Series 2, Episode 4
Building Community Power

Urban and infrastructure developments are often hotly contested, with disruptive construction schedules, impacts on local communities, and debates over how benefits get distributed. While traditionally the scales of power have tipped in favour of developers, historically marginalized and equity seeking communities across Canada are organizing to demand that their voices and interests are heard in public infrastructure projects. Ausma talks with Alejandra Bravo and Dusha Sritharan about how people are building community power and taking their seats at decision-making tables.

Alejandra Bravo has worked for over two decades for progressive social change with grassroots, immigrant, and labour groups. She is the Director of Leadership and Training at the Broadbent Institute. She is also the Director of the Power Lab, a new initiative of the Atkinson Foundation and the Broadbent Institute

Dusha Sritharan is a campaigner, working at the intersections of equity and environmental issues, at the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Get Connected

Learn more about the Power Lab, an innovation lab led by people who are building economic and democratic power within historically disadvantaged and equity-seeking communities here.

Dusha and Alejandra shouted out to a bunch of groups doing great work in the fight for community benefits – find out more about them!

  • The Toronto Community Benefits Network supports fights for community benefits across the city.
  • The Rexdale Rising campaign won community benefits in the expansion of the Woodbine Casino.
  • The Parkdale People’s Economy Project is a network organizing for decent work, shared wealth, and equitable development.
  • PUSH Buffalo is a membership-based community organization mobilizing for affordable housing, decent work, and ecological sustainability in the West Side of Buffalo.
  • The East Scarborough Storefront is facilitating collaboration among residents to create more economic opportunities, civic engagement, and a stronger community.
  • GRID Alternatives is providing low-cost solar energy and job training in solar installation and repairs in historically marginalized and equity seeking communities in California.
  • Toronto ACORN is an organization of low and moderate income families organizing for social and financial justice.

Etcetera

Want to learn more about community benefits agreements? Read a backgrounder by the Mowat Centre here.  Additional resources are available here.

Dusha’s report on putting decent work at the centre of climate change adaptation can be found here – Climate Solutions that Work: Bringing Community Benefits and Climate Action Together.

Read about some of the fights for community benefits in Toronto: for jobs and child care in the Woodbine Casino project  and for job training and employment on the Eglinton Crosstown.

Our powerful closing quote is from Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? The full quote: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

Want to hear Dusha and Alejandra’s fight songs? Listen to them, and the fight songs of all our Lovers & Fighters guests, here.