Glen Grunwald's Board Blog

Archive of the blog of the former President and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Youth ONE - Over, But Not Out

Today is the last day for our Youth ONE initiative - it was a six month effort with a September 1 end date.

If you don't know about it, Youth ONE has been our effort to help create jobs and hope for the young people in our city's vulnerable neighbourhoods. These are the classic "good kids with bad luck" who need and deserve the same kinds of opportunities that other young people in our city get, just because of where they were born.

We set a very ambitious goal - a thousand new jobs, apprenticeships, training opportunities, etc. in just six months. It turned out to be too ambitious and we ended up with more like one hundred jobs than one thousand.

So, yes, I'm disappointed we didn't hit our quota. But, apparently, no other business community has ever tried an across-the-board program like this before ... and we certainly were learning as we went along.

But there are also positives to focus on:

We helped change dozens of lives for the better, and provided more hope and positive role models for these communities.

We proved that the business community can work with the City, social agencies and community groups to make a difference in this city.

The kind of feedback we've been getting tells us that our effort has been appreciated. This is the first time that some of these neighbourhoods have heard from the 'business establishment' that their problems are important, and that their young people are equal citizens to everyone else.

The most important thing we've learned is just how misunderstood these young people and the issues they face are in mainstream Toronto. Businesses we approached quite often assumed that youth from these areas must all be in gangs, have criminal records or drug problems. They were willing to write a cheque, but not offer a job.

Those companies that did take the chance got tremendous young people who worked their butts off to take full advantage of the opportunities that a lot of others might take for granted.

However, there is obviously a huge educational challenge out there, and a real need for many Torontonians to change their attitudes towards their fellow citizens.

Okay, we've taken some lumps from some in the media for falling short of our mark. If that's the price we have to pay for trying to address the root causes of youth crime and help build a better city, that's fine. We're not doing this for glory - we're doing it because it's the right and the smart thing to do. If you want more reasons, check out my post from August 3 below.

Anyway, I'm thinking of this as just the first phase of Youth ONE -- the learning curve and experimental phase. Look for an official announcement next week of how we're going to turn this into an ongoing effort and improve how we promote this concept to the business community.

There's a terrible, tragic waste of young human lives going on. It leads to despair, poverty and sometimes drugs and crime. We're in a position to do something about it, or at least try to, so Youth ONE will continue ... stay tuned ...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

TIFF Time!

The city is just buzzing as the Film Festival draws close. Now, the official schedule is out and we know that TIFF is just around the corner.

This year, there are more than 350 films, the vast majority of them premieres. As always, there are tons of great documentaries, along with the feature films.

The Festival says it gets more than 300,000 people through the turnstiles every year. That's a great economic boost to the city. However, what's more important is the boost that TIFF gives to our city's profile and reputation around the globe. This is one of the most important film festivals in the world now, and it demonstrates what a sophisticated and creative city Toronto has become.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pit Stops and Heart Surgery

Great little story today on the front page of National Post (couldn't find it on their website, just in the print edition) about how the world-famous children's hospital at Great Ormond Street in London learned how to save lives from Formula One race car mechanics.

Seems a couple of the surgeons had been putting in a very hard day doing emergency heart surgery on little children and they collapsed in front of the TV in their hospital lounge to watch a car race. They were watching how the pit stop crews work so quickly to perform a lot of complicated tasks at once when a light bulb went off -- maybe their operating room staff could use some of the same techniques when hooking up their complicated equipment?

Long story short ... they worked with some of the race crews and changed the way their surgical team hooks patients up to equipment. The number of problems they have with this complex procedure has nose-dived as a result. They're still doing a study to see how many children's lives have been saved.

So, that's how pit stops relate to heart surgery. But I think there's a deeper story here - how learning in one area of technology can be applied to another area, even when they're as diverse as auto racing and medicine.

That kind of knowledge sharing and cross-fertilization is something we can be doing a lot more of here in Toronto. We've got the third-largest Information & Communications Technology (ICT) sector in all of North America here ... tens of thousands of innovative minds thinking of new and better ways to use technology.

These people are just starting to get together in a more formal way, with groups like ICT Toronto and efforts by the City to boost their sector. Our Board is helping out, too -- we've formed an ICT Advisory Committee and we're starting a new Technology Innovators Breakfast Series to showcase success stories and help share ideas (our first breakfast is coming up Sept. 14 with Nadir Mohamed of Rogers Communications)

The more that people from different technology areas spend time with each other, the more they can be inspired. We don't have to wait for chance to bring diverse ideas together; we can be matchmakers or match-lighters that help spark new thinking.