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In early February, the volunteer CMTO organizing committee squirrelled ourselves away in Leslieville for part of a weekend to reflect on 2015, review the responses to our year end survey, and plan for the year ahead.

Our planning retreat included lessons in empathy, meditation and visualization, kitchen dance parties, and serious brainstorming sessions; all of which we hope will help to make the CMTO events for the year ahead even better than the last.

We arrived in Leslieville on Friday night to settle in and reconnect face to face as a team. To get in the headspace for the day ahead, we sat down for a few rounds with the 21 Toys Empathy Toy (see 21 Toys Founder Ilana Ben Ari’s CMTO talk here).

To use the Empathy Toy, two individuals are blindfolded; an observer then assembles 3D puzzle pieces and hands them to one of the blindfolded individuals. An identical set of unassembled pieces are handed to the other person who’s blindfolded, and the person with the assembled set then attempts to guide them to put together their puzzle pieces to match. The unblindfolded individuals are just there to observe. Once the puzzle assemblers believe that their sets match, they take off their blindfolds, and everyone deconstructs what happens. It’s amazing how a seemingly simple tool can really spark a dialogue about language use, observation, and how different people see the world differently. Creating metaphors and checking in with our partners was something that happened repeatedly. Playing with the Empathy Toy, grounded so much of the conversation and collaboration throughout the retreat.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to go for a coffee fueled walk along the Scarborough Bluffs. The erosion eating away at the cliffs was omnipresent as we looked Northward. The lake and sun however, seemed oblivious to effects of the wind on the Bluffs. We stood mesmerized by lake sparkle. Fresh air and big breaths, we were ready to take on the day. Walking and exercise are an incredible strategy to boost creativity. Immersing yourself in nature is another strategy your brain will welcome.

Saying farewell to the bluffs, we returned to the house for the first exercise of our retreat. We began with a 10 minute guided meditation using the Headspace mindfulness app. We were more focused and grounded in our purpose after the meditation, and this lead directly into the core exercise, a 10 minute event day visualization. Geared at improving each attendee’s experience of CreativeMornings, we were asked by CMTO host Altaira, to imagine arriving at a CMTO event for the first time; we were then verbally walked through a CMTO event, from arrival to departure. We imagined arriving at our first, and were all confronted with new feelings and thoughts about how we arrived, were greeted, questions we had about our seats, the food, the speaker. Visualizing a familiar scenario anew was an invigorating experience that resulted in powerful conversation. Suddenly we were faced with gaps in the experience of an attendee. We realized that while we do a great job of greeting people at the door, that they might feel a little lost once they’ve entered the space. We also realized that we might need to give a bit more context about the speaker, and CMTO itself, once people are seated and paying attention. When you’ve been putting on an event from the organizer perspective for over a year, sometimes you forget what it feels like to be an attendee and equally important, a volunteer.

We refueled with a hearty team-made lunch and launched into the afternoon by reading the entirety of the CMTO Annual Feedback Survey. First of all, huge thank you to everyone who took the time to it fill out. On average each respondent spent over seven minutes giving feedback – an incredible amount of time for a survey – your responses spoke to just how much this community means to you.

We went through each and every answer, and really took your thoughts to heart. Here are some of the main takeaways – as an audience, you’d like more opportunities to engage with each other, both at and outside of CMTO events, that means more creative/alternative forms of networking; you’d like more information on the speakers themselves, and more context given as to why they were chosen for that specific global theme; you feel frustrated that it’s not always possible to get tickets; and you really REALLY miss the bagels. We hear you!

We spent the vast majority of our afternoon reviewing these survey responses and looking at ways to incorporate your feedback where we can, or to better open up the lines of communication where we can’t. At present our events hover around the 200 person mark – there’s a tipping point we’ll need to reach in terms of number of people wanting to attend before they can push beyond that threshold and turn CMTO into a much bigger (and less intimate) event. We continue to believe that hosting our events for 200 people serves you all best, as it maintains an intimacy for the networking experiences you so strongly look for as well as opportunities at the mic for YOUR TURN and time after the talk with the speaker.

Like every good retreat, the afternoon’s work was followed by an impromptu kitchen dance party – we snapped some polaroids, and took another walk around the neighbourhood to get our bodies moving, clear our heads, and pick up ice cream–because excel spreadsheets need to be followed up with ice cream.

