I heard about David Pecaut in a CanStage Visionaries meeting this morning at the Verity Club hosted by Jill Black. Both Jill and David are people who are facilitating a different shape to Toronto’s cultural, social, economic, and political landscape.
Here are a couple of excerpts from the Toronto Life article about David Pecaut regarding his thought and vision about urban living in Toronto:
He majored in sociology, and among his superstar professors was sociologist Mark Granovetter, who wrote the influential paper “The Strength of Weak Ties.” His theory, which now sounds obvious, was that our family and close friends aren’t nearly as important in our education and careers as a wider and looser group of acquaintances (hello networking).
As subsequent urban theorists, including Richard Florida, author of the acclaimed Rise of the Creative Class, would confirm, so-called “weak ties”—who you know and can call on for expertise—are what animate vibrant cities in our fast-changing world, an idea Pecaut would embrace when he built the Summit Alliance. He thinks these networks are crucially underdeveloped in Toronto—“one of the deep core problems in our community”—probably because Toronto is an immigrant-intensive city and “there are not many people who move effortlessly among communities.”
David Pecaut believes in two things: Toronto, and the importance of civil society, in which people of goodwill come together to solve a city’s problems. Other cities, he says, already have (for better or worse) established identities, but Toronto, because of its diversity, “has its best years ahead of it.” (David Crombie says that when people ask him, “What was Toronto’s golden age of culture?” he replies, “Now.”) Virtually everyone who has worked with Pecaut on civic projects points to his “American-style” optimism, but Crombie has a more thoughtful theory: “Toronto is the America of David’s dreams.” While Americans have been better at creative urban thinking than Canadians, says Crombie, “we Canadians have been historically better at implementing it.”