“Begin as you mean to go on” is a quote from 19th-century pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon that has evolved into a mantra for business owners – and a maxim for parenting gurus. The phrase came to my mind earlier this week as we prepared for a thank-you event for the 35 members of the TransformTO Modelling Advisory Group, or MAG.

Just one year ago, this diverse group began a series of intensive meetings that helped shape the TransformTO strategy. Together, they brought expertise from the four “lenses” we used to build the plan – public health, local economy, social equity and carbon reduction. The group spanned ten different City of Toronto departments, and included people from the banking, nursing, teaching, environmental, labour and social development sectors.

The maxim “begin as you mean to go on” supports the application of your best ideals to a project from the start. From the outset of their work together, that’s exactly what the cross-sectoral group of TransformTO advisors did. Here are the key ideals that they demonstrated:

  1. Listening – seeking out diverse opinions and insights
  2. Systems thinking – finding the links between things
  3. Co-creation – working to define and resolve problems together.

Embodying these principles, the MAG members have been hard at work for a year by contributing to four intensive group sessions. But their efforts didn’t stop there: in between sessions, the TransformTO advisors showed their ability to learn and reflect on the complex information underlying the project. They also went out and shared their views with their communities, bringing back valuable insights into dialogue with the group. What emerged was key advice that shaped the drafting of the TransformTO recommendations to City Council.

The diversity, generosity and goodwill of this group of people was demonstrated at the Berkeley Bicycle Club earlier this week as we marked the close to the first chapter of TransformTO. After a delay, the TransformTO recommendations will return to City Council for debate and the all-important vote in a few days (July 4-6).

Regardless of what happens next week, I want to thank our fine MAG members for their time, patience, openness, and their great ideas and insights. I can speak for the joint City/TAF project team when I say that they helped us make a very good beginning to our efforts to make Toronto a low-carbon city, and set a very good standard for future efforts.