We've got the power.

The power to choose hope over fear. The power to envision a fairer economy. The power to decide when to stand up and speak out. The power to elect representatives. The power to exercise rights and responsibilities. And when we’re organized, we have the power to create decent work and make life materially better for everyone — especially those who are persistently excluded from Canada’s prosperity.


The Power Lab is about innovation of a different kind. It’s a space for innovation facilitated by people who are building economic and democratic power within persistently excluded and racialized communities. It’s where community organizers experiment, stretch, and develop skills to realize a shared vision of an economy that works for everyone.

Adapted from “Two Approaches to Economic Development”. The Democracy Collaborative (November 2015)
All photographs © Nick Kozak, 2018

The Power Lab is located at the virtual intersection of community organizing and local economic development. It is part of a system in which a range of actors have different degrees of influence on the legislative, policy, and project agendas held by elected representatives and public institutions. Community organizers are working together to make sure workers and residents are engaged in public and private infrastructure development processes, advocate for equity, and participate in the decisions that affect them.

Listen to what Founding Lab Director Alejandra Bravo has to say about this project.

The Power Lab is inspired by community and labour activists around the world, some of whom are elected representatives.

Councillor Matthew Brown, for example, is an influential voice for economic localism and community wealth building in the UK. He leads Preston’s City Council and represents the Tulketh ward. He has been widely credited as the driving force behind the ‘Preston model’, an economic model that re-directs procurement from external suppliers to local producers as a response to central government funding cuts that have ravaged the city’s budgets since 2011. Matthew was recently named a Fellow of the Democracy Collaborative, a US-based research institute dedicated to developing new strategies for a more democratic economy.

Hear what he had to say to a national gathering of community economic development practitioners in Moncton, NB in the fall of 2018.


The Power Lab is where community organizers, as lab partners, can:

  • Learn from experience. Make sense of what’s going on, what’s working and what’s not.
  • Experiment with innovative strategies. Figure out how to meet an opportunity or challenge.
  • Connect with a global network. Access peers and technical experts for advice as needed.
  • Generate power. Take action to challenge existing systems of oppression and amplify workers’ and community members’ voices in decision-making processes.

Three values anchor the Power Lab and connect lab partners and collaborators.

  • Equity. It is at the centre of everything we do.
  • Inclusion. Learning collaboratively, respecting each other’s perspectives, and lifting each other up.
  • Humility. No one has the answers. We find them by showing up and learning together.

The Power Lab has a spiral learning model. With the facilitation team, lab partners learn in ways that respond to their realities. They bring their vision, knowledge, experience, and organizing skills into the lab. In return, they access technology, resources, expertise, and a supportive community. Everyone is a learner, teacher, practitioner, and expert.

Arnold, R., Burke, B., James, C., Martin, D., Thomas, B. (1991). Educating For A Change. Between the Lines, Toronto.

Lab partners are mobilizing their communities to have a more powerful voice in decisions about multi-billion dollar public and private investments and who benefits from them. They want this money to do double duty: to build world-class infrastructure, and to create more "community benefits" like jobs or apprenticeships. Together, they're demonstrating how this kind of community organizing works in Canada.


Power Lab partners have paid and unpaid leadership roles in organizations, networks and movements dedicated to social and economic justice. They’re deeply rooted in the places they live and work in Canada, namely the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Windsor, and Ottawa. Like the lab’s founders, partners share a commitment to racial justice, decent work and a fair economy, “learning while doing”, and strong, reciprocal relationships. Everyone involved in the lab has been working together on community wealth building and other strategies to fight inequality for several years.

Kumsa Baker, Lab Partner (Toronto-Rexdale, ON)

Since getting involved in the labour movement organizing for a union at his workplace, Rogers Centre a.k.a the Skydome, Kumsa Baker has been an advocate for decent work and equitable employment opportunities for all in Toronto.

