A Toronto Transformation

5-9: From Corporate Strategy to Empowering Homeless Youth

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

Scott jumps in Iceland

I met Scott a couple of years ago and instantly identified him as a kindred spirit. We quickly became close, I think because of our shared fascination with human behaviour, compatible senses of humour and the fact that we’re both extremely cool people who appreciate a nice gin and tonic.

Or maybe it was just because we lived really close to each other. Who can say?

Either way, what I’ve learned about Scott since I’ve known him is that he is a dedicated and hard worker, both in his 9-5 and outside of it, and is phenomenal at putting words into action in a way that I think a lot of people struggle with.

He is thoughtful and questioning, funny and weird and empathetic.  I admire him very much.

As well as being a dear friend, he is also someone who is lucky enough to really enjoy his day job, but it’s certainly not all he has going on and he has found an interesting balance between his work in a corporate business environment and his passion for social change: A perfect candidate to kick off the 5-9 series if ever I met one!

Apparently he was one step ahead of Emma and I in figuring out the importance of telling people about the things that inspire him rather than just relying on the old standby of his 9-5 as a tidy response. When asked the question, “What do you do?” he answers, “In my day job I work in Corporate Strategy for Rogers…but in my night job I volunteer for homeless youth shelter in Toronto.  I work a lot on a fundraising event I have started with my friends.”

The event in question is Tokens for Change, an innovative arts-based fundraiser benefitting homeless youth in Toronto, which Scott co-founded with a friend in 2011. Their organization works with Youth Without Shelter to collect ttc tokens and funds to help homeless youth living in shelters get to and from school and work.

The idea quickly took off thanks to Scott and his friends’ persistence. So much so that he says one of their biggest challenges has actually been the success of the initial project. “We have grown…from 200 to 400 volunteers.This required that we build an organization and have a lot of strong players on the team.  Finding other dedicated people has been a real challenge,” he says.

Fortunately, the rewards have been worth the work it takes to keep the organization running smoothly.

“The magic of this program is all the things we can’t measure,” Scott says. “The thousands of small moments of generosity and empathy that happened across the city; the bravery of a former resident of Youth Without Shelter who stood up to tell his story at our central rally; the hundreds of volunteers who gave their hearts and time to show they care; and the resilient youth at the shelter who count on this to make a change in their lives.”

With all of the things he pursues outside of his 9-5, Scott’s feelings about being asked the question, “what do you do?” are mixed.

“It is a polite conversational lob ball to get someone talking about something they know.  We have all rehearsed this one right?  But really it’s a bit of a cop out.  Is there nothing else you really want to know?” he explains.

“More often than not its used to delimitate you with stereotypes.  The best indicator of this is when there is no evidence of genuine curiosity to follow.  Asking what firm or branch does not count.”

Forced to choose between being remembered for his work with Tokens 4 Change and his other pursuits outside of his 9-5, Scott says he’d definitely choose T4C, though he is quick to add that his 9-5 has been instrumental in affording him many of the skills and contacts he has used to get his passion off the ground and make it a success.

“I think most people are pretty diverse and you can select information to make them almost anything. I am a pierced, tattooed, motorcycle rider who has a history of scrapping. I am a Co-founder of a charity and community mediator.  I am an MBA with a passion for profit, expensive suits and gin.  I guess the people who really know me care enough to hold a tension between these and lots of other contradictory facts,” he muses.

“If I had to pick, I would want people to form an opinion based on my openness.  I will share myself and I won’t judge you.  That’s a great foundation for a friendship, so I wish people knew that’s how I was thinking.”

This post is part of Metamorphocity’s 5-9 series featuring interviews with and work of people who pursue their passions outside of their 9-5 and who find creative ways to answer the question “What do you do?” is an effort to remind myself and any of you who need it, that we’re not defined by our 9-5s. Read about the inspiration for the series here

If you or someone you know is a great example of this, shoot me a message at metamorphocity@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about what you do in your 5-9!

5 Responses to 5-9: From Corporate Strategy to Empowering Homeless Youth

  • I am your newest reader. You had me at “gin and tonic”. And then I read your “about me”, and I am hooked. This post is great. I kind of hate that “what do you do”, is the first question people ask. If I had it my way, I would change that to “what makes you furiously angry”. You would get to know people a lot faster, I think. And anyway, what I “do” is dreadfully boring. What makes me really mad could get pretty interesting. You know? I’ll be back. As a reader, that is.

    • metamorphocity says:

      “What makes you furiously angry?” is an amazing question! You really can get so much insight from the answers to that. I’m stealing it for use at parties. Haha. It also actually made me laugh out loud.

      Thanks so much for your kind compliments!

  • Elly says:

    Aw man, what a GREAT idea! Such a better answer than the typical 9-5. High five! Definitely use this a an answer moving forward 🙂

    • metamorphocity says:

      Right!? There are so many more interesting things to know about most of us, than what we do to pay our bills!

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