SSN: Building Community, One Neighbour at a Time


Stone Soup Network (SSN) is a community development project of Windermere United Church. [1] We are in Toronto’s west end neighbourhood riding of Parkdale-High Park, also known as Ward 4. [2] We help build stronger communities by making it easier for neighbours to share with each other.

We believe that people like to give.

We believe that neighbours, who know each other, help one another.

We believe that when everyone contributes what they can, when they can, we can create a more abundant community for all.

Stone Soup encourages people to work together, connecting local businesses, volunteers, community agencies, governments, and most importantly, the residents themselves. We use an online platform to catalogue contributions of products and services from local businesses and work with community leaders to support community residents to make informed choices as to what products and services will serve their needs. Focusing on our neighbours and neighbourhood serves to build community resiliency by forging local relationships. Neighbourhood resilience can also serve to reduce the carbon footprint (by shortening the distance individuals and goods need to travel).


Stone Soup Resources:

“Contributors”: local businesses and organizations who can contribute donations such as theater tickets, store gift cards, music lessons, children programs etc. and services or practical assistance such as legal, dental, personal, financial services

“Social Connectors”: people such as community coordinators, social workers, shelter support staff, religious leaders etc. who have a front-line connection with residents and understand what is needed within the community. Social Connectors make the connection between the donations and the residents who could benefit from them

“Recipients”: residents/community members who make informed choices as to what products and services will serve their needs.

“Volunteers”: SSN has a volunteer board of 9 members, and is seeking to recruit volunteers to support SSN’s activities such as outreach (face to face and virtual) and organizational development (policy and procedures etc.)

“Donors”: individuals who make financial donations (online, by cheque)

“Staff”: Neighbourhood Director (works 20 hours per week) oversees main operations such as volunteer recruitment and supervision, maintaining the platform, outreach to prospective Contributors, and Social Connectors, communicating with all Contributors and Connectors.

Reverend Alexa Gilmour Founder of Stone Soup Network, Connector, Chair of the Board. Promotes SSN with faith groups and community leaders, works with local and city wide organizations and businesses to obtain contributions, interacts with residents and connectors across our neighbourhood.

“Online Platform”: a catalogue of contributions of products and services from local businesses that is only accessible to “Social Connectors”

Windermere United Church - Swansea, Toronto - Swansea is a ...

SSN’s goals:

Short Term:

  1. To build relationships among stakeholders:
    1. Community organizations (incl. faith groups)/ “Social Connectors”
    2. Businesses/ “Contributors’ (incl. Business Improvement Areas / “Anchors”
    3. City services (incl. libraries, social development and economic initiatives; as well as Offices such as City Councillor)
  2. To increase community participation

Long Term:

  1. To foster a sense of belonging so that individuals (and businesses) feel part of a supportive and caring community
  2. To expand SSN to the east part of Ward 4 (beyond the old Ward 13 boundaries)
  3. To cultivate and foster the gifts of all within a sustainable environment


Project Description

How can Stone Soup Network (SSN) contribute to neighbourhood resilience, in a way that is resourceful, caring, equitable and sustainable [3]]?

The neighbourhood, formerly known as Ward 13, expanded in 2018 as Parkdale-High Park (Ward 4). The community is diverse, with social challenges associated with poverty and discrimination. It already has a high rate of children living in poverty (16.8%) [5], and the current COVID-19 outbreak will only make the lives of children and adults more challenging, as the severest impacts will be felt by the most vulnerable.[6] Visionaries like Ken Greenberg understand that rebuilding the economy during the COVID-19 crisis brings opportunities “to overcome entrenched rules and attitudes that held us back from doing the things we knew needed doing” [3] Douglas Cardinal also encourages more imagination and compassion, stating “COVID-19 has dramatically shown we can only survive when we concentrate on loving and caring for others. When we give the supplies available to people that need these resources to survive, so that we can all lay the foundation for our future.”

Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods 2020 Strategy [7] outlines 5 keys to neighbourhood wellbeing: Economic, Social Development, Participation in Decision Making, Healthy Lives and Physical surroundings. SSN’s approach most closely aligns with Social Development, “which focuses on opportunities and connections that help residents reach their full potential.” SSN does not deliver any direct services related to education or literacy, but does seek out contributions that facilitate access to social, recreation and cultural services.

Public consultations with Toronto’s residents [8; p.11)] reveal that Social Development is perceived as:

… a way to build a sense of community in neighbourhoods. It also gives people the ability to participate in decision-making and in economic opportunities.

Residents highlighted the need for accessible and affordable education, after-school programs, and recreation for youth. Residents noted several reasons these programs are not always accessible: programs do not exist in some cases, programs are full, and issues of language or income prevented some residents from being able to access programs. Residents saw that schools are the heart of the local community. Some residents raised concerns that schools are not sufficiently involved.

Having UofT’s students apply a Design Thinking approach, “which puts the end user in focus”, will better enable Stone Soup Network to work collaboratively with people from various backgrounds to solve community problems. [9, 10]

A team of students could help SSN to:

  1. Use data resources, such as those available through the City of Toronto, and potentially other tools. Toronto’s data research maps include Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods 2020, Wellbeing Toronto, Ward profiles etc.; as well as Toronto’s COVID-19 Essential Service Mapping Tool.

To identify and understand:

  • What is the breakdown of the population in Ward 4 (High Park - Parkdale), as a whole? What changed from Ward 13? How are services and businesses changing to meet the demographics of the neighbourhood?
  • What are the social and economic issues for the residents of geographical segments of Parkdale -High Park Ward 4? [e.g. South Parkdale was identified as a Neighbourhood Improvement Area (NIA) in 2011, but Toronto’s 2020 strategy has identified only 13 neighbourhoods].
  • What different languages do people speak?
  • What services/programs are available to residents? [City, private and community run. Free, sliding scale/ ‘needs based’ or fee paying.]
  • What are the barriers or inequities for people accessing these services? What interventions/solutions can be put in place to reduce these barriers?
  • Where are the food banks and co-op located and what services do they provide? [What are residents’ food security concerns and what are potential solutions?]
  • What faith groups are in the area? What programs do they run?,[Are these programs just for their congregation or for everyone? ]
  • What City offices and programs operate in and/or impact Ward 4?
  • What schools, School boards and trustees operate in and/or impact Ward 4?


In this project, the client expects the team to design the following

Working with SSN’s staff (and volunteers) the students would:

  • Work with mapping tools to identify Ward 4 and neighbourhood:
  1. Demographics (social and economic backgrounds)
  2. Business and economic profile
  3. Community profile - non-profits, faith groups, etc.
  4. City profile - City services; public health, City economic development initiatives, including, if feasible, any current/pending Section 37 applications of Ontario’s Planning Act, “which allows Toronto to collect community benefits from developers” [11]
  5. Schools and School boards, and school trustees* [8]; if feasible
  • Create a database (and/or add to SSN’s existing Excel spreadsheet) of stakeholders: business, community and City players involved Parkdale - High Park (Ward 4)
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strength/Weakness/Opportunity/Threat) or other type of analysis to identify community strengths, potential areas for improvement/ synergies of interests
  • Identify 3 to 5 key indicators (e.g. used in Toronto 2020 Neighbourhood strategy [7] or other available research [12]) that could serve as SSN’s “evidence strategy”; identifying goals in the short & long term that are ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) [13]
  • Use these indicators to modify SSN’s existing Theory of Change and/or create a logic model [14](or other tool) that outlines metrics for success
  • Make recommendations and/or design a reporting tool (e.g. Excel or other tool) that helps SSN chart its course (Q1 to Q4 for 2021; and in successive years)
  • Design/ conduct outreach approaches (e.g. using on online tool such as Survey Monkey, phone calls, hosting focus-groups/ collaboration events (virtual ones if physical distancing is required) tailored to types of stakeholders or a mix of stakeholders
  • Make recommendations and/or work with SSN’s media team to develop a social media strategy to showcase the students’ project milestones through SSN’s channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.]
  • Make recommendations on how to create one event in the community (or ways to improve on outreach and participation of one to three existing community events/gatherings)
  • Promote the design recommendation through a poster (similar to Alnahlawi et al [15]) or power point presentation,

