Unify Toronto Dialogues

The local lab for the Great Turning

Unify Toronto Dialogues are a monthly series that moves toward the vision of co-creating a just, thriving and sustainable Toronto.

  • Held last MONDAYS of every month 6-9:00 (in 2015) at Lambert Lounge, OCADU
  • Connected with Unify Toronto, supported by a board of dedicated social movement leaders
  • Bringing together leaders and interested citizens from social justice movements (Occupy), ecology, democracy and social activists, and faith-based communities.

Find juice for your change work. Renew inspiration and find connections and support for individual and collective action.

Unify Toronto Dialogue

Visual Reflection from March 2013 inaugural dialogue (Patricia Kambitsch)

Gather with other changemakers working toward positive outcomes for a sustainable, just and thriving Toronto.

  • In a safe space, explore your inner responses to the intersecting global environmental, economical and psychosocial crises and their local manifestations here in Toronto
  • Regroup and reconnect with yourself and others, finding respite from your change work as you nourish body, mind and spirit
  • Renew inspiration and find or deepen connections and support for individual and collective action

These dialogues will be gently guided by various skilled facilitators, drawing from a variety of methods and tools such as The Work that Reconnects, Art of Hosting, Theory U, A Small Group, and Awakening the Dreamer, with the occasional guest speaker to inspire the exchange.


New Series in 2015:  Remaking a Living

Money and Meaning: Economies That Work for All of Us.

January 26: Setting the context

Idle No More as a love story

The life support systems of our planet are being destroyed by the growth imperative of capitalism and the stolen commons, making it harder to live in peace with the Earth. The First Peoples of this land can no longer tolerate the destruction of their Mother. Nor can we as allies sit idly by.
What might an economic system based on the traditional teachings of balance and harmony look like in a modern urban context?

How best can we indigenous and non-indigenous city dwellers learn to bring about the necessary changes in governance and economic relationships that will enhance the quality of life for all of us?

Series Overview

It is becoming abundantly clear that the current economic system based on global capital and commodity labour is not working for most people. Over the past 40 years, most of us have been working harder, longer and more productively for little gain – most of us have lost ground.

Since the Occupy movement announced “We Are the 99%” in 2011, the “Too Big to Fails” have become even bigger. The mountains of personal and nationalized debt have become a commonplace, and society has ignored the immanence of another financial collapse. The 1% are richer (in monetary wealth) than ever in history.  But the global economy is engineered to grow inequitable wealth while destroying the natural wealth that we all depend on for our survival.

At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of new ways of thinking about wealth and money, of doing business, of exchanging with each other and with the earth, that reflect the age-old world views of connectedness held by indigenous peoples throughout the world.

So our questions are: What will the new economy look like? How can we reclaim our rights to economic arrangements that work for our planet, and for us, for our families and citizens in urban communities?

How might we extract ourselves from the colonizing effects of globalized capitalism? What would our communities be like if we could grow our food, produce the energy we need and create structures that enhanced the interaction with each other and the environment?

For us to survive on this planet, a new economy would have to reflect the Earth’s economy where nothing and no one is wasted. For we know that the human economy is entirely dependent on the health of the Earth’s economy.

Unify Toronto Dialogues is hosting a series of conversations and workshops to inquire into our possible economic futures. We plan workshops on alternative currencies, economic systems and practices, community and Earth-based economies, and our personal relationship with “prosperity.” We invite you to join us for one or all of these experiences in a shared inquiry, an inclusive dialogue welcoming all voices and perspectives.

Being Allies: Creating Harmony Between Indigenous People & “Settlers” in Canada

With the high-visibility activist movements of Occupy and Idle No More, many citizens are understandably unsure how to learn for themselves about the meaning of contested issues, and most especially, how to participate.

The Unify Toronto Dialogues series provides a safe space to learn and be heard in the inquiry of an engaged citizenship. Before we can authentically take any action in the public sphere, we are obligated to discover our own personal connections to issues and the heart-based motivation that joins values to engagement.
We kicked off the year with a dialogue on creating harmonious alliancing and true friendship among indigenous communities and immigrants and settlers.

  • What does it mean to be a true ally with the Aboriginal Community?
  • What are some short, medium, and long term actions “settler” Canadians can take to be allies?
  • How do Canadians demonstrate solidarity with the Aboriginal community on specific issues?