For our last assignment of the day, we went through the amazing list of speaker suggestions that were sent in with the surveys, and mapped them out (along with our own suggestions) with the themes for the year ahead. Again, thank you so much to everyone who sent us speaker suggestions! We’re a core volunteer committee of five, so hearing your different perspectives on the amazing Torontonians you’d like to hear speak is invaluable to us. A million thankyous. We were really proud of reaching gender parity last year, but there’s still a lot of diverse speakers and sectors we’d like to learn from. So please keep sending in the names of people who inspire you to our email . Each month’s global theme pushes us to uncover less conventional speakers and challenge us, and all of you, to connect creativity with a much broader definition. We believe that that’s the magic of Toronto, and of CreativeMornings.

We closed out the retreat with a list of lessons learned, and a plan for where we want to go in the year ahead. We love this community with all our hearts, and are looking forward to helping this community grow and change for the better in 2016.

Hugs and High Fives,

Team CMTO

In our December 2015 talk, Teva Harrison encouraged the CMTO community to write a letter to their future selves outlining the type of person they want to be, and the type work they want to focus on. Returning to this letter and rereading the aspirations you set out for yourself is an opportunity to check-in on your current trajectory, course correct, and to move forward on your journey.

A journey, that can sometimes seem like it passes by in the blink of an eye. How many times did you hear/think this week “how is it February already?”

Without taking the time to check-in; be it through a self-addressed letter or looking back at what Instagram photo we posted 52 weeks ago (this was ours), it can be difficult to quantify just how we’ve grown over a set period of time.

The CMTO time capsule is back for its second year, to provide you with just that. A snapshot of your creative self at an exact moment in time.

We’re offering to store your goals, dreams, and aspirations under lock and key for a whole year. When December rolls around we will email you with your answers and you can reflect on how much you have changed over a year.

Whether you end up achieving every goal on your list or if you flipped the proverbial table and started anew mid-2016, the CMTO time capsule is a way to look back at how far you’ve come (no matter how winding the road).

So go ahead, share your deepest desires (and your snack food/favourite jam of the moment, this is ours) and go give 2016 your all. We’ll check back in approximately 45 weeks.

Submit to the CMTO time capsule!

CreativeMornings Toronto is excited to partner with A Good Book Drive this November! A Good Book Drive is an annual book drive to bring stories to a new generation of readers, and support kids in need of new books. Throughout the month we’re encouraging you, the members of the CMTO community, to post a portrait of yourself with your favourite children’s book, along with a quick blurb about why you chose the given book. Post your photo to Instagram with the hashtags #AGBD2015 and #CMTO for your chance to win a prize! (TBA)

Bring a copy of your favourite children’s book with you to the next #CMTO talk on November 20th, and we’ll donate it to The Children’s Book Bank in Regent Park. We can’t wait to see what stories and illustrations inspired the young you, and will go on to inspire other young readers in our community. See you Nov 20!

CreativeMornings Toronto is looking for a few awesome new folks to join the volunteer organizing committee!

If one of the positions below interests you, please get in touch at toronto at creativemornings.com subject line JOIN OUR TEAM, with your resume, and answers to the following questions:

1. What do you love about CreativeMornings, and why do you want to get involved?
2. Why are you the best person for the role you’re applying for?
3. Who is your dream CMTO speaker and why?

Please submit by Friday October 2nd. We look forward to hearing from you!

Social Media and Content Facilitator | 10-15 hours per month
Create social media calendar for CMTO, and act as primary driver of social media posts
Post CMTO Event day page each month
Create Mailchimp campaign to coincide with Event day page each month
Liaise with photo and video teams to post and promote event day content
Coordinate CMTO org committee to write blog content
Think of creative ways to connect with our audience using social channels

Speaker Engagement Lead | 10-15 hours per month
Help speakers to develop, and prepare for their talk each month
Seek out potential speakers for future CMTO events
Speaker follow-up communication, post event day
Think of ways to better aid, facilitate a thoughtful and fruitful experience for each speaker from start to finish

Video Editor | 5 hours per month
Experience with Adobe Premiere, multi-camera editing, and adding stills from PowerPoint.
Time to edit one video every month in the week post event

Calling all Trailblazers!

