“Public engagement” describes all the ways in which the City interacts with the public every day to build relationships and to seek and receive input and advice on its programs, policies and services. Individuals, businesses, organizations and groups can offer feedback and expertise in many ways, including participating in a virtual or in-person meeting, joining a City advisory group, answering a survey, submitting comments to a Council committee, interacting with individual staff and by calling or connecting with their City Councillor or 311.
Public participation helps strengthen the relationship between the City and the public, and shapes Toronto’s policies, programs, and services to meet the diverse needs of Torontonians.
In 2021, the City began the first phase of a review of the City’s public engagement methods, standards and resources to consider ways to deliver more inclusive, accessible and relevant engagement with the public, particularly Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities.
The Public Engagement Review aims to answer several questions including:
Thank you to all who shared their input and ideas. Below is a summary of what we’ve heard to date and our next steps.
If you have questions or would like to comment on the summary or data please email email@example.com.
Planned with Community
Staff consulted with engagement leaders to develop the methods and questions used to ask the public about their experiences engaging with the City and our approaches.
The surveys and small-group discussions described below were developed with advice from City divisions, engagement practitioners from Black and Indigenous businesses/organizations, the City’s Lived Experience Advisory Group and Partnership and Accountability Circle, the Centre for Connected Communities (renamed the Catalysts’ Circle) and the Toronto.Aboriginal Support Services Council.
Between July and September 2022, we collected input from:
We interviewed 17 Canadian and international municipalities about their strategies and best practices.
Community organizations engaged their members within Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities on behalf of the City, as survey participation from Torontonians in these communities was low. We also asked them to reflect on general feedback from the surveys and share their perspectives.
The City received a wide range of thoughts, ideas and recommendations that generally fell within the following themes.
Truth, Justice and Reconciliation
“600 years of history. A lot of catching up to do. Not something that can be done quickly and easily. Acknowledge the mistakes so that we can correct it. Natural progression – invite the Indigenous community to those tables. Indigenous peoples aren’t too different from everyone else.” – Community member
“Black-only spaces are helpful, but [it’s also important that] diversity and other cultures are there and that Black voices are heard in the mixed/diverse environments – in non-Black spaces, voices of Black people are heard and seriously considered.” – Community member
“The Black Community are not represented well because only certain Black groups/agencies are heard but more Black residents need to be involved in the decision- making process.” – Community member
“Representation should happen across sectors such as healthcare, childcare, arts, etc and include diverse Black community organizations, including grassroots, small business, non-profits and institutions.” – Community member
“We need to consider the experience people have in spaces such as Boards in the City’s agencies and corporation, including experiences of racism, exclusion, and lack of influence.” – Community member
“Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020 is one way that racialized people living in NIAs [Neighbourhood Improvement Areas] felt heard and supported by the City. All neighbourhoods are ecosystems made up of multiple actors and spaces. Leveraging those actors and spaces to foster meaningful engagement can help bring about the kinds of solutions called for in this report.” – Community member
Relationships and trust
“The City only really seeks Black voices and participation for things surrounding crime.” – Community member
“As we are doing this work, we are consulted but so what? There is no follow-up and engagement to talk with people and to share the themes that come up and next steps this causes trust issues.” – Community member
“We also need to recognize that the City is often speaking to the elite in the community. This includes the elite of the Black community. There needs to be more effort to connect with “regular folks.” The elite cannot represent the issues and experiences of everyone.” – Community member
“It is frustrating for the Indigenous community to see City’s left hands do not know what the right hands are doing, and people are tied of being consulted over and over again.” – Community member
“It would be really great to get City of Toronto representatives out to our spaces as opposed to us always going to their spaces. Have them come out, introduce themselves. You know, let us know what their roles and responsibilities are in the city. So, we can understand how to contribute properly.” – Community member
How the City engages
“What it is important is to get a digestible way of understanding what is being done by the City. Breaking down the silos – work being done over and over again, and people are duplicating work which is preventing us from moving forward.” – Community member
“The City may feel a pressure to ‘perform’ and highlight quantifiable outcomes, but the City should be aware of how the idea of ‘progress’ can be colonial in nature and may alienate communities they are looking to engage.” – Practitioner
Procurement and partnerships
“We need to have more Indigenous people doing the outreach. We need more Indigenous contractors and advisors leading that work. Indigenous led engagement should be prioritized. We have too many non-Indigenous working for the City, they don’t have those experiences and aren’t leading the work. We need specific Indigenous processes. First Nations, Inuit and Metis do not participate in non-Indigenous processes – they won’t participate generally- they, if they come, will sit in the back.” – Community member
“People are putting together an RFP [Request for Proposal] without an understanding of the Indigenous engagement protocols- they need to be Indigenous led to be more meaningful.” – Practitioner
“Conduct a get-to-know, develop a relationship, and type of pre-qualification meeting with Indigenous and Black candidates (virtual, or in-person).” – Practitioner
Accountability and evaluation
“Transparency is key – could talk about constraints and time – get real clarity on the goals of the City and the community – focus on the common goals…” – Community member
“Demonstrate clear benefits for community and/or agencies participating. Why to get involved. What happens with the data and from outreach? Outcomes and Impact agencies/residents can have. Should build on what we’ve already heard, and hopefully connect with existing work. Why people are or aren’t included in engagement activities.” – Community member
“The City should feel ok to admit when things didn’t go well” – Practitioner
“Structures, principles, toolkits, policies. Where this resides is important…There is a need [for] broader understanding and have consistent practical practices.” – Staff
“While I am generally interested in improving public engagement, I find that it’s very intimidating and complex to broaden my approach and experiment. It would be great if there was a one-stop shop that told me what supports I can access, how to procure them, great examples of public engagement initiatives, and templates that I can easily adopt.” – Staff
“Staff should receive training on new public engagement techniques, tools and etiquette and have a base of peers to connect with in preparing for and evaluating the engagements they were involved in.” – Staff
“Multiple people/staff/programs are tapping into the same community groups. Be genuine and authentic. Can we have a database to document the different engagement efforts across City divisions.” – Staff
City staff are reviewing feedback from the review to consider:
Data from the public survey has now been added to Toronto’s OpenData website. Input from the community-led discussion groups and smaller data sets from staff, businesses and consultants are summarized above.
If you have comments or feedback on the data and summaries to-date, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates on the review will continue to be posted to this site.