specific example of such successful collaboration was the seamless integration of the Federal, Province and City authorities for effective results, as demonstrated with the Waterfront project.

An evening dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of CN Tower gave everyone an opportunity to unwind and enjoy. It was wonderful to see people on a high at the end of the four days, committing to staying connected and taking collaborative action on various initiatives.

Blog post by Farhad Merchant, CEO, Common Purpose India


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CSCLeaders is the renewal of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conferences - first run in 1956 – for the 21st Century, a partnership between international leadership development organisation Common Purpose and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conferences (UK Fund).

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