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2023 CivicLabTO

Collaboration in Action

Hosted by


November 15, 2023


In the spirit of CivicLabTO, the second, biennial Symposium (formerly Summit) brought together CivicLabTO partner expertise for knowledge exchange workshops in support of shared priorities and informed public policy development.

Hosts Centennial College and Toronto Metropolitan University, working with liaisons at all CivicLabTO institutions, set the stage for experts in public health, climate action, economic development, city building & mobility and housing to connect on priorities and collaborations that will live far beyond the Symposium, helping to shape the future of the city.

Collaboration in Action 

Recognizing that complex city challenges can benefit from multidisciplinary solution development, the core of the Symposium programming consisted of action-oriented meetings featuring small groups of faculty, staff, researchers, and City of Toronto staff.

The meetings were an opportunity to: 

  • Connect with City of Toronto staff who are leading program and policy development

  • Gain important insight into City of Toronto research and data needs and funded research opportunities

  • Share data and ongoing work at the researcher and institutional levels in these key areas

  • Form communities of practice and working groups for continued, strategic collaborations

  • Meet peers across institutions

  • Contribute to a roadmap for higher education institution / City of Toronto partnerships moving forward

Hosted at Centennial College’s Progress Campus, the CivicLabTO Symposium also featured networking time, keynote speakers, catered lunch provided by Centennial College’s Culinary Arts program, and a tour of Centennial College’s A-Building expansion adjacent to the Symposium venue.



Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Centennial College Event Centre

9:00 – 9:30 am

Opening remarks from Craig Stephenson, President & CEO, Centennial College 

9:30 am – 12:00 pm

Working Groups (Concurrent)
Public Health
City Building & Mobility
Housing & Neighbourhoods 
Inclusive Economic Development 
Climate & Resilience

12:00 – 1:00 pm

Lunch including remarks from Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie


1:00 – 2:00 pm

A-Building Expansion Tour

2:00 – 4:00 pm

Student Session - The Climate and Resilience Workforce

Working Groups

Academic experts and City of Toronto staff will participated in break-out sessions focused on sharing insights into their work and identifying specific pathways for action on these mutual priorities.

The Role of AI in Public Health

This session focused on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in enhancing public health functions and priorities. AI has the potential to enhance public health’s capacity in disease surveillance, promoting awareness of risk and prevention strategies; as well as in promoting uptake of testing and in monitoring treatment. Several jurisdictions have developed guidelines for the use of AI in public health. TPH Associate Medical Officers of Health led a conversation about key public health issues in the city, in particular rising rates of sexually transmitted infections, and the potential utilities of machine learning and artificial intelligence in this and other public health issues.


City of Toronto leads:

Dr. Herveen Sachdeva and Dr. Rita Shahin, Associate
Medical Officers of Health, Toronto Public Health


City Building and Mobility: Big Picture Issues 

The City of Toronto’s City Planning and Transportation Services Divisions are actively cultivating a community of practice that extends to higher education experts of all disciplines interested in shaping the future of mobility in the city. Experts in city building and mobility presented their work and that of their institutions in this space, while learning more about the driving questions and issues being considered at the municipal level. Topics and areas of expertise included universal basic mobility, transportation equity, transportation innovation and disruption, electrification, transportation and climate change/resilience, Vision Zero and road safety from a policy perspective, micromobility policy and implementation, active transportation, rights-of-way and accessible/inclusive road design. 


City of Toronto leads: 
Jennifer Niece, Manager, Strategic Policy and Innovation, Transportation Services 
Michael Hain, Program Manager, Transportation Policy and Analysis Unit, City Planning


Addressing the Student Housing Challenge 

The need to provide safe, secure and sustainable housing for students in the GTA has never been greater. As part of the City of Toronto’s Housing Action Plan, the Housing Secretariat has undertaken development of an official Post-Secondary Affordable Housing Strategy. Researchers and staff leaders alike were invited to contribute to the plan to address housing affordability and precarity for students, staff, and faculty at Post-Secondary Institutions in Toronto, with an objective of leveraging existing resources and collaborating on solutions related to data, research, policy and more. Concepts and information explored included student demographics, availability of housing in different areas of the city, ongoing or completed research assessing student housing supply at the academic institutions and specific accommodations for diverse groups, opportunities to build affordable rental housing and/or rent-controlled housing on land owned by academic institutions; and institutional plans for new housing development within the next decade.

