With support from the Maytree Foundation, TTCriders and friends organized a day long transit summit on January 21, 2017.  We organized this summit because we felt it was time to step back and encourage leadership development, skill-building and strategizing between members of Toronto’s transit justice movement.

Here are three things we did that contributed to the success of our summit.

1. We made a big effort to recruit.

About 80 people attended our summit, including representatives from groups across the city including Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, East Scarborough Storefront, Jane Finch Centre, Free Transit Toronto, Healthy Transit Coalition, I Love Malvern, Scarborough Transit Action, David Suzuki Foundation, PTP Literacy Centre, Sistering and many more.

Our turnout was high, even though the Women’s March was on the same day.  This is why. First, we didn’t exclusively rely on social media and emails.  We do not find these tools are not effective at bringing out low income riders from across the city who want to get politically active.  Second, our organizing team personally emailed and called representatives from key organizations that are active on transit issues and invited them to review our agenda, join the organizing team and invite their people to our summit. We did this outreach before we made the event public.  Third, we provided pizza to all, as well as two tokens to people who needed support to attend.

2. We prioritized sharing grassroots organizing skills.

There are many ways to hold power.  You can be an elected official and have voting power.  You can be an academic and have expert power.  Transit riders achieve change through people-power, which happens when a lot of us work together well to achieve a common goal.  This is why we choose to host workshops that taught grassroots organizing skills.  Our workshop topics and presentations were:

3. We opened up the agenda.

For the afternoon, our summit organizing team decided to use a facilitation style called Open Space which encourages any person attending the summit to suggest a topic they would like to talk about with others.  Each topic is assigned a 45 minute time slot and a room location. Participants can join (or leave) any discussion they wish.

In order for our open space session to work well we talked to people who were leading campaigns and invited them to prepare to suggest and lead a discussion at the summit. We felt this was important because these groups had the interest and capacity to include and support new people who wanted to join their cause.

In total there were about 12 conversations that took place during the afternoon of the summit, including conversations on free transit, Scarborough issues, and how to make transit more accessible.  This was the most interesting part of the day because it let participants go to conversations with people who shared their interests.

In the coming months we’ll see how these conversations turn into effective action.

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