Key issues for YPs to remember in 2017

This article was originally published on December 14, 2016 in The Hamilton Spectator.

What were the highlights of 2016?

Hamilton opened its heart, mind and doors to Syrian refugees looking to rebuild their lives and call this city “home.” Just as a single image of the drowned Syrian boy prompted a rapid response, we reacted strongly to the accidental death of kindergarten teacher and cyclist Jay Keddy on the Claremont access and called for better road safety for cyclists and pedestrians. A majority of Hamilton councillors also backed Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s proposal to invest $50 million to tackle homelessness and poverty in the city, although a plan hasn’t been solidified yet.

As 2016 comes to an end, what civic issues should young professionals keep in mind for next year?

Here are a few:

Affordable housing and West Harbour redevelopment

Redevelopment plans for the waterfront set sail in 2015. How would the bay be developed to enhance the city? At monthly community conversation meetings hosted by the city’s planning and economic development division, residents have voiced concerns about affordable housing in the neighbourhoods surrounding the waterfront. Moving forward, residents and investors need to work together to enrich rather than harm the city’s natural assets.

Ward boundaries and 2018 municipal elections

The ward boundary review accounts for population growth and to balance out the number of residents in each ward. Hamilton’s population grew by 7 per cent, from 510,000 in 2001 to about 548,000 in 2015. Through an independent study, the city proposed to redraw the 15 wards or add a 16th ward on the Mountain. Council is going back to the drawing board to make its own suggestions. Will rural residents lose out in the ward redistribution? The outcome could influence the 2018 municipal elections as it may change the number of residents in each ward.

Infrastructure and transit

Hamilton is falling behind in strengthening its building blocks. The city faces a backlog of infrastructure repairs worth $3.3 billion. That is not including deteriorating water and wastewater infrastructure. With more frequent extreme weather (every six years instead of every 40), can Hamilton literally weather these conditions? This growing problem could stifle development, harm the environment and damage our quality of life. There is a clear need for multi-sectoral partnerships to develop sustainable solutions.

The way we move people and goods in Hamilton will also have an impact on its growth. The city must remain focused on LRT and transit development. Healthy debates and public input on the $1-billion LRT project continue to be necessary, despite how messy this may get, as we need to understand the full potential and implications of LRT. As a community, we must draw on our resources and networks to support businesses and residents directly affected by LRT construction.

In 2017, let’s continue to build the city collectively, not just to make Hamilton the best place to raise a child and to age successfully, but to make it a world-class city known for its boldness, compassion and wisdom.

Where public good and values intersect

This article was originally published on November 9, 2016 in The Hamilton Spectator.

Few of us would call ourselves philanthropists. Even fewer young people are likely to describe themselves that way.

Government data seems to support that notion. Statistics Canada reported in 2013 that 82 per cent of Canadians donated to charities. However, just 17 per cent of them were between the ages of 25 and 34. Thirty-five per cent of all donors to charities were 55 or older. The top 25 per cent accounted for 84 per cent of all donations.

These numbers are troubling, if we measure philanthropy in dollars alone.

Philanthropy could be defined more broadly as the love of humankind in the form of time, talent and treasure. A key factor is how we channel our resources and efforts, and draw on our networks to further the causes we care about.

Philanthropy is the sweet spot where public good and personal values intersect. Through this lens, it is clear that young people are redefining what that looks like. Having the ability to see the impact of their donations holds significant bearing on their decisions to give, more so than older generations, says a report on next-generation Canadian giving published by Blackbaud, a software company offering technology solutions to nonprofits.

Young people are motivated to give because they believe in a cause or issue, rather than more general support for charities. This explains why peer-to-peer fundraising is higher among Gen Yers (loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 1995) compared to previous generations. It draws on social ties and networks — and young people view their voices and networks as assets in supporting a cause, according to a four-year study on millennial impact by Achieve, a market research agency.

Social media connects people to causes, builds relationships and allows anyone to share their interests. Yet nonprofits do not always know how to leverage social media because they may be unsure of how it powers social change, say Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, authors of “The Networked Nonprofit.”

So what can we do to engage and nurture the next generation of philanthropists?