Are you looking to get more involved in the Toronto creative community? Well then, have we got an opportunity for you!

The Creative Mornings team is looking for volunteers to form a Trailblazing Task Force (TTF). Working closely with Christina Hug, our resident Trailblazer you’ll set forth to take CMTO to new height.

Here’s an example of just a few of the initiatives we’d be tackling together.

1) Monthly Craftaculars for on-site decorations based on the global monthly themes - You’ll be part of the entire creative process! From mapping out what would be relevant for each event, to deciding on materials, hot gluing, painting, laser cutting, and designing in preparation for the big day.

2) Outreach expansion initiatives - How do we get a more diverse audience at CMTO? How do we reach surrounding areas in the GTA?

3) How do we surprise and delight the CMTO community of speakers, sponsors, attendees, and volunteers. Let’s create incredibly memorable experiences that will keep the creative high going all month long!

We’re looking for creative thinkers, yea-sayers, experience builders, crafters, makers, and doers! All skill levels are welcome and all creative backgrounds, interests, and curiosities are encouraged! Enthusiasm and high fives will get you everywhere with this team :)

We’ll host our brainstorms over Google Hangouts to accommodate as many schedules as possible and will aim to meet in person once a month for a creative extravaganza.

If you’re interested answer three quick question on this form and we’ll get you on the list!

Community Spotlight: Hot Pop Factory

This month we hosted a talk with Steven Artemiw of Parkdale Road Runners, on the global theme of UGLY. Steven shared stories about the ugly side to running, and pulled us through to the other side, highlighting the beauty that can exist when you build community around one of your passions. This January, the CMTO organizing committee came up with a few running-related shenanigans to complement the Ugly theme and Steven’s talk. We asked for ugly race photos on Instagram (just search Instagram #CMTO to see the incredible submissions we received), and we encouraged attendees to run to the talk. In return, the runners and social media participants received their very own CMTO finisher’s medals! Our goal with all of our CMTO events is to find new ways to integrate and showcase the talents that exist in the broader Toronto creative community into each Friday morning. Enter Hot Pop Factory, with the design from our own Eleni Alpous in hand the Hot Pop Factory folks donated their mad laserbeam skills to make our idea a reality. If you haven’t met Hot Pop Factory before, they are a 3D-Printing and Lasercutting studio located in downtown Toronto. They specialize in creative applications of digital fabrication. And they’re awesome! Aside from offering workshops and helping to turn amazing ideas into reality through their services, the Hot Pop Factory team are true supporters of the Toronto creative community and are the first to cross the finish-line of our hearts. CreativeMornings Toronto would like to send a huge high-five to everyone at Hot Pop Factory for bringing our CMTO medals to life!

Photo by Yuli Scheidt (yulischeidt.com)

Are you a sucker for details? Do you love bringing people together to make events come to life?

CreativeMornings Toronto is looking an Event Day Coordinator to make sure that all of the details run smoothly for our monthly events.

The coordinator will work with our amazing team of volunteers, and will coordinate with food and beverage vendors, venues, photographers and videographers, to make sure that all the details are taken care of on event day. The coordinator will also be an integral part of the CMTO organizing committee.

Time commitment is roughly 15-20 hours per month, including two monthly committee meetings. We are looking for a year long commitment.

If you’re interested in joining the CMTO team, send us a little bit about yourself, along with answers to the following questions: 1) What interests you about being involved with CMTO?

2) What do you like about putting events together, and what experience do you have with event and volunteer coordination? Please send your application to toronto@creativemornings.com with subject line Coordinator by February 6th. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Please note: for this position, you must be able to attend monthly CMTO events, these will be held one Friday morning a month, and volunteers are there from 7:30 am - 10:30 am.

CreativeMornings: Your Stories

After three years, 33 events, and over 6000 attendees, we’ve been reflecting lately on the connections, collaborations and creative projects the CreativeMornings/Toronto community has pursued together.

We reached out to the community recently to hear what has transpired in your creative career as a result of a CreativeMornings event. If you have a story to share, get in touch with us at toronto@creativemornings.com.