SSN Student Team

Ying Zhou (she/her) is a fourth-year student at John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, pursuing a Specialist in Architectural Studies, minoring in Computer Science. Ying’s background in architecture provides a user-centric approach to problem-solving and believes that urban challenges should be tied to a climate lens as well as a community resilience perspective. Within her academic carrier, Ying designed “Converging Heights”, a theoretical multi-unit housing project for university students and single-parent families that encourages interaction between the two constituents. Ying one of the curators for the "Support Black Designers” art project, which will be installed on the Daniels building façade in October 2020. 

Cathy Yang is a fourth-year student double majoring in Physiology and Human Geography, and minoring in GIS. Cathy hopes to pursue community development and public health in their professional career and regards the Stone Soup Network project as an opportunity to examine the connection between healthcare disparities and community resiliency. Cathy currently works for the Kidney Health Education and Research Group (University Health Network), winner of the Esri Canada 2020 App Challenge, and recently presented “Assessing Toronto’s Neighbourhood -level Vulnerability to COVID-19” at the ESRI User Conference (July 2020).

Connect with Cathy on LinkedIn

Xinrui Wang is a fourth-year student at the Rotman School of Management, pursuing a Specialist in Public Accounting. From the internship at Pueblo Science, a Toronto-based charity focused on youth development through science education, Xinrui learned about the operations of non-profits, channels for donation collection, and a profound understanding of managing the accounting book for the organization. His experience in addition to the background in data analysis would be a significant asset to the Stone Soup Network. He is the proud recipient of the Dale Anne Freed Scholarship this year.

Connect with Xinrui on LinkedIn

Richard Yun is a fourth-year student double majoring in Sociology and Linguistics. Richard’s background in marketing, branding, business development and the foundation of sociological theories and discourse, would be valuable to the Stone Soup Network student team. Richard currently works as the Marketing Manager for Learny, an online educational platform that rewards children for math practice and helps with growth initiatives at a Toronto based software startup called OneTap which serves clients such as UCLA, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leaf's, Toronto FC. Richard currently volunteers as the Corporate Relations Lead for UofT Hyperloop and represented SalesForce and placed in the top 24 out of 4200+ in Canada's largest student business competition in 2019.



[1] Stone Soup Network (no date)

[2] City of Toronto (2018) City of Toronto Wards, Ward 4: Parkdale- High Park

[3] Greenberg, Ken (2020, May 3) Toronto Star: Can crisis help create a new kind of city?

[4] Cardinal, Douglas (2020, May 3) Toronto Star: A chance to reclaim the gifts of Mother Earth

[5] Social Planning Toronto (2018, October) 2018 Toronto Child & Family Poverty Report: Municipal Election Edition

[6] Cressy, Joe (2020, March 23) Now Toronto: Coronavirus crisis takes the measure of Toronto

[7]City of Toronto (2020) Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy

[8] City of Toronto (2020) Appendix C: Public Consultation Results - Summary and Complete Notes.

[9] Bonapace, Lina (2018, March 2) Macadamian: Using the Design Thinking Process to Better the Community

[10] Kurin, Kayla (2016, March 15) We Thinq (Blog): How To Solve Complex Problems With Design Thinking (With Case Studies)

[11] Biggar, Jeff (2019, November 12) Globe & Mail, Opinion, “In Toronto’s condo building boom we can’t forget about the community centres”

[12] Weaver, Liz, Paul Born and Denise Whaley (2010) Approaches to Measuring Community Change

[13] Lalande, Lisa et 19, Mar 29)al (20 Committing to Action: Key Takeaways

[14] Canadian CED Network (no date) Place Based Poverty Reduction Initiative: Logic Models

[15] Alnahlawi, Ghalia, Lucas Sienmucha and Johnathan Mo (2020) Revitalizing Outdoor Environments