About Community Development

We collaborate with and support residents, community agencies and grass-roots groups to strengthen neighbourhoods and, together, build resident-led solutions that create positive change in Regent Park and York South-Weston.

Location: 310 Gerrard St. E., Toronto

Call us at 416-929-9614 or email to get involved in a community initiative.

toronto community development & volunteer opportunities

Empowering communities

We believe that the community holds the knowledge and skills needed to create the changes in their neighbourhoods. YSM supports, empowers and connects residents to resources to reach their goals.

Our Community Development team works directly with neighbourhood residents to support them to build and implement their own ideas for change in the community. We also work to create and support collaboration and partnership opportunities with other groups, such as partner organizations and grassroots groups.

Our team and approach is: 

  • Collaborative: We work with  individuals, neighbourhood residents, youth and other organizations – combining our resources and strengths to create long-lasting positive change in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas.
  • Comprehensive: We support diverse groups of individuals, youth, women, organizations and institutions, from wealth creation, anti-bullying and poverty reduction strategy groups.
  • Cohesive: We work from a holistic strategy to bring groups of people together in order to build stronger networks, initiatives and projects and, ultimately, create sustainable change.

We practice Asset Based Community Development:

  • We intentionally look for existing strengths and potential in the communities where we work.
  • We recognize the community is the expert and approach them ready to learn from  the community members’ lived experiences.
  • We believe in the power of intentionally building connections between diverse groups of people to collectively build a stronger community. 

How we do it

We use our EXCEL model: 

  • We Engage with community members and partners to build and establish meaningful relationships. 
  • Then Explore opportunities of collaboration to support initiatives and ideas building stronger communities.
  • We create opportunities to Convene with diverse groups and community members who share a common vision.
  • We Equip the community to build on existing skills and assets and help them gain access to external resources.
  • Independent and sustainable projects are then Launched to continue work that leads to transformative change in their communities. 

Current Initiatives

Community Led-Initiatives supported by YSM:

The Woman’s Development Network (WDN) us a community-led group focused on building peer-support, skill development and social enterprise opportunities for women in the community.

WDN Initiatives:

  1. WDN Regent Park Women’s Sewing Group   
  2. WDN Innovation Jewellery Group   
  3. WDN Taste of Four Seasons Catering Collective   
  4. WDN Sister-to-Sister Beauty Group
  5. WDN Computer Class   
  6. WDN Childminding Training Group   
  7. WDN Cooking Group   
  8. WDN  Basic Sewing Class   
  9. WDN Gardening Group   
  10. WDN English Conversation Class

Community members advocate to end poverty in Toronto by participating in policy conversations at various levels of government and creating opportunities for community input.

Community advocacy to ensure all families in Regent Park have equitable access to recreational spaces.

Youth-led (12-18 years old) group focused on building skills and leadership for youth in the community to combat bullying and victimization.

This Social Development Plan (SDP) group works to bring residents and community groups of Regent Park together. In a vibrant, active, mixed income neighbourhood with market-rate and social housing residents, as well as many other social and economic differences, this group focuses on building a strong unified community. 

This Social Development Plan (SDP) group is making information about community policies, resources, events and programs easily accessible for everyone in the neighbourhood.

This Social Development Plan (SDP) group is working to increase sustainable employment rates and entrepreneurial opportunities for local residents.

This Social Development Plan (SDP) group is working to make Regent Park a safe space for everyone and to improve the public’s image of this neighbourhood.

To provide accessible resident-driven opportunities for neighbours to gather, learn and support each other in responding to Islamophobia in Regent Park and surrounding communities.

Partnerships and Collaborative Projects

Works in collaboration with local not-for-profit stakeholders to develop services for an evolving neighbourhood transformation strategy.

6 local agencies working toward systemic change for youth in conflict with the law by providing support, direction and leadership to strengthen the quality of services.

Collaborates to provide agency support to the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association (RPNA) by building strong partnerships and assisting with resource identification.

A multi-agency project working to offer holistic community wraparound support to Regent Park immigrant families who live below the Low Income Measure and face barriers to achieving employability and improve job readiness and job retention.

A project under Regent Park Neighbourhood Association (RPNA) Advocacy group, the Coalition’s purpose is to improve the request for proposal process for better community benefits and increase transparency for phase 4 & 5 of the Regent Park revitalization.

Supports partnerships with residents, businesses and agencies to invest in people, services, programs, and facilities in the neighbourhood improvement areas of Weston, Mount Dennis, Beechborough-Greenbrook, and Keelesdale-Eglinton West.

Organizations and Agencies coordinate and build partnerships to support the Weston and Mount Dennis communities.

Is a non-political group who work to strengthen community belonging, influence changes in physical space, advocate on behalf of residents, and monitor what is happening in the neighbourhood of Mount Dennis.

A community collective who supports economic and employment opportunities by focusing on creating local jobs, supporting business development, establishing pathways to employment, and influencing policy change and community advocacy.

Creating collaborative non-partisan civic engagement opportunities with and for the community.

Youth Empower Youth is a youth led research project that seeks to bridge programming with youth in Regent Park, as well as understand what programming youth feel are missing/necessary in the community.

This Social Development Plan (SDP) group works with funders, agencies, local political representatives and resident groups of the SDP to identify, develop and secure funds and resources related to the Regent Park Social Development Plan

This Social Development Plan (SDP) Committee makes recommendations to the SDP Stakeholders Table on strategic direction and action priorities, inter-committee alignment, coordination, stakeholder and resident engagement by:

  • Supporting the SDP Stakeholder Table to ensure that the meetings are effective
  • Supporting the 4 workgroups to be prepared to report at the SDP Stakeholder Table meetings
  • Address requirements and/or requests that need a quick response
  • Identifying information and/or expertise that Stakeholders require in order to make sound and informed decisions
  • Developing facilitation approaches that increase the capacity of all stakeholders to engage in discussion and decision-making

This Social Development Plan (SDP) is responsible for overseeing and implementing the SDP evaluation framework and process, including benchmarks and indicators, with the purpose to measure and monitor the success of the Regent Park SDP.


In 2005, the City of Toronto began the Regent Park Revitalization Project to rebuild housing, support a vibrant community and create enjoyable spaces in the neighbourhood. A part of the early development was the Regent Park Aquatic Centre, offering recreational activities and classes.

However, registration is mostly online and has proved to be a challenge for many in Regent Park who have slower internet, fewer devices or language barriers – and were often left without spaces for themselves or their children.

YSM’s Community Development team brought these parents – mostly mothers – together to start developing a solution, and a way to create space for their community.

With passion and skills from Regent Park mothers and the support of YSM, the Access to Recreation group came into being.

YSM provides black community services in Toronto Regent Park

The group secured a grant and hired Ismail. He drafted a proposal that the city’s Parks, Forestry, and Recreation and local schools partner to send children to swim classes during school hours. Soon, the group garnered support from City Councillor Wong-Tam and the Economic and Community Development Committee.

After a long, grueling day where City Council initially rejected a key proposal, things turned around when members of the community arrived showing their support and one of the mothers was able to share her child’s story with Mayor Tory.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Ismail, “Victory tasted so sweet!”

In the year since the approval, 400 kids from Regent Park have accessed the pool through the program.  

There is still more work to be done. Ismail continues to work with the group on proposals aimed at changing policy; including adding the school partnership to the regular city budget, and making the registration process equitable across all social and economic backgrounds.