Thank you for joining us at the Toronto Reach Symposium!
In the lead up to the United Nations General Assembly, the Reach Alliance brought together our student researchers, alumni, and faculty mentors from the University of Toronto and Tecnológico de Monterrey to share their research insights with leaders from across the private, public, and civil society sectors at the 2023 Toronto Reach Symposium. Over eighty people attended — passionate community leaders who fueled discussions to inspire action and accelerate the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Dean Melanie Woodin from the Faculty of Arts and Science applauded Reach’s interdisciplinary approach, noting that complex problems require multifaceted solutions, “the Reach Alliance is about strengthening networks, but it’s also about something I consider to be the most exciting part of working at a university: the free-flowing exchange of knowledge.”
Over the last seven years, the Reach Alliance has launched seventy case studies from nearly 300 researchers across eight universities around the world, each investigating inventive, local solutions to pressing global challenges. Despite people’s commitment to the SDGs around the world one thing is clear as we reach the midpoint to accomplish the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: the world is not delivering progress at the speed or scale required. That being said, Reach recognizes the need for universities to have a seat at the table. As Professor Joseph Wong said in his opening remarks, “Universities are one of the most important players when it comes to issues of development, reaching the hardly-reached and achieving the SDGS.” And symposium participants proved his point about their roles.
In her keynote address, Onome Ako, chief executive officer of Action Against Hunger Canada, shared how everyone has a role to play in achieving the SDGs, emphasizing the urgency that underpins the second half of the Sustainable Development Agenda. “You are part of an incredible program examining innovative local solutions to pressing global challenges. Reach researchers have studied everything from renewable energy access in Mongolia to vaccine delivery in India and Rwanda and right here in Ontario. You are building connections and relationships with people who want to change the world from all over the globe.”
The leadership panel included Gustavo Merino, professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Reach Alliance Advisory Council member and senior manager at Shopify, Sydney Piggott, and founder of Wisdom Consulting and director of the Black Experience Project, Marva Wisdom. They urged emerging leaders in the room to consider:
- Moving away from equating leadership with power — think of it instead as authenticity and empathy
- Maintaining your values and principles, especially in the face of challenge
- Pivoting in your career — don’t be afraid of change!
- Building relationships — they’re at the heart of leadership
- Refraining from getting too comfortable in what you know (or think you know)
- Seeing differences as assets and spending time to learn about individuals. This helps us to find common ground and collaborate better.
The afternoon sessions began with our University of Toronto and Tecnológico de Monterrey researchers launching their projects and soliciting input to support their research process over the coming year. We will be thrilled to share their work over the next few months. “I enjoyed that we were able to receive feedback from speakers, collaborators, and other researchers. It gave a holistic view of everything that we should be further looking into,” expressed a University of Toronto Reach Researcher.
The day closed with Mycala Gill, senior analyst at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, who told us about her professional journey and the importance of networking: “It’s crucial to build your network before you need your network.” She outlined three ways to do this: crafting your story and building your brand, being proactive, and using the opportunities you have to access a global community.
We were inspired by the passion and insights shared at the 2023 Toronto Reach Symposium. “Leadership is in short supply, the world needs more ethical leaders,” said Peter Loewen, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. Despite this, Reach’s courageous and highly imaginative student researchers have given him cause for hope as they exemplify the future of leadership.
A heartfelt thank you to all the Reach Alliance researchers, alumni, faculty mentors, and invited guests who joined us to discuss sustainable development. Check out the photo gallery here to see some of the event. We look forward to continuing these thoughtful and important conversations in November at the 2023 Mexico Reach Conference. Watch this video to learn more!