July 15, 2017
Landscape Ontario’s Toronto Chapter created a bursary program for 2017 to help support local greening projects. A committee of Toronto Chapter board members, including: Skai Leja, John Larsen, Chaz Morenz and Jonas Spring, reviewed applications and awarded funds to projects throughout the chapter.

The committee was both surprised and gratified at the number and calibre of submissions as many had put a lot of effort and thought into their applications. It was immediately apparent it would not be easy to choose between them. Instead, the committee decided to award many partial disbursements, rather than the full amounts on a simple yes/no basis.

Chaz Morenz created a chart listing candidates which each committee member used to rate submissions — identifying those that could be removed from consideration and those that garnered chapter support. The committee members then exchanged evaluation charts and met to review them.

Committee members had slightly different perspectives on what were the most compelling selling points. Some wanted to map out the applications geographically, in order to get a visual representation of where projects were located within the GTA in order to be democratic in the distributions. Other members were very receptive to projects that highlighted pollinator benefits or native trees. A number of projects involved food production, and the committee wanted to balance selections between community gardens and other forms of greening initiatives.

The committee also considered the scope of the benefit of each project and gave special weight to applications that benefit a greater number of people. For this reason, the committee agreed the Toronto Seed Bank deserved a full $1,000 grant, since they were the source of native plant seeds to many other groups, including some that had also applied on their own. The committee also considered what other financial resources applicants had access to, and weighed what difference the bursary would make relative to their budget as a whole. This was especially pertinent in connection with municipal projects that either had already, or would ultimately involve tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would be forthcoming from other sources. The committee favoured smaller, more grass-roots projects, though in fairness, the larger projects were equally important to their respective communities.

At the other end of the spectrum were projects that either seemed to be rather off-topic, and had little to do with greening, or applications that were casually-prepared — the committee easily removed these from consideration. In the middle were projects that were probably a good match to the bursary’s intent, but were in the early stages of organization. Some groups applied preemptively, with the intent of going ahead with plans if they received funding. Since there were so many other applications that represented projects where the groups had already invested considerable time and effort, and had clear plans for how they would use the additional resources, they were lumped into the category ‘Not yet ready for a grant.’

A substantial number of projects worthy of consideration remained, with each committee member making a case for those applications they felt had special merit or need. The committee selected 13 projects to share the $10,000 bursary funds and is positive the funds awarded will make an impact on each of the projects.

The Toronto Chapter hopes to repeat this program as it demonstrated a need for small grants to support neighbourhood projects that have value to local communities who are already engaged in working toward greening their surroundings. All members of the committee agree it was very gratifying to be in a position to help.

The Toronto Chapter would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2017 Toronto Chapter Bursary:
Edible Allan Gardens, Bilton Laneway Collective, Bowery Project, Centre for Social Innovation Annex, CICS Immigrant Resource Centre Community Garden, Courtland Mews Cooperative Homes Community Garden, Frankel Lambert Community Garden, Logie Place Community Garden, Prairie Drive Park Community Garden, Regent Park Community Food Centre, Sunshine Gardeners, Toronto Botanical Garden Pollinator Garden, Toronto Seed Library, Urban Trees from Seed.