To start us off is CMTO 14 speaker Dave Meslin, who reflects on his CreativeMornings talk:

"I had a great time speaking at CreativeMornings last year, but the traditional ‘speaker at a podium talking an audience’ is kind of disempowering for everyone, because it creates a hierarchy where one person has the mic, and the others are passive. So the part of CreativeMornings that I’m really excited about, is the part that begins as soon as the microphones are turned off: the collaborations that are conceived through the networking capacity of the event. You could call these projects the "offspring" of CreativeMornings. It’s been great to be a part of one of these offsprings, and the organizers of CreativeMornings should take pride in knowing that they created a space for that to happen".

Regular attendee Jay Wall took Dave up on his offer, and shared what happened next:

At a CreativeMornings Toronto talk back in January 2013, my ears perked up. Dave Meslin was speaking about the role of visual communication in fostering civic engagement. As the creative director of a social impact graphic design studio, I felt that Dave was speaking my language – about something that I’d never really noticed: public notices.

I knew about Dave’s track record of non-partisan community activism and I’d even read his work, but CreativeMornings was my first time hearing him speak in person. Dave talked about the need for creativity in the way governments engage citizens. Specifically, he showed examples of public notices – you know, those typically black and white “development proposal” ads and signs that often fail to engage citizens in making decisions about their cities.

In 2012, Dave established the "Dazzling Notice Awards" to recognize municipal governments who are raising the bar and re-designing their public notices to better “dazzle” and engage the public. At that point, the awards were still a small, fledgling project. That day at CreativeMornings, Dave extended an invitation to the audience. He asked that if anyone was interested in being a part of the project, to speak with him after the talk. So I did.

I told Dave why his talk had resonated with me. Although I hadn’t really thought about public notices before – perhaps because of their very invisibility – I saw the potential for design and visual communication to make an impact and to make an important civic process more accessible. Dave was game to have more hands on deck. And with that, my company STUDIO JAYWALL came on board as the design partner of the Dazzling Notice Awards.

Over the last two years, Dave and I have worked together to create an identity and website for the awards and to scale the project with a Canada-wide call for entries and a national jury panel. Along the way, Spacing and the U of T Cities Centre have joined us as partners.

We’re thrilled to present the 2014 Dazzling Notice Awards, December 17th at Toronto City Hall. This year, we are recognizing six Canadian municipalities who are actively encouraging public engagement through their notices.

Looking back on that first morning when I heard Dave speak, I’m filled with gratitude for the way CMTO sparked this collaboration and ultimately contributed to building a more democratic city and country. My Toronto friends, you continue to inspire me. Thank you.

–Jay Wall, Creative Director/Designer, STUDIO JAYWALL

We hope that CreativeMornings has had an impact on you. We’d love to hear your story.

Kyle Baptista, Organizer

CreativeMornings: Your Stories

After three years, 33 events, and over 6000 attendees, we’ve been reflecting lately on the connections, collaborations and creative projects the CreativeMornings/Toronto community has pursued together.

We reached out to the community recently to hear what has transpired in your creative career as a result of a CreativeMornings event. If you have a story to share, get in touch with us at toronto@creativemornings.com.

To start us off is CMTO 14 speaker Dave Meslin, who reflects on his CreativeMornings talk:

"I had a great time speaking at CreativeMornings last year, but the traditional ‘speaker at a podium talking an audience’ is kind of disempowering for everyone, because it creates a hierarchy where one person has the mic, and the others are passive. So the part of CreativeMornings that I’m really excited about, is the part that begins as soon as the microphones are turned off: the collaborations that are conceived through the networking capacity of the event. You could call these projects the "offspring" of CreativeMornings. It’s been great to be a part of one of these offsprings, and the organizers of CreativeMornings should take pride in knowing that they created a space for that to happen."

Regular attendee Jay Wall took Dave up on his offer, and shared what happened next:

"At a CreativeMornings Toronto talk back in January 2013, my ears perked up. Dave Meslin was speaking about the role of visual communication in fostering civic engagement. As the creative director of a social impact graphic design studio, I felt that Dave was speaking my language – about something that I’d never really noticed: public notices.

