The decade that Adil Dhalla lived with his family in Leaside prepared him well for his current work as a civic entrepreneur and community organizer with the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Toronto.
Dhalla currently acts as the director of culture for the not-for-profit, providing space, services and programs to more than 2,000 social organizations each year, whose mission is to foster communication and cooperation among individuals and groups to improve local communities. CSI (known as CSIx in Toronto) has four locations in Toronto and one in New York City.
Of his personal background, Dhalla says, “Leaside is like a small village in the midst of a large city. You can walk along the streets and people acknowledge you. They say hello. People matter and are important. They put signs on their lawns asking motorists to slow down. People get involved and feel part of something bigger than themselves. It puts a human face on the city. That’s what I hope to be able to create at CSI – the idea that everyone has a role to work together to create better communities.”
In his role, Dhalla is responsible for 40 staff members at the four locations in the city plus the work and input of more than 100 volunteers. “It is one of the most successful social enterprises in Canada for having a positive impact on the communities in which it operates,” Dhalla says. “My time in Leaside really helped me understand and experience a human, caring community. I hope to be able to pass that on to other communities through my work now and in the future.”
When not promoting CSI’s interests, Dhalla finds time to indulge his passion of cycling. He rides his bicycle to and from work most days of the week and is an avid supporter of Cycle Toronto and Bike Month, which runs for the month of June in Toronto and includes rides, guided bike tours through the city, festivals, art shows film screenings and more.
Plus he chairs the board of the StopGap Foundation, which focuses on raising awareness about barriers to mobility for the physically challenged and providing ramps to retail and business establishments.
Dhalla also co-founded and continues to chair Camp Reset, a not-for profit provider of summer camp for adults suffering from mental health and loneliness issues.
Before joining the centre, Dhalla worked as a community organizer in Brooklyn for the election campaign of former U.S. President Barack Obama. As he himself has said of his life to date, it’s been one hell of an adventure, and the adventures for this young man are bound to continue.