In 2015, Kumsa joined the Research Department at his Hospitality and Food Service worker union, UNITE HERE, supporting key campaigns across North America. He has also organized with the Toronto 15 & Fairness Campaign who were successful in organizing for and winning major changes and improvements to the outdated Ontario Employment Standards Act. In 2017, Kumsa was recognized for his advocacy being selected for the 2017 Young Workers Award by the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Kumsa currently works as Campaigns Manager with the Toronto Community Benefits Network, leading and supporting local communities in organizing for community benefits like local hiring and local/social procurement.

Alejandra Bravo, Founding Lab Director and Co-Facilitator

Alejandra Bravo was the founding Director of the Power Lab, a leadership learning initiative focused on local organizing for a fair economy. She is the Director of Leadership and Training at the Broadbent Institute, where she builds backbone for progressive organizing in Canada.

Active in the community benefits movement, she supports leaders working to build campaigns and coalitions organizing for economic opportunities for historically disadvantaged and equity-seeking groups. Alejandra contributes to movement building as a facilitator, trainer, mentor and strategist with various social change efforts.

Previously she was Manager of Leadership and Learning at Maytree, where she designed and delivered political and civic training for emerging and diverse leaders. Alejandra has a 25-year history of working for progressive social change with grassroots, immigrant, and labour groups. She has worked as a community organizer, political staff and has been a City Council candidate in Toronto.

Judy Duncan, Lab Partner (Toronto, ON)

Judy Duncan founded ACORN Canada over 16 years ago in August 2004. Under her management the organization has now grown to over 130,000 members, 20 chapters in nine cities  across the country. Judy received her M.A. in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia in 2003.

Emmay Mah, Lab Partner (Toronto, ON)

Emmay Mah joined the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) as Executive Director in 2019. For the last 15 years, Emmay has worked in the non-profit sector, developing and managing programs focused on child rights and protection, HIV/AIDS, Indigenous health, and the environment. She has worked in East, West and Southern Africa as well as Northern Ontario.

Emmay is passionate about building a diverse and inclusive climate movement, and a more equitable and sustainable city. She is a co-founder of the People’s Climate Movement in Toronto, and the Co-Chair of the Toronto Climate Action Network (TCAN). 

Sarah Jama, Lab Partner (Hamilton, ON)

Sarah Jama is a long time community organizer from Hamilton, Ontario. She is co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO), and is a current board member with the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton, and the Hamilton Transit Riders Union. Sarah is also a council member with the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (HIPC), organizes with the Hamilton Community Benefits Network, ran Hamilton’s first Anti Racism Action Initiative, has organized a number of rallies, and is working with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to create curriculum around combating anti black racism. She works at the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion as a Program Coordinator.

Colette Murphy, Co-Founder, Power Lab

For Colette Murphy, philanthropy has always been more about the power of people than the power of money to change the world.

A Canadian who was raised in the US, Colette cut her teeth as an activist working alongside refugees who found their way to Toronto in the 90s. Since then, she’s earned a North American reputation as a reliable ally, a tenacious advocate for social and economic justice, and a creative collaborator across traditional lines. Best known as an organizational capacity builder at United Way Toronto and a champion for inclusive local economies at the Metcalf Foundation, she has also worked behind-the-scenes on innovative poverty reduction, anti-racism and leadership development initiatives over the course of her career.

As the Executive Director of the 75-year old Atkinson Foundation, Colette focuses on strengthening movements for decent work, shared prosperity and democratic renewal. These efforts are inspired by the example set by Joseph Atkinson who knew poverty before he knew wealth as the publisher of Canada’s largest daily newspaper, the Toronto Star.  To this day, the foundation’s public policy agenda and investment strategies reflect Mr. Atkinson’s deep personal concern for the lives and livelihoods of working people, and his pragmatic vision of a just society.

Olivia O’Connor, Lab Partner (Hamilton, ON)

Olivia O’Connor is a community organizer with Hamilton ACORN. Olivia recently made the move to Hamilton from Toronto earlier this year.

Olivia is excited to join the social and environmental justice work happening in the city. In her role with ACORN, Olivia organizes in low to moderate income communities in Hamilton to fight for social and financial reform. Olivia’s work involves building leaders and power in the community to push for change at all levels of government. Previously, Olivia was canvass manager for four years at the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Olivia holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Science from Trent University.