Nonprofits can connect young people with opportunities that offer meaningful leadership and professional development skills. They can also better leverage engagement channels, including social media, to play a stewardship role and generate conversations about social change efforts.

Employers also need to encourage volunteering and giving back in order to cultivate a culture of social good. By doing so, they build a socially responsible organization supported by a more engaged and fulfilled workforce.

As young professionals, we need to reflect on our values and look at our assets as a whole — not just our finances — to discover how we can make a difference, in our own way.

As we celebrate National Philanthropy Month, let’s each look at what we can give and offer to better our community.

Engage and connect at the sixth annual HIVEX

This article was originally published on October 12 , 2016 in The Hamilton Spectator.

What can possibly come out of hundreds of young people getting together on a Saturday?

Networking. Collaboration. Engagement. Lasting impact.

That’s the value of HIVEX, Hamilton’s largest conference for young professionals and emerging leaders. Hosted by Hamilton HIVE, the sixth annual HIVEX on Nov. 5 will focus on an “Engage” theme as a sequel to last year’s “Connect” theme. The goal is for young professionals to establish meaningful connections, understand civic issues and get involved in their community to advance the city.

Hamilton’s young professionals, the up and coming movers and shakers of this city, are well connected and HIVEX is an example of their skills. With 16 workshops to offer — almost triple the six offered last year — it is the biggest one yet. Presenters range from young professional groups to small businesses to freelancers and nonprofits.

The vision of HIVEX is to bring together the best and the brightest young minds to network, collaborate, better understand the city’s key challenges and come up with solutions to tackle them. HIVEX caters to a broad spectrum of young professionals: post-secondary students, entrepreneurs, recent grads, entry-level professionals, newcomers and those who want to take their careers to the next level.

Workshops will cover community development, strategic volunteering, philanthropy, mentorship, storytelling, personal branding and business pitching. Niche topics, such as media training, late-life care, graphic design and even dance (salsa, specifically), will also be offered.

This year’s HIVEX is challenging young professionals to think deeply about their roles in the city by understanding gentrification and the new community vision, Our Future Hamilton. Keynote speaker Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction, will talk about how young professionals can develop civic leadership to tackle regional challenges.

HIVEX not only brings young leaders together, it introduces them to new spaces and puts the spotlight on Hamilton’s hidden gems.

Three years ago HIVEX brought attendees up to the 21{+s}t floor of Hamilton’s iconic Stelco tower for its keynote session, allowing more than 200 young professionals to enjoy the view. During the municipal elections in 2014, we transformed the pavilion of Hamilton City Centre into a floor for debate featuring eight of the 12 mayoral candidates. This year, we’re bringing attendees to a refurbished industrial building from 1900, The Cotton Factory, in the central lower city’s Sherman Hub neighbourhood.

Why is this conference important for the future of the city?

It’s one of the few avenues for young leaders to learn, challenge their thinking and build their networks. We can build a better city when we are connected to people, resources and ideas.

HIVEX can be the launching pad for new businesses, community initiatives and the next big idea.

HIVEX: Engage young professional conference

Where: The Cotton Factory, 270 Sherman Ave. N.

When: Nov. 5

Cost: $50/single ticket

More info:

Investing in development helps grow strong leaders

This article was originally published on September 14, 2016 in The Hamilton Spectator.

Young professionals are already taking over.

By 2025, those born during the 1980s and 1990s will represent 75 per cent of the workforce, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Canada, they have become the largest cohort of workers since 2015.

They are the ones shaping our city’s economy today and in decades to come.

Yet, employers face a challenge in retaining young professionals in their organizations. In a study released earlier this year surveying almost 7,700 millennials representing 29 countries, consulting firm Deloitte found that two out of three millennials expect to leave their current organization by 2020. This loyalty challenge threatens the sustainability of any organization, as millenials become the largest segment of the workforce.

How do employers win over the next generation of leaders? Meaningful professional and leadership development is one solution – an important consideration as 63 per cent of the millennials surveyed believe their leadership skills are not fully developed. Excluding salary, opportunities to progress and be leaders were cited as strong reasons to work for an organization.

