Behind the Scenes of LandMark: Uncovering Isorine Marc & Jamii

Crowdsourced #1

LandMark was a month-long community engagement project that Exhibit Change ran in partnership with the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA.

Involving over 40 partnerships is make it a reality, one of the key elements of the project was the matching of our team of photographers with local organizations in order to highlight how these community projects are helping to make Toronto a great city to live in.

Our LandMark photographer Diana Nazareth interviewed her community partner Isorine Marc, who is the founder of Jamii, to uncover the story that would be translated into the photo essay for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.

Tell us about your mission? What was the inspiration for your idea/company/project?

In 2008, some of my neighbors and I came together to organize in The Esplanade neighborhood a few small but meaningful grassroots community activities throughout the summer days. Events ranged from outdoor barbecue to gardening, including bike clinics, movie nights and a mini arts festival. Within a couple of months, the change was obvious: after thirty years of living next to each other, neighbors started living with each other. This is the very core of Jamii’s inspiration.

I believe in one’s creativity; I believe in the power of arts to build our community stronger; I believe in people taking ownership of their public space; and I believe in the importance of nurturing a sense of pride of and belonging to the place where we live.

I founded Jamii in 2011. Jamii’s mandate is to enhance The Esplanade neighborhood’s vitality by initiating and producing arts-based community-engaged projects and events in and around Crombie Park.

The success of Jamii is not only in its vision, but also in the people and organizations that support it. The list is long, but it’s important for me to mention one of our greatest partner, CORPUS, the dance/theatre company I work for. It’s been a decade of taking arts to the street throughout the world. CORPUS has been supporting and partnering with Jamii – since the very beginning, to transform The esplanade with creativity.

The echoing of “change comes from within” resonates on The Esplanade. I’ve been living here since 2006, and I love my “village” – as I call it. The people I work with, engage with, partner with are my neighbors, friends, daughter’s friends, classmates, teachers (…). It ‘s not an outside force that comes in our homes to bring change: it’s us, Esplanadians, who create our tomorrow.


How would you describe yourself in 10 words or less?

Passionate, engaged, happy, social, driven, enthusiast, hard-working, persevering, focused, generous and loving. That’s 11.

What is most sacred to you?

As of today: my 2-yrs old daughter. She needs my love and guidance.

Who or what is a current influential force in your life?

The excitement burning in me when thinking of what’s possible.
The discipline to see things through.

What was the hardest part of growing up for you?

I can’t think of any: all was happening to get me all set for what was coming. What I love is continue growing up and getting ready for what’s always ahead.

What advice can you offer to young women with GOOD ideas today?

Trust that you’re capable and don’t think about it twice: just do it.

Where will you be in 5 years? What will your ‘mission’ look like?

I don’t know where I will be, maybe here – maybe there; but I know it will be nice and I’ll feel good about myself, about my life.
I hope that The Esplanade neighborhood will be thriving and as creative as ever, under the leadership of Jamii; and if not under its leadership, I hope that Jamii’s legacy will be in the air, one way or the other.

Where can we find out more about your project?

Behind the Scenes of LandMark: Tara Noelle & Young People’s Theatre


LandMark was a month-long community engagement project that Exhibit Change ran in partnership with the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA.

Involving over 40 partnerships is make it a reality, one of the key elements of the project was the matching of our team of photographers with local organizations in order to highlight how these community projects are helping to make Toronto a great city to live in.

We interviewed Product Magazine photographer Tara Noelle about her experience in photographing the volunteers at Young People’s Theatre.


What’s your background and why photography?

I am a local based portrait photographer who studied Fine Arts and Film Photography at OCADU. I stepped away from mix media art work to focus more solely on photography as a medium and career.

I enjoy that a great photo can suggest many emotions regardless of their subject, in a way suggesting everything while revealing nothing.  Why photography? I could be here forever… there are so many why’s, so why not?

Tell us about what inspired you after meeting up with your community partner?

Where to begin? While exploring the space, I was impressed by the quality of the in-house custom designers, and who could forget the story about how the large stage is supposedly haunted? However, what soon became clear to me was that the strength of Young People’s Theatre  is truly the young teenage volunteers who bring YPT to life.