Adaoma Patterson, Lab Partner (Peel, ON)

Adaoma Patterson was born in Winnipeg and, with the exception of six years which her family spent in Jamaica, was raised in that city.

Adaoma is currently the Advisor – Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy for one of the regional governments in the Greater Toronto Area, responsible for leading the implementation of a multi-year community strategy. Her work involves creating awareness among residents and local politicians about poverty in Peel, advocating to various levels of government for investments and working with the community to implement actions related to social inclusion, affordable transit, food & income security and economic opportunities.

Adaoma is also President of the Jamaican Canadian Association, a 56 year-old organization serving the Jamaican, Caribbean and African-Canadian communities in the GTA. In addition, she was the NDP candidate for Brampton-West in the 2015 federal election; a 2010 DiverseCity Fellow and former member of the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance Steering Committee. She is mother of a 16 year old son.

Ana Teresa Portillo, Lab Partner (Toronto - Parkdale, ON)

Ana Teresa Portillo works in popular education, equitable development, shared wealth building and grassroots housing justice in the community of Parkdale.  She currently holds the position of Community Benefits Organizer at Parkdale Community Economic Development, otherwise known as Parkdale Peoples’ Economy, at Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre.  She has served as the Equity Officer for the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust Equity committee and currently serves as the Chair of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust Board. Teresa also sits on the City of Toronto’s Advisory Committee on the Protection of Affordable Rental Housing. She also ran a successful family business, run exclusively by women of colour, where she worked as a professional hair stylist in the Parkdale area for more than 15 years.  

As a tutorial assistant for over eight years, Ana Teresa has taught various courses in the humanities and social sciences at York University. She received her Master’s in Social and Political Thought at York University, with a focus on anti-racist feminism(s) and postcolonial and Indigenous theory and practice. She is a PhD candidate in Social and Political Thought, and is currently in the process of completing her dissertation on racialized working poor community organizing in gentrifying neighbourhoods.

Rick Smith, Co-Founder, Power Lab

Rick Smith is a Canadian author, environmentalist and non-profit leader. From 2013-2021, he was the Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute. He is now the President of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

From 2003 to 2012, Rick served as Executive Director of Environmental Defence Canada and is the co-author of two bestselling books on the health effects of pollution: Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health (2009) and Toxin Toxout (2014). He has led many successful campaigns for important new public policies at the federal and provincial levels related to environmental and consumer protection, urban planning, green jobs creation, democratic reform and progressive taxation.

Rick holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Guelph and is an adviser to Loblaw Companies Limited. He lives in east-end Toronto.

Ashley Reyns, Lab Partner (Ottawa, ON)

Ashley Reyns started working at Ottawa ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) in May 2014 and is now the office’s Head Organizer.

Originally from a small southern Ontario village, Ashley moved to Ottawa to complete an undergraduate degree in International Development and Globalization with a specialization in Gender Studies. Ashley was actively involved in student politics at the University of Ottawa, taking leadership roles in her student union’s board of administration, her student association and feminist clubs on campus.

Ashley would often joke that when she graduated she just wanted to find a job that would pay her to be an activist. With ACORN she didn’t find that – instead she found a career in community organizing giving people the tools they need to be their own activists and community leaders rather than being at the front herself.

Mercedes Sharpe Zayas, Co-Facilitator, Power Lab

Mercedes Sharpe Zayas is a community planner committed to movement building and economic justice in the urban form.

Mercedes has been cultivating her participatory planning practice as the Workforce Planning Coordinator for the Parkdale People’s Economy, a network of over 30 community-based organizations and hundreds of community members organizing towards decent work, shared wealth, and equitable development in Parkdale. She has also worked as a Policy Research Intern at the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Division, a Research Assistant for the Metcalf Foundation’s Inclusive Local Economies Program, and a Graduate Research Assistant with The Public Studio.

In her spare time, Mercedes is the Co-Director of Communications for PODER, a grassroots Latinx feminist organization in Toronto. She holds a Master of Science in Urban Planning from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts in Honours Anthropology from McGill University.

