Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, speaking at the 2023 GTHA Community Benefits Summit. Photo: DF Media Productions
Opportunities Fund: Recent Grantee Highlights

Our Inclusive Local Economies program’s Opportunities Fund supports innovative ideas and compelling approaches that contribute to building a healthier, more equitable city where low-income people are able to access to Toronto’s vibrant economy.

The Opportunities Fund supports long-term strategies like the work of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), which has built a strong community-labour coalition over the last 10 years focused on ensuring that infrastructure investments result in good jobs for historically disadvantaged communities and equity seeking groups. TCBN recently held its 2023 GTHA Community Benefits Summit, bringing together hundreds of people to discuss the importance of community benefit policies in enabling economic inclusion. The summit ended with a bus tour of the Ontario Line transit project focussed on the imperative of embedding community benefits into this major infrastructure undertaking, a key focus for TCBN’s work in 2024.

Through our work with Black Food Sovereignty Toronto, spearheaded by Afri-Can FoodBasket, we are deepening our understanding of how communities across neighbourhoods can leverage their assets and build agency and control over the systems that impact the economic livelihoods of their communities. Their leadership and advocacy with the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, resulted in Toronto City Council unanimously approving the Black Food Sovereignty Plan for Toronto in 2021. Earlier this November, Black Food Sovereignty Toronto released its report, Food Sovereignty For Black Communities in Toronto: Challenges and Policy Opportunities, framing the approach, process and policies that are needed to enable Black people to develop food systems that meet the interest and needs of their communities.

We also support the research, development, and testing of approaches that can create access and opportunities to good jobs for low-income people. The Toronto Shelter Network is working with shelter operators to create and implement organizational plans that enable employment pathways for people with lived experience of homelessness, exploring opportunities to co-design and run a pilot shelter work placement program, and developing sector-wide policy changes in partnership with the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration. The Toronto Shelter Network’s toolkit, Employing Staff with Lived Experience, was developed to support Toronto’s 24-hour homelessness sector in a collective effort to hire, retain, and promote people with lived experience of homelessness, and to help organizations (including emergency shelters, respite centres, 24-hour drop-ins, and COVID hotel programs) be exemplary employers for these staff.

Making precarious work better for vulnerable low-wage workers is another key focus of the Opportunities Fund. Vivimos Juntxs, Comemos Juntxs (VJCJ) is a grassroot collective that provides support to undocumented communities. There are over 500,000 undocumented migrants in Canada and over 200,000 of them are estimated to live and work in Toronto. While their precarious immigration status exacerbates poverty, marginalization, exploitation, and exclusion in the city, migrant communities continue to be resourceful, including generating income through entrepreneurship, using legal channels. VJCJ’s community-based research resulted in in a report, Hidden Resilience: Entrepreneurship for Undocumented People, and a guide available in English, Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish that explains the legal channels for entrepreneurship.

The 2024 call for proposals for the Opportunities Fund will be announced early next year. You can learn more about the projects we have funded in our most recent biennial report or our grants database.

Reach out to our Inclusive Local Economies Program Director, Adriana Beemans, if you would like to discuss your idea.