What was the concept that guided the creation of your Scotiabank Nuit Blanche photo essay?

I wanted to try convey as much as possible about the people behind the scenes of YPT in one photo but still keep my minimalist portrait style in mind.


Connect with Tara: | Facebook: Tara Noelle Photography | Twitter:@taranoellephoto | Instagram: @taranoellephoto

Everyday Heroes

We all know them. We pass by them everyday. They are the people who make the little things happen and it is a thankless job.

For our Scotiabank Nuit Blanche exhibit, Landmark; our goal is to capture the stories of everyday heroes.

We usually think of Landmarks as the buildings, monuments or public spaces that have been named after a famous person, we are flipping the idea of Landmark on its head and going after the people that work tirelessly to keep this city running.


There is a story I have heard time and time again that is the quintessential story of ownership. A caretaker at NASA was noticed working late into the night and when asked why he was there working so hard, he responded “Because I am helping put a man on the moon.” It is this dedication that often goes unnoticed and why we are so proud of the stories we will be able to share.

We are proud to be working with 11 community organizations to showcase their stories through photography essays.

These organizations will be sharing their everyday heroes with us!

  1. Young People’s Theatre
  2. Enoch Turner Schoolhouse & Parliament Interpretive Centre
  3. C’est What
  4. 1812 Re-enactors
  5. Market Vendor
  6. Toronto Tool Library
  7. Crisis Centre for Mental Health
  8. Jamii
  9. St. James Cathedral
  10. First Post Office
  11. King Edward Hotel

We can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Here are some of our heroes:


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Urban Design Guerillaz: 100 in 1 day

 We are Guerillaz!

On June 7th, we are participating in 1 of 100 urban interventions across the city of Toronto alongside a team of Urban Design Guerillaz. UDG

The Urban Design Guerrillaz were started by brother-sister team Amos and Karen Shaw after an ice cream outing where they noticed a street corner that could use some love. Ever since then they have been performing Guerrillaz operations throughout the city and this weekend we find ourselves in Jane and Finch.


In preparation for this weekend’s Jam we joined the UDG at the Driftwood St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club on May 29th for a quick design jam to see what ideas were emerging. The all boys group talked about space for quiet homework, loud video games, a girls lounge, a new kitchen, an improved and welcoming outside and an indoor park and beautification.

While we didn’t limit the brainstorming the ideas were mostly practical and really demonstrated the place that this drop-in centre has in the community. Simple tasks like cleaning the windows and throwing away junk was quickly added to the to-do list. In addition to a laundry list of video games.

The group will be joining us again on June 7th to participate in Evergreen’s 100 in 1 day. We will be in charge of rallying the troupes and getting everyone motivated for a day of work. The guys at the jam have already signed up for roles and will be leading tasks like storytelling and getting resources. The most popular role is the Ninja. A role suited for a person that is good at working in the shadows and getting things done without needing to be asked.

Come out on Saturday from 10am – 6pm or support the intervention with a donation of time, money or resources. 




Designing Toronto: Creating the Capacity to Convene

The evolution of Designing Toronto as an idea has come a long way since its first inception back in 2013. Originally envisioned as a weekend workshop about navigating the planning system, Howard Tam of ThinkFresh Group and Jennifer Chan of Exhibit Change brought together a community of people to try to figure out how to take this idea to action.


Originally, the Designing Toronto team was focused on how we could support people to better navigate the planning and unplanning spaces, ultimately helping to get new community projects off the ground. What soon become obvious to the group was that part of the value of Designing Toronto was the ability to bring together some of the diverse and passionate players in the city-building community.

Opportunity in Failure.

As planning for Designing Toronto unfolded, we soon hit conceptual road blocks around whether or not our solution was solving a real problem and what resources we needed to see it through. Through research and conversations, there was no doubt about an interest in seeing more support for citizen-led projects. Our main question was whether or not pushing Designing Toronto to deliver a course on Toronto’s planning system would be the kind of support that citizen-led projects needed. Perhaps it is one part of a more holistic solution. Then there was the issue of generating a sustainable business model to deliver this new service.

Needless to say, our doubt and our collectively stretched resources were starting to wear at our enthusiasm.


