A culture of Yes. This is what Toronto's annual one-day YIMBY Festival (Yes In My Back Yard) is all about, and this year it celebrated its 10th year in the making. Presented by Shape My City this year, several grassroots communities and not-for-profit organizations participated in the 10th YIMBY Festival on December 9, 2017 in Metro Hall’s Rotunda. Attendees included The Laneway Project, Urban Minds, Waterfront for All, Civic Tech TO, several neighbourhood associations, Action Against Hunger Canada, The Toronto Youth Cabinet, and many more. The YIMBY Festival started in 2006 by founder Christina Zeidler who, through the Gladstone Hotel development and local community response, recognized the need for a positive relationship between neighbourhood groups and developers, city staff, and policymakers alike in the face of change. The Festival has essentially become a public engagement tool by bringing together citizens, community groups, and elected officials in the decision making process.

YIMBY Festival, Jane Jacobs Prize, Toronto, Metro Hall2017 Jane Jacobs Prize Ceremony, image courtesy of Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam

This year, YIMBY partnered with the Jane Jacobs Prize to honour locally-driven individuals who continue to make a unique difference in helping to shape and build a better Toronto—much like Jane Jacobs did. Since 1999, the Jane Jacobs Prize has been awarded to 23 deserving winners. Candidates for the prize are anonymously nominated based on four selection criteria: they must live and work in the GTA, be active in the community, be an unknown unsung hero, and make a contribution that serves as a model for others.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam provided a warm welcome to the Jane Jacobs Prize presentation and reiterated the significance of the YIMBY Festival. Councillor Wong-Tam professed that she often speaks to neighbourhoods but more importantly has a general concern for those she does not hear from. A movement such as YIMBY is a critical piece of this puzzle in starting conversations at City Hall to create change. “All opinions matter. Celebrate diversity—innovative, creative, and inclusive city building is necessary”.

Spacing magazine editor Shawn Micallef presented and awarded the 15th Jane Jacobs Prize, reminding us of the importance of idea exchanges and Alan Broadbent’s Ideas That Matter. The 2017 recipients are two community leaders and change-makers; Kofi Hope of CEE Toronto which provides programs for Black youth to help them overcome barriers to employment, and Anne Gloger of East Scarborough Storefront which empowers residents of the Kingston Galloway Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhood through social services, employment opportunities, and more. Each were awarded $10,000 in support of continuation of their community initiatives and dedication to social justice. When the infamous question arises “What would Jacobs do?” – Prize winners this year and past seem to have the answer.

You can check out a video of the 2016 YIMBY Festival here:

Let us know what you think of the YIMBY Festival and/or the annual Jane Jacobs Prize in the comments section provided below.