"I knew about Dave’s track record of non-partisan community activism and I’d even read his work, but CreativeMornings was my first time hearing him speak in person. Dave talked about the need for creativity in the way governments engage citizens. Specifically, he showed examples of public notices – you know, those typically black and white “development proposal” ads and signs that often fail to engage citizens in making decisions about their cities.

"In 2012, Dave established the "Dazzling Notice Awards" to recognize municipal governments who are raising the bar and re-designing their public notices to better “dazzle” and engage the public. At that point, the awards were still a small, fledgling project. That day at CreativeMornings, Dave extended an invitation to the audience. He asked that if anyone was interested in being a part of the project, to speak with him after the talk. So I did.

"I told Dave why his talk had resonated with me. Although I hadn’t really thought about public notices before – perhaps because of their very invisibility – I saw the potential for design and visual communication to make an impact and to make an important civic process more accessible. Dave was game to have more hands on deck. And with that, my company STUDIO JAYWALL came on board as the design partner of the Dazzling Notice Awards.

"Over the last two years, Dave and I have worked together to create an identity and website for the awards and to scale the project with a Canada-wide call for entries and a national jury panel. Along the way, Spacing and the U of T Cities Centre have joined us as partners.

"We’re thrilled to present the 2014 Dazzling Notice Awards, December 17th at Toronto City Hall. This year, we are recognizing six Canadian municipalities who are actively encouraging public engagement through their notices.

"Looking back on that first morning when I heard Dave speak, I’m filled with gratitude for the way CMTO sparked this collaboration and ultimately contributed to building a more democratic city and country. My Toronto friends, you continue to inspire me. Thank you."

–Jay Wall, Creative Director/Designer, STUDIO JAYWALL

We hope that CreativeMornings has had an impact on you. We’d love to hear your story.

Kyle Baptista, Organizer

The 2014 Awards Ceremony is Wednesday December 17th, 1pm at Toronto City Hall Committee Room #1 100 Queen St. W. The awards are co-hosted by Josh Matlow, CMTO 14 speaker Dave Meslin, CMTO 32 speaker Matthew Blackett and Jay Wall. Click for more details.

(photos by Bekka Palmer and Ace Boothby)

If you follow CreativeMornings Toronto on social media, a few weeks ago you probably noticed that several of our team’s members were in NYC attending the first ever CreativeMornings Global Summit.

The purpose of the Summit was for CM organizing committees from around the world to finally meet face to face, and talk about their experiences, their triumphs, and their failures. When I registered to attend the Summit, I knew that it would be a memorable experience. I knew that it would be fun and educational. I knew that I would come away knowing more about organizing CreativeMornings events than I had in the past.

But when I touched down in New York, I was not prepared for the overwhelming outpouring of love, generosity and emotion that would come in the days to follow. I will not go into specifics, and will instead encourage you to take a look at Flickr (also albums 2, 3, and 4), and #CMSUMMIT14 on Instagram and Twitter to view some of the details. What I will write about here is the same message that myself, Kyle and Christina all took away from this experience. And that is that we are not alone.

I know that we mention every month that there are new chapters starting in different cities, but what don’t always mention is how being a part of CreativeMornings along with these chapters makes us part of a huge global family. Every month as you’re getting up early to head to CMTO, there is someone else in another city somewhere on Earth who also set their alarm clock an hour ahead, and will fill out an icebreaker nametag, and grab a coffee, and hear a great talk and be inspired and meet someone new in their community.

So the biggest lesson to come out of the Summit is that wherever your travels may take you, if there is a CreativeMornings chapter, you already have a built-in community waiting there for you.

What adds to this magic even more is the fact that all of these chapters around the world are run exclusively by volunteers. This means that there are HUNDREDS of volunteers worldwide working to make CM events special and magical, and working to build accessible, ego-free, creative communities in their cities.

On that note, we encourage you to reach out when you travel, and if you’re not travelling, check out some of the amazing talks happening in other cities every month on the CreativeMornings website.

And to give you a little taste of what the Summit was like, and the feeling of warmth and fuzziness we got from attending, we’ll leave you with the CM Summit summary video. Thank-you all for being a part of the CMTO and global CreativeMornings community. We couldn’t do it without you.

CreativeMornings Summit 2014 from Bas Berkhout on Vimeo.

-Altaira Northe

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