What we soon realized was that many other groups had been in this groan zone that our team had  suddenly found itself in. This realization would be a critical insight into the way forward – it was time for us to pivot instead of charging ahead.

To better understand this phase in the project development, we needed to learn from those who had already been here. We wanted to convene a group of projects that had jumped through and beyond this zone, we wanted to hear about the projects that has been consumed by failing to move beyond this point, and we wanted to speak with those teams that had just arrived with their fresh ideas.  Thus, the dezTO Hackathon was born.


On March 29th, Designing Toronto convened a room of curious community-builders, planners and serial social entrepreneurs. The full-day event allowed us to hear war stories from the creative minds behind the now defunct Toronto Urban Exchange (TUX), to learn from the experience and expertise of ClearVillage, a London, UK-based nonprofit, to better understand the challenges facing Green Change, a Jane & Finch community space, and to meet the open government guru helping to incubate the Toronto Changes concept.

Since then, we’ve been working hard at digesting and synthesizing the harvest of ideas and actions that came out of the Designing Toronto hackathon. The creative brief on citizen-led projects in Toronto will outline case studies of ideas that had struggled plus highlighting the themes common between each of the citizen projects that were hosted during the dezTO hackathon. Pushing this creative brief into a call to action, we will outline what these projects need, and where you can help, to move these initiatives into their next iteration.

The creative brief will be out very shortly! So make sure to sign up for our newsletter to ensure you get a PDF copy when it comes out, hot off the presses.



TUF Stuff: An Afternoon with the Toronto Urban Fellows

On March 20th Exhibit Change spent the afternoon engaging with a great network of passionate change makers and professionals who really do want to move the City of Toronto in a positive direction. This amazing group is none other than the Toronto Urban Fellows.


The Toronto Urban Fellows is an innovative program that has engaged 58 professionals to date in an intensive training of what it takes to run Canada’s largest city with respect to governance, operations and administration.

Balancing full-time work and various seminars, we were honoured to be invited to meet with the group to explore at a high level the value of the design thinking process.

Delivering one of our rapid fire workshops, we helped the Fellows to scratch the surface of how to challenge assumptions and making space to focus on the problem definition phase. The workshop was intentionally structured to highlight the value of avoiding our natural tendency to jump into the solutions we already know before we truly understand the people who will end up using these services.


The Toronto Urban Fellows demonstrated great energy and dove right into the workshop’s contents and concepts. It was an inspiring afternoon to say the least!

Designing Toronto: Incubating, Iterating & Prototyping

A new project for 2013, Designing Toronto is a collaborative initiative between Think Fresh Group & Exhibit Change.

Back in November, the Designing Toronto team hosted an amazing session with our Advisory Team that really helped to push this project forward. We were able to bring together many elements that had been under development since the summer – everything from our online survey results to a draft course curriculum. Not to mention, we were able to tell the advisers that Designing Toronto was already featured in the Novae Res Urbis journal!

At the meeting, the advisers really pushed our thinking in terms of what will really make this initiative scalable, sustainable as well as exciting and innovative. It was a really great meeting and Exhibit Change and Think Fresh Group can’t thank the Advisory Team enough!

Taking time to reflect on the feedback and advice given, we have been able to iterate the course prototype into a model that will definitely bring Designing Toronto to life in 2014.

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Moving into the new year, Designing Toronto will be focusing on launching a stellar crowd-funding campaign (we already have some top-notch prizes!) and putting together a strong communication, branding and marketing package. Just as much as a priority, we will be working hard to refine and polish the course structure and curriculum to make this project sparkle, as well as starting a working group to research organization models to keep this idea growing beyond the first cohort in 2014.

Are you interested in helping us build Designing Toronto? Have an expertise at crowd-funding campaigns? Want to show off your marketing mojo? Make sure to sign up for the Designing Toronto newsletter to stay updated and get the details for the next design session.

See you in the new year and hopefully also at the next Designing Toronto meeting happening on Wednesday, January 15!