Symone Walters, Lab Partner (Toronto, ON)

Symone Walters identifies as a proud mother of 3 amazing children and grandmother of 2 inspirational grandchildren, and as a community activist and social entrepreneur. Tragically, in the summer of 2013 Symone lost her youngest son, Tahj Loor-Walters, to gun violence. He was 15 years old. Symone has vowed to turn tragedy into inspiration. She completed her diploma at George Brown College in Child and Youth Services and reoriented her career to serve Black youth. In her recent role with the Toronto Community Benefits Network, and previous role with the Duke Heights BIA and Osgoode Hall Law School,

Symone has had the opportunity to support Black youth and the local communities through initiatives that focus on economic sustainability and capacity building of minority owned businesses. Currently, Symone is leading a project in Jane-Finch to address Gentrification and Black Displacement, with the goal of creating awareness and increasing civic action amongst Black members of the community. She is also collaborating to build on the legacy of her son by creating a youth hub geared with a safe, holistic approach to community planning and community spaces. All of her work is embedded in a path “Towards a Higher Journey” – T.A.H.J.

Past Power Lab Contributors, Lab Partners and Staff

Previous lab partners are:

  • Mustafa Abdi, Toronto – Rexdale, 2018-2019
  • Mark Ellerker, Hamilton, 2018-2020
  • Rosemarie Powell, Toronto, 2018-2019
  • Dusha Sritharan, Toronto, 2018-2020
  • Joshua Smee, St John’s, 2018-2019
  • Michelle Sharpe, Windsor-Essex County, 2019
  • Sarah Morris, Windsor-Essex County, 2019-2020
  • Frazier Fathers, Windsor-Essex County, 2018-2021

Former lab staff members are:

  • Prossy Nambatya, Administrative Assistant, 2018-2019
  • Melana Roberts, Project Manager, 2019-2021


June 9, 2021

Building Community Wealth in Small Municipalities

A new paper from Windsor-Essex lab partners outlines how smaller communities across Canada are investing locally.

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Windsor-Essex’s current and former Power Lab partners, Frazier Fathers and Sarah Morris, have written a new report along with Brady Holek and Anam Khan to dispel the myth the community benefits agreements can’t work for rural, small, and mid-sized communities.

Building Community Wealth: What is possible in rural, small and mid-sized communities hopes to shine a light on what is possible by highlighting policies that are already in place or are forthcoming to empower communities to demand more than the status quo from local development projects. These include local procurement strategies, job training, environmental protection, and ensuring communities have a voice in decision making processes.

The United Way of Windsor-Essex and the Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition have led the way in this research. They are also collaborating with groups in four other Ontario cities – London, Kingston, Sudbury and Guelph – as part of the Inclusive Economies Mid-Sized Cities Network. This community practise is focused on bringing community wealth building approaches including community benefit agreements, social procurement, community and worker owned business models and anchor strategies to scale in their cities.

Read the report and learn more about how people in Windsor are organizing for community benefits here.

January 22, 2021

A Community Vision for the LeBreton Flats

Power Lab partners in Ottawa recently published a community vision for development.

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LeBreton Flats is the largest piece of undeveloped land in Ottawa’s downtown core, owned by the federal government on unceded Algonquin territory. It was also home to 2 800 working class people before mass evictions in the 1960s. The government intends to sell the land. 

As a community union, Power Lab partner ACORN (Central Ottawa Chapter) is organizing to make sure that any development meets local residents’ needs through a community benefits agreement.

Lifting up the voices of ACORN members and residents, they’ve now published a new report, Development for Who? The Community’s Vision for LeBreton Flats. It’s the result of a survey of over 300 residents. Their demands include:

  • Affordable, integrated housing
  • Local hiring into good jobs, with fair wages
  • Child care and other community amenities and services, such as a community centre, library,  public space, and public wi-fi
  • Food security, including a affordable grocery store

Find the full report and list of demands here.

January 15, 2021

Mobilizing Hamiltonians for a Just Recovery

Hamilton lab partners are coalition-building to shape municipal policy for a just recovery.