City of Toronto leads: 
Valesa Faria, Director, Housing Policy & Strategy, Housing Secretariat 
Mercedeh Madani, Manager Policy & Program Planning, Housing Secretariat 
Ciara Hart, Senior Strategic Policy Consultant, Housing Secretariat 
Emily Martyn, Project Manager, Housing Secretariat 
Scott Leon, Management Consultant, Housing Policy & Strategy, Housing Secretariat


What’s Next for Economic Development in TO? 

When it comes to measuring success and ensuring prosperity and livability is shared across Toronto neighbourhoods, collaboration is key. This session was geared towards establishing dialogue between the Economic Development and Culture division of the City of Toronto and experts based at higher-education institutions whose research is focused on: a) advancing inclusive local economic development, and ensuring equitable distribution of benefit from expanded economic opportunity and growth; b) supporting Main Street retail and local BIAs, which have seen numerous challenges in recent years; c) restoring vitality to the downtown core post-pandemic. Academic research can help address these issues and can highlight others for prioritization. Participants included those working in the areas of business and economic development, arts and culture, and equity, diversity and inclusion who shared their latest research and insights regarding important issues as the EDC team moves forward through post-pandemic recovery and beyond.

City of Toronto leads: 
Dan Rosen, Senior Policy Advisor, Economic Development & Culture 
Aniska Graver, Policy Development Officer, Economic Development & Culture 
Rebecca Condon, Manager, Business Improvement Areas, Economic Development & Culture 
Mariana Mota, Manager, Policy & Research, Economic Development & Culture


Climate and Resilience – a Multidisciplinary Approach 

As the City of Toronto advances its net zero strategy, TransformTO, the Environment and Climate Division is leading the Climate Action and Resilience Research Fund (CARRF), which can fund research projects located at colleges and universities. Participants learned about the CARRF, and focused on ideas to strengthen work between the City of Toronto and higher-education institutions to close knowledge gaps, further engage students in climate action initiatives, and integrate climate action perspectives into strategies being developed across the municipality, ex. related to transportation, buildings, climate modelling, resilience, etc. What interesting initiatives are happening within post-secondary in this area? How could these help us to advance climate and resilience work at the City? This session was open to researchers of all disciplines with an interest in climate resilience and integrated urban strategies to address climate change. 

City of Toronto leads: 
Andrew Plunkett, Project Lead, Policy and Research, Environment and Climate Division 
Stephanie Gower, Program Manager, Policy & Research, Environment and Climate Division


Student Session: The Climate and Resilience Workforce

Student engagement is a key pillar of CivicLabTO. To that end, the CivicLabTO Symposium welcomed students from CivicLabTO partner institutions, regardless of their program, to take part in a special session with leaders from the City of Toronto and the City’s climate action and resilience strategy.

A-Building Expansion Tour

Centennial College’s A-Building Expansion is Canada’s first Indigenous-designed, mass-timber, zero-carbon, LEED Gold higher education facility. Built to provide twenty classrooms, eight labs and extra offices for staff and faculty, it sets a new standard for sustainable design and embodies the College’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. Centennial representatives led Symposium guests through the brand-new spaces in this exciting facility including Wisdom Hall, a gathering place for students.

CivicLabTO Symposium – Collaboration in Action

Building on the key insights from the 2021 CivicLabTO Summit and to help conversations evolve into action, the 2023 Symposium takes a three phased approach. 


Discovery Sessions – Spring 2023

CivicLabTO Symposium co-hosts, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) and Centennial College, organized a series of five “discovery sessions” to capture current municipal research priorities at the City of Toronto, and to connect academic and City of Toronto expertise for collaboration leading up to and during the 2023 Symposium. These sessions, held on the TMU campus at Oakham House, illustrated a number of pathways for future exploration and research in the short and longer term. These insights informed the approach to the second phase – the CivicLabTO Symposium in fall of 2023 


Roadmap Presentation (Spring 2024)

Outputs from the above activities will be captured in a final “roadmap” document that will present knowledge shared and learned, outline opportunities going forward for further higher education institution-City collaboration and a specific list of short and long-term projects for action. This roadmap will be shared with all stakeholders for comment and presented in early 2024 to a wider audience composed of faculty members, instructors, researchers, students, municipal staff and community partners with an interest in the CivicLabTO model.



If you have questions about the Symposium, contact

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