Engagement in a Ball Pit


This summer the Exhibit Change team got really excited to throw a ball pit event. Yes, you read that correctly. An event with a ball pit. Why? Well, where to begin…


If you live anywhere in Toronto, it would almost be impossible to have never seen the development proposal white boards announcing a potential new development project and spelling out details for upcoming community consultation meetings.

If you have ever dared to venture into one of these community consultation meetings, it is arguably an alienating experience that is a mix of posturing and politics set up in a conference room somewhere. You will soon discover that any opportunity to participate in the decision making process in your neighbourhood has been diminished to reading presentation slides and filling out feedback forms.

Which begs the question: why is the standard for community consultation in Toronto not anywhere close to authentic engagement?

Community engagement is a catchy phrase to throw around, and at its essence requires a culture where citizens have greater decision making powers beyond the occasional opportunity to cast a vote. If we, as a city, want community engagement then we very much need to start building this culture of participation.

So how do we begin to create a culture of community engagement? We at Exhibit Change decided that it might start with a ball pit.


If we want to build a culture of citizen participation, we need to start learning who we share this community with on a daily basis. Which, naturally, is uncomfortable. We all have our circle of family, friends and co-workers, but when it comes to the people we share a building with, wait at the same TTC stop every morning, or buy vegetables at the same market, it’s easier to keep a distance.


The Ball Pit project seeks to challenge that, if only for an afternoon. For our first event, we set up shop in a park and asked perfect strangers to jump into the pit and to start a conversation with someone they have never met. Sounds challenging? At first, yes. But the results were amazing.

As with our other work in design-driven community engagement, we know that true learning begins once you get people a little uncomfortable and then helping them move beyond that. On that sunny summer Saturday, we met enterprising cheese salesmen who connected with a stranger in ball pit about growing up in New Brunswick. Another set of strangers talked in length about whether coyotes were cool animals to have in the city or a real problem. Most people we met call Toronto their second home.


As we explore this new venture, we want to give props to the Soul Pancake team who inspired us to do something awesome with a ball pit. Thanks!

ELNStudio & Design Driven Community Engagement


This Saturday the Exhibit Change team, Jenn, Nisha and Clara will have a great opportunity to help infuse design-driven community engagement into the many conversations happening at CivicAction’s 2013 Emerging Leaders Network Studio (ELNStudio).

We’re really excited to be part of this year’s event! ELNStudio has grown over the years to become a signature event for emerging leaders across all sectors and industries to come together, connect around the issues facing our region, and work out a plan to take action. This year’s Studio will focus on job creation and economic opportunities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and is shaping up to be an event not to be missed.


As the facilitator team for the Local Economic Development and Micro-Entrepreneurism topic, Exhibit Change will be brining our design-driven community engagement approach to help drive the delegates’ conversations into action during and after the November 2nd event.



Design-driven community engagement is a method of imagining what is possible, seeing things from a different point of view and being led by the power of the question.

The facilitation for ELNStudio was designed specifically with the intention of getting ideas to action. The facilitators have crafted a process that will evoke new perspectives, honour the multiple and diverse voices in the room and generate ways for participants to plug in their experiences and value. The approach comes together from our multitude of backgrounds including design thinking, Art of Hosting, business thinking and strategic foresight to name a few. Together, this process is meant to create a container for all the background ideas, visions and passions coming from the ELN community. [/section]

[section title=”SO WHAT?”]The impact of this facilitation method is to encourage leadership to emerge within the groups, and for the solutions to be human-centred and striving to influence systemic change. [/section]

ELNStudio is about creating space for innovators and initiators to take on their natural roles as change-makers, working together to build an action-centric team to foster and promote provocative disruptions.

We are confident that the facilitation will build a foundation for an action-oriented conversation, fueled by all the great minds in the room and develop to support the instigators who emerge as leaders of projects.



It ‘s important to highlight that this conversation won’t happen again with this exact group of people, or with the exact constraints and thinking; the facilitation process lets us not miss any opportunity to get the most value out of November 2nd.

We also only have one day to forge ahead. The design-driven community engagement approach will help us to figure out what conversations are already happening and which ideas have started to take root and collectively push us towards the next iteration.

Sounds like fun? Then be sure to join us on Saturday, November 2nd! Register for the event now or follow along on Twitter this November 2nd @elnonline