How should our city recover from COVID? There are numerous award-winning urbanists, politicians and health officials working on this question around the clock, but what if we asked kids? Specifically kids from marginalized communities who’ve been hit harder by the pandemic, and its fallout? What does a Black nine-year-old boy envision, when he thinks of his Toronto neighbourhood in 2025? What change would a twelve-year-old Indigenous girl like to see, in order to ensure that she thrives as a young adult?

My Future Toronto (IMFTO) is a soon-to-launch multidisciplinary program that encourages and empowers racialized youth to dream and strategize a COVID recovery plan that addresses systemic racism. “We’re looking for fresh ideas from BIPOC youth, aged eight to 12 years old. This is a great opportunity for them to contribute their voices and insights to the City of Toronto’s Economic and Culture Recovery Advisory Group,” says Dr. Dori Tunstall, dean of OCAD University’s Faculty of Design, who is proud to sit on the advisory committee that reports directly to Toronto’s Economic and Support Recovery Task Force. 

Not only will this group, of approximately 100 BIPOC youth, have an opportunity to vocalize their opinions, but the program announcement also assures that they will “learn how to share their ideas with the government through policy, city decision-makers through journalism, and everybody in the city through advertising”.

To ensure their ideas our heard, IMFTO will follow a four-step creative process: report, imagine, make and connect—focused on three main influencers in today’s society: advertising, media and policy. From mid-September to mid-November, IMFTO participants will be guided through “how-to” and online workshops by professional journalists, designers, advertisers, community activists, movie directors, and policy experts. Participants will also have an opportunity to have their own stories published in the Globe and Mail. Honestly, this program sounds like the best education yet, and one we can all benefit from. 

To teach kids how to advocate for change is incredibly important, but what makes IMFTO really cool is how it leverages relationships in the community to give power to these ideas. We love how organizations like OCADU and The Globe and Mail add muscle to this initiative; the advertising portion of this program will also connect kids with notable agencies, including Juliet Creative, Sid Lee Advertising Agency, and Wolff Olins, to ensure their ideas are communicated effectively to the city at large. 

Got a kid in your life that might be keen to participate? The IMFTO website is set to launch next week. Their voice matters—it’s their future! We bet they hatch some of the best plans yet.