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With the goal of a stronger, more just and more inclusive city, the Just Recovery Hamilton Coalition launched its #JustRecoveryHamOnt campaign with a challenge to residents and organizations: “How we respond to, recover from, and rebuild after this crisis will define the next chapter of Hamilton history. Will the challenges of these times be met with fear and austerity? Or will we work together towards a just recovery for all Hamiltonians?”  

Power Lab partners at the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion and Hamilton-ACORN participated in building the coalition that includes community members and eleven organizations. At the outset, collaborators have laid out core values to guide recovery, starting with mobilization during the 2021 municipal budget process. Priorities and a case for investment are set out in the coalition’s report, A JUST RECOVERY FOR HAMILTON: Municipal Policy, Investment and Opportunities for a more equitable COVID-19 recovery

The report’s 150 recommendations include: 

  • Investing in Women & 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities
  • Mobility Justice & Disability Justice 
  • Housing as a Human Right 
  • Tackling Systemic Racism 
  • Investing in decent jobs & our local economy 
  • Growing a Climate Resilient #HamOnt 

Coalition members will continue to engage with Hamilton city council and community members to advance these issues and build solidarity.  

October 30, 2020

Planning for Toronto’s COVID-19 Recovery

Toronto lab partners have played a key role in identifying and advancing equitable principles and recommendations for a bold, green, and just recovery from COVID-19.

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As Toronto City Hall started to consider what pandemic recovery might require, initial economic stakeholders identified were primarily representing business interests.

Knowing that workers and communities have the greatest stake in the city’s future, Power Lab Partners immediately mobilized to claim a voice in the policy debate. Toronto Environmental Alliance, Toronto Community Benefits Network, Parkdale People’s Economy and Toronto-ACORN started coordinating with allies Progress Toronto, Social Planning and Urban Alliance on Race Relations.  

Operating on the basis of trust, shared values and the principle of putting residents and communities first, the groups collectively wrote a letter to the Mayor, City Council, and Toronto’s new Recovery and Rebuild Office. Signed by 29 organizations, the letter outlines ten equitable principles for a bold, green, and just recovery to transformative change, and rejects a return to ‘normal.’ The campaign was reported in the Toronto Star.

By September, Toronto Power Lab partners contributed to and mobilized around the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild report, Covid: Impacts and Opportunities to ensure that City Council implemented a fair economy agenda. The report contained recommendations signalling progress and opportunities for more coordinated collective action to continue to shape the city’s recovery plans.

June 24, 2020

Advocating for an Inclusive Recovery

Since the COVID-19 shut downs in March 2020, lab partners have been leading federal advocacy for an inclusive recovery from this public health and economic crisis. 

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Since the COVID-19 shut downs in March 2020, lab partners have been leading advocacy for an inclusive recovery from this public health and economic crisis. 

Led by the Toronto Community Benefits Network’s Kumsa Baker, several partners collaborated to launch the Canada-wide Inclusive Recovery campaign. In anticipation of increased federal infrastructure development dollars and the sale of crown land to drive economic recovery, this campaign calls on governments to leverage Community Benefit Agreements to create local workforce and business opportunities for Black and Indigenous peoples, women, persons with disabilities, veterans, youth and newcomers. Twenty-nine organizations and over 1200 people have signed on to the campaign. 

Kumsa organized the development of a policy brief with feedback from partners, particularly the United Way Windsor-Essex County’s Frazier Fathers and the Toronto Environmental Alliance’s Heather Marshall. Check out their policy recommendations here.

September 18, 2019

Organizing for Fair Economies

Lab partners met at CCEDNet’s annual national conference, to understand the impact of the first year of the Power Lab on our work and build new relationships.

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Lab partners met in London, Ontario as part of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network’s (CCEDNet) annual national conference in September. This allowed us to reconnect and reflect on the first year of our experience, the relationships we’ve built, how our framing has changed, and the lab’s impact on our organizing work.