Professional development and training can be delivered in various forms: courses, online programs, mentorship and conferences. Locally, the annual HIVEX young professional conference hosted by Hamilton HIVE is an avenue for emerging leaders and young professionals to network, exchange resources, learn from one another and build new skills. This year’s conference, with the theme Engage, will feature 16 workshops, a considerable leap from the six held last year. They will cover a range of topics: nonprofit and philanthropy, cross-industry mentoring, personal branding, pitching business ideas, communication and leadership dynamics, strategic volunteering and community development and more. More details at

Why is a gathering of this kind important for young professionals in Hamilton? It is the forum for young leaders to learn, grow and work together.

Through HIVEX, young professionals are exposed to new topics and ideas that will help them grow as leaders. They can expand their network by meeting industry experts and making new connections. HIVEX is a conference created and coordinated by and for young professionals with their needs in mind.

As employers compete in the race for top talent, it is worth noting that the needs and wants of the millennial generation are not drastically different than previous generations. “Job-hopping,” for instance, has become the norm for all Canadians not just millennials, reports Workopolis.

Similarly, the desire for work-life balance is becoming universal, says Oxford Economics in a 2014 study of more than 5,500 executives in 27 countries. At the end of the day, employees want fairness and opportunity to lead and grow professionally. Above all, this means building a people-focused organization based on trust, purpose and integrity.

Investing in young professionals is the key to the city’s future. Supporting their ambitions and professional development today will not only increase their loyalty, but empower them to become stronger leaders tomorrow.

The two-wheeled solution: bikes are key to our future

This article was originally published on August 10, 2016 in The Hamilton Spectator.

One of the best ways to see the city is through a bike tour.

It’s fast enough to get around, but slow enough to observe the details along the way. Because you are exposed to traffic and your surroundings, you get to see the city on ground level.

You get to see what the city is made of.

That was the goal behind HIVEX Cycle City: to encourage young professionals to explore Hamilton’s historic and heritage sites and foster a deeper understanding of city development and infrastructure. The three-hour bike tour organized by Hamilton HIVE took 25 cyclists to four notable city landmarks: Liuna Station, Dundurn Castle, Gore Park and The Cotton Factory.

The cyclists discovered stories behind the landmarks that are common sights. The magnificent Liuna Station on James Street North, formerly the Canadian National Railway station, was once a gateway to Hamilton for many immigrants. While the CN rail tracks no longer ferry passengers from there, the modern West Harbour GO station across the street is now a hub for intercity travel — a classic case of past and present converging.

Cyclists also learned about the renewal at the core. The Gore Park “Pedestrianization Initiative” is a three-phase project aimed to upgrade the park and make it more walkable. The first phase, completed in 2015, yielded a refurbished cenotaph among other things. The second phase, well underway, calls for an upgraded Central Garden Block (between James and Hughson streets) involving new trees, sidewalk repairs/replacement and upgraded lighting and more. The $1.7-million Phase 2 project is slated to be completed by the end of October.

A bike tour is more than just sightseeing. Cyclists learn to share the road. By being exposed to passing vehicles at varying speeds, you can understand why there is a need for more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly streets. Hamilton pedestrians are up to 42 per cent more likely to be injured compared to the provincewide rate, says a 2013 Social Planning and Research Council report. For cyclists that rate is almost doubled, as high as 81 per cent.

This is why bike lanes matter. The two-way protected Cannon Street bike lanes, launched in the fall of 2014, provide a safer route for cyclists to navigate downtown. On average, the city sees 500 trips a day on the route. The number of collisions, however, has also increased; 26 crashes involving cars, bikes and e-bikes in the first year.

Yet, cycling culture is here to stay. Hamilton is already seeing an appetite for alternative and sustainable modes of transportation. A record 792 people registered for Bike to Work Day this year. Twenty per cent who did so cycled to work for the first time, according to Smart Commute Hamilton. During Bike Month (May 30 to June 30), 22,534 trips on the Cannon lanes were made, peaking at 864 trips on Bike to Work Day. The SoBi bike share system has more than 10,000 active members.

Let’s keep rolling and build infrastructure to support that.