News Release: 8 80 Cities Announces New Ontario-based Leadership and Microgrant Program

New Ontario Community Changemakers program provides funding and training to young residents with innovative ideas to improve their communities.

8 80 Cities announces new Ontario-based leadership and microgrant program to support residents aged 19-35 with innovative ideas to create more equitable, healthy, and engaged communities.

TORONTO— May 17, 2021 — To provide more opportunities and support for young Ontarians to get involved and take a leadership role in their communities 8 80 Cities is launching the Ontario Community Changemakers Program with support from Balsam Foundation.

The program’s mission is to elevate the voices of new and emerging civic leaders in communities across Ontario to inspire and enact change.

The program strives to serve as a launchpad for emerging community leaders and create a network for young civic innovators and public space advocates that reflect the diversity of people and geography of Ontario.

The program seeks applications from residents aged 19-35 with innovative ideas to activate public space, enhance civic engagement, and/or foster social inclusion. This program is unique in that it offers both leadership development and training and a $5,000 microgrant to implement their idea.

Project ideas could include things like hosting multigenerational community walks, installing community murals or other public art interventions, organizing youth-led community events, hosting culturally responsive programs, installing accessible sidewalk ramps for local businesses, organizing community bicycle rides or programs, creating bee pollinator stations in public spaces, and much more.

“We are interested to see the kinds of ideas and applications we receive,” said Lanrick Bennett Jr, Managing Director of 8 80 Cities. “We know there are many young leaders living in Ontario that have creative ideas that support social inclusion and civic engagement in public spaces. We are investing in them because we believe they are an integral part of creating the healthy and equitable Ontario communities we need,” he said.

A major component of the program this year is a virtual studio, which involves presentations and storytelling workshops by inspiring community leaders, as well as skills-building workshops on project planning, community engagement, communication, and tactical urbanism. The 20 successful applicants will have 12 months to implement their idea and will receive ongoing training and capacity building from the team at 8 80 Cities as well as a network of international public space experts.

The OCC program strongly encourages applications from BIPOC applicants and individuals with lived experiences that are currently underrepresented in the placemaking sector. The program is accepting applications from residents from communities of all sizes including rural communities, small towns, cities, and first nations territories.

“We are really looking for individuals with creative solutions to help drive transformative change as Ontario communities recover and rebuild from the pandemic. This past year has highlighted the need for more community-driven solutions, inclusive public spaces, and responsive community leadership, all the things we aim to support through OCC.” said Jiya Benni, Project Manager 8 80 Cities.

Ontario Community Changemakers is led by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for people in cities by bringing citizens together to enhance mobility and public space.

To apply to the Ontario Community Changemakers program, applicants must submit their ideas at by July 4th, 2021, 11:59 pm EDT (10:59 CDT).

About 8 80 Cities
8 80 Cities is a nonprofit organization based in Toronto, Canada. We are dedicated to contributing to the transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places. Our approach is to engage people and communities across multiple sectors to inspire the creation of cities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable for all. We achieve our mission through grant projects, research and advocacy, and our innovative services. For more, visit:

About Balsam Foundation
Balsam Foundation exists to enable and galvanize the well-being and potential of our communities. We are committed to a future where all Canadians benefit from a high standard of health and well-being. For this reason, our funding will reflect approaches that put people first, strike a balance between personal and collective wellness, and acknowledge the impact of social determinants of health and the context within which people live, work and play. For more, visit


Media Contacts:
Lanrick Bennet Jr, Managing Director, 8 80 Cities, 416-569-4899

Jiya Benni, Project Manager 8 80 Cities, , 416-871-3839

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