During the conference, Broadbent Institute’s Alejandra Bravo, Parkdale People’s Economy’s Mercedes Sharpe Zayas and Toronto Community Benefits Network’s Kumsa Baker delivered a workshop on organizing for fair local economies. We also met Ted Howard, the co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative and co-author of a new book, The Making of a Democratic Economy: How to Build Prosperity for the Many, Not the Few. It was a constructive exchange and learning opportunity that deepened our understanding of community wealth building strategies. We also met with members of the London Calling project and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion to explore common ground and opportunities for collaboration.

May 3, 2019

When Tech Comes to Town

Toronto-based lab partners joined with organizers across North America to build a collective floor of demands for tech development and build stronger relationships.

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In May, Toronto-based Power Lab partners and allied organizers attended When Tech Comes to Town in New York City. Tech corporations are making an impact on cities as real estate developers, political actors, employers, and designers of tools and services that are changing our infrastructure and public services. In Toronto, we’ve witnessed this with Sidewalk Labs plans for Quayside. 

In preparation for the meeting, we convened Toronto-based partners, Progress Toronto’s Michal Hay, independent researcher Bianca Wylie, and The Digital Justice Lab’s Nasma Ahmed. Together, we collaborated to build a collective floor of demands for tech development as a tool to build stronger relationships and solidarities across our sectors and our organizing. 

In New York, we met with US organizers from Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, and beyond. Based on our experiences organizing for a fair economy and democratic governance in the face of big tech, we shared common challenges, tactics to build power and increase leverage around tech developments, and the support and resources we need.

April 1, 2019

Building the Power to Win

Lab partners joined progressive organizers from across Canada and the US at the Progress Summit where we led conversations about building collective power for economic justice

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In March, lab partners joined progressive organizers from across Canada and the US at the Progress Summit.

We contributed to this national conversation in two ways. First, we led a dialogue with Patrick Rondeau, from the Conseil régional FTQ Montréal Métropolitain. We shared strategies to put equity, workers, and community at the centre of key economic decisions about long-term transitions to a low-carbon economy. Second, we led an interactive workshop where we shared stories and strategies from Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto, and Ottawa producing material benefits for historically excluded communities. These include:

  • local and trans-national community benefits organizing;
  • local community benefits frameworks;
  • just energy transitions that are fair to workers and the communities where they live;
  • tenant organizing; and,
  • disability rights.

Trade unionists, elected officials, environmentalists, housing and transit advocates, and community activists participated in this workshop. Together, they explored ways to generate power for people and to democratize local economies. These sessions sparked a high degree of engagement and resonated with participants, highlighting a shared language among progressive organizers from across North America. 

Chicago-based organizer and author Charlene Carruthers observed: “You can mobilize people and not be organizing. You may have people in the streets and still have changed nothing. Sheer numbers do not equal power.” — a reminder that in our current political climate we need to build deep relationships that foster strength, knowledge, and vision for more equitable, alternative futures within and across movements.

To win – in Canada and the US – we need to build collective power.

November 1, 2018

Stronger Organizing Muscles

Lab partners met in person for the first time at EconoUs, CCEDNet’s annual conference, to learn alongside community economic development practitioners from across Canada and exchange ideas about strategy.

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In September 2018, Power Lab partners met for the first time in person at EconoUs, the annual national conference of CCEDNetPartners set out to learn alongside members of this pan-Canadian community economic development network and to exchange ideas about strategy.

The conference’s plenary session, Building a Fair Economy from the Ground Up, was moderated by Power Lab co-founder Colette Murphy and included City Councillors Matthew Brown (Preston, UK),  Matthew Green (Hamilton, ON) and Maeva Vilain (Montreal, P.Q.) They shared their experiences as community organizers and elected officials committed to equity in local economic development.

Power Lab co-facilitators, Mercedes Sharpe Zayas and Alejandra Bravo, delivered a workshop called Community Benefits 101. They introduced community benefits as a strategy for historically excluded people to share more equitably the economic opportunities created by public infrastructure projects. Partners shared their organizing experiences in neighbourhoods like Parkdale and Rexdale in Toronto. They also reflected on the experience of winning a community benefits policy (inclusionary zoning) in Ontario.

