So, Rob Ford is mayor! What do we do now?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support today for as little as $1 per month!

So, Rob Ford is Mayor. I've been sitting on Facebook (my social media of choice) and watching the pain, fear and sadness descend on my friends and colleagues. There is shock that this happened. How could it? What does this mean? Who did this to us? But, they hate us gay, Chinese, cycling, latte drinking intelligentsia? Should I move?

Don't move! Create solutions!

Ever the optimist, I have been thinking about what this means for us. For democracy. For electoral politics. For the Centre for Social Innovation. For the citizens of Toronto.

As many of you know, I have a healthy disdain for both politics and (so-called) democracy... I think that they are both over-rated and we use them as an excuse for inaction. Somehow we think that this is all we have to do. I believe that the real solutions are amongst us -- among the citizens of this great city and our ability to work and co-create together. Yes, we need strong allies in government, but the creativity, energy, activism of Toronto hasn't gone anywhere. In fact, it is challenge and adversary that breeds innovation and action. Oh, I can feel the anger turning into action already.

A part of me is super excited about what we can do and create together now. Just think about how powerful Rob Ford is as a magnetic attractor -- think of the energy that he will galvanize. Think of the conversations and collaborations that we will be forced to have. And most importantly, think of the urgency that this deficit of progressive leadership will mean for new leadership to emerge. It will be up to us as citizens to create new solutions. It is up to us to engage and understand all perspectives. It is up to us to build solutions that transcend left-right politics.

Yes, we will have to find ways to interface with city government. But a good idea is a good idea... a solution which embraces those that voted for and against (and not at all) is a good solution. Perhaps our challenge is to start thinking differently about who we serve? Perhaps we need to reinvent the ‘bigger is better' paradigm or our fundamental understanding of the role of government. Certainly, we need to focus on systems change. To start, I personally want to know more about who voted for Rob Ford and why? Ultimately, our solutions have to serve everyone.

And I am feeling more ready than ever.

The Centre for Social Innovation is working on creating a City Innovation Lab of sorts. We are starting to cluster some amazing new and existing members on the 3rd floor of CSI Annex. We have been loosely moving forward with an "emergent" approach, not entirely clear what exactly will galvanize it. Perhaps we now have our answer.

Here are some of the design principles that we have been playing with:

- create a space for emergence

- make sure that it engages citizens

- co-creation is king

- convene, converse, collaborate

- more do, less talk... focus on prototyping...

- test global methodologies... experiment

- defy old style politics... rise above

- add value... always add value

- serve the commons... it is all about the space between

So, this morning, I wake up with great hope. What an awesome new energy is changing our landscape? What creativity will this brew? What anger will this trigger? What collaborations might emerge? What new brains might be engaged? What solutions will be created?

Perhaps the timing is perfect... CSI is finally ready to really serve the city. So, as shocked as I am, I am also incredibly excited. Just think of the fun we will have changing the city together.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about what we will need to do to keep our city great... and make it even greater... and please I beg you, let this be more about solutions than a fight. Fighting is what got us here. A solution is what will unite us.

Tonya Surman is a co-founder and director of the Centre For Social Innovation in Toronto. This article first appeared on their blog.


Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.