Hayden King speaks about the origination of the Great Peace treaty with settlers and the “Dish with One Spoon

Hayden King is the Director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance, and Assistant Professor of Politics at Ryerson University. He is from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchi’mnissing in Huronia, Ontario. His writings can be found at biidwewidam.com


Mike Ormsby shares artwork and stories from his experience.

Toronto based artist Mike Ormsby works primarily in acrylic on canvas, but also carves in antler and stone. Mike was mentored by the late Ojibway artist Norman Knott. Mike signs his work as W’ DAE B’ WAE, his Anishinaabe name that the late Elder Art Solomon gave him. From the Anishinaabe Thesaurus by Basil Johnston: “….w’dae’b’wae, meaning “he or she is telling the truth, is right, is correct, is accurate.” Mike hopes his art speaks to that truth, telling the stories of the Anishinaabe, sharing the culture and traditions. But the truth in his art may also be different for others. What Mike sees in his art may differ from what others see….his art may speak to them differently.  Art is healing, a window into the soul; a way to better understand ourselves and each other. To know where one is going, one must know where one has come from.

Envisioning Unify Toronto – Co-Creating a Social Change Community

Centre for Social Innovation
Special guest: Kate Sutherland
Graphic recorder: Hobeen Lee
Co-hosts: Peter Jones and Natalie Zend, with support from Ryan Genereaux, Morgane Kot and CSI.  Report by Natalie.

Unify Toronto (or Unify Toronto Dialogues) can be a place that makes activism sustainable.

As we let things follow their natural process and timing, we operate from an expanded sense of Self that encompasses other living beings and the natural world.

Common themes:

Images from nature were the common thread:

  • The elements (heaven/air, earth/mountain, water/lake, fire/thunder)
  • Cycles of life and birthing (nest, incubation, seeds)
  • The timing of life (seasons, nature’s gestation and growth processes)
  • The natural expansion and contraction that characterizes natural processes (yin-yang, summer-winter, in-breath—out-breath)
  • The resilience and ease of life (the seeds finds the crack in the sidewalk, the space where it can take root, but does not force its way through the concrete).

The inspirations:  

  • What unifies us is water. We inter-are with it. It can’t be created: it already exists, and Toronto is right next to a large body of water–the Great Lakes.
  • We are to take apart the old archaic design of the military-industrial complex with all its noise, and bring in blissful harmonic sound.
  • What is the ONE thing we are each on this planet to do? Let us ask, “what are my genetics?” and nourish that seed in ourselves. That is foundational to unifying for a life-sustaining society.
  • Like cherry trees in a forest of cherry trees, we can feel lost. Each of us needs to be a tree with our own process of change, and we also need a common purpose.
  • The eagle has come as a messenger between heaven and earth, as if to say, “our individual efforts are being orchestrated from above.” The solution is being done to us, rather than us fixing the situation.
  • The Unify Toronto Dialogues are a place of refuge, a “mountaintop” to go to for reflection and insight that supports our effective action when we “come down the mountain.” The inner work we do on the mountain creates change in and of itself.
  • In order to synergize our efforts, we need to do the inner work that allows us to step beyond the walls of our fears and defenses.
  • Unify Toronto can act like the space in the middle of a circle of friends (ie the movements it is building on). Housing might be a common issue about which to come together.
  • We can unify by connecting at a local level with neighbours and friends, learning about the assets that are already there.
  • We can unify groups into one place and pose a single question to them (e.g. a speaker series).
  • Unify Toronto is a garden, its seeds currently underground, entering winter as they gestate with the natural rhythms and cycles of life. Things will sprout and bloom in their time.
  • There is value to the inner and the outer, the in-breath and the out-breath, they are part of the natural rhythms of how creation happens.

The process: In this session, Kate Sutherland (from Vancouver by Skype) led 14 participants in connecting with the energetic essence of Unify Toronto to gain insight for the future of Unify Toronto and of the Unify Toronto Dialogues. We silently responded to the question:

“How is life calling us to connect diverse committed people and organizations in Toronto to facilitate the emergence of a just, thriving, and sustainable society?”

Still in silence, people sketched on large paper and used colour and shape to capture insights. Our images became a launch pad for “harvesting” our inspirations. We shared them first in pairs and then in a circle while graphic recorder Hobeen Lee created his own depiction of the interweave of the images we all received. We ended with a collective reflection on common themes and messages.


Drawings from inspiration in the opening circle (Kate Sutherland exercise).

hobeensketchHobeen Lee sketching the final discussion in closing exercise.


UNIFY TORONTO DIALOGUES – Archive of 2013 Sessions