Partners discussed how we are responding to — or working with — constituencies in promoting and organizing for fairer local economies. We drilled down into the competencies needed to build and sustain coalitions and networks — and to deal with challenges. We also identified opportunities to support each other in achieving our goals.

As a result of this first face-to-face lab in Moncton, we have stronger organizing muscles for building powerful relationships, a fairer economy, and a more robust democracy,

June 27, 2018

Plugging In

The first 10 lab partners from across Ontario met today, ahead of our first in person meeting this fall.

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The first 10 lab partners from across Ontario met today. They are all engaged in the process of developing public infrastructure projects, and negotiating benefits for low-income and equity-seeking communities.

  • Kusma Baker, Toronto Community Benefits Network;
  • Mark Ellerker, Hamilton-Brantford Building Trades Council and Hamilton Community Benefits Network;
  • Frazier Fathers, United Way Windsor-Essex County and the Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition;
  • Heather Marshall, Toronto Environmental Alliance;
  • Olivia O’Connor, ACORN-Canada;
  • Adaoma Patterson, Region of Peel and the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee;
  • Rosemarie Powell, Toronto Community Benefits Network;
  • Mercedes Sharpe Zayas, Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre and the Parkdale People’s Economy Project;
  • Dusha Sritharan, Toronto Environmental Alliance; and
  • Ashley Reyns, ACORN-Ottawa.

This digital meeting was the springboard for their first face-to-face lab meeting in Moncton (NB) from September 24 – 26, 2018. In addition to the lab, they’ll participate in EconoUs 2018 organized by CCEDNet, the Canadian Community Economic Development Network.

At this national conference, Colette Murphy will moderate a plenary session called “Building a Fairer Economy from the Ground Up”a panel discussion among three city councillors, Matthew Green from Hamilton (ON), Maeva Vilain from Montreal (PQ), and Matthew Brown from Preston (UK). Alejandra Bravo and Mercedes Sharpe Zayas will deliver a “Community Benefits 101” workshop.

June 8, 2018

Welcome CCEDNet!

Earlier this week, we welcomed CCEDNet (The Canadian Community Economic Development Network) as one of the first collaborators in the Power Lab’s global network.

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Earlier this week, we welcomed CCEDNet (The Canadian Community Economic Development Network) as one of the first collaborators in the Power Lab’s global network.

CCEDNet received a grant from the Atkinson Decent Work Fund to monitor public policy developments — at all levels of government across the country — on community benefits and related strategies for equitable economic development. Executive Director Michael Toye and his team will be working with lab partners to co-create a tool to identify and track organizing opportunities related to investments in public infrastructure.

Michael describes CCEDNet as “the only national, bilingual, membership-based network focused on creating economic opportunities that are equitable and just.” The network was created in 1999 to support peer-learning and policy advocacy on behalf of its members — over 225 organizations and individuals in 11 provinces and territories and 75 cities and communities.

May 1, 2018

Home Base

We have a new office, with deep roots for workers and community.

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Effective today, we’re proud tenants of Greenpeace Canada at 33 Cecil Street in downtown Toronto.

This newly renovated building is located on the south side of Cecil Street between Cecil Community Centre and United Steelworkers Hall. It’s the original site of the Toronto Labour Lyceum.

April 23, 2018

Powering Up

The Power Lab logo, unveiled today, was created by Studio:Blackwell.

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The Power Lab logo, unveiled today, was created by Studio:Blackwell.

Creative Director Kelsey Blackwell explained that the ‘snowflake’ is an iconic symbol, used by organizers to describe the natural process of developing community leaders. As a metaphor, the image conveys the weight, strength and power of the individual when connected with others.

Kelsey chose TT Commons as the primary typography. This typeface evokes “the commons” where lab partners are rooted. It also points to the goal of making equitable economic development “widely accepted, typical, familiar” — “the new normal” — in Canada.


You can direct any questions you might have about Power Lab to the Atkinson Foundation and the Broadbent Institute at info@powerlab.ca. We’ll forward your message to the person best equipped to reply.