How can you see or measure impact? Four shining examples from 2023 illustrate how donors’ support of the Innovation Fund has led to life-changing experiences for U of T students and community members at Hart House.

The Hart House Innovation Fund, featured in the 2023 University of Toronto Giving Day, was created as part of the House’s 100th Anniversary in 2019. It is vital in helping the House continue to develop innovative programming.

Donors play an important role. “Through this fund, hundreds of donors have helped the House offer deep, life-changing experiences. For over 100 years, Hart House has been helping students find their place in communities that sustain them, often for a lifetime,” says Peter Wambera, Associate Director of Advancement. “It’s critical that the House meet the needs of the current generation … and that’s exactly what this fund does.”  

The Fund also allows the House to connect with more individuals from underrepresented populations who might not assume there’s a place for them at Hart House.    

Spotlight on Four Initiatives Supported by the Innovation Fund



The Brotherhood of Ethnic Excellence (BEE) youth advisory program, part of Community Access & Outreach, is a stellar example of the impact of the Innovation Fund. In partnership with several Toronto District School Board high schools, BEE provides transformative learning, leadership skill development and mentorship for Black male-identifying students in Grades 9 to 12.

BEE cave walk at Hart House Farm

In 2023, BEE worked with Oakwood Collegiate Institute and Central Technical School, and hosted several events including a trip to the Hart House Farm.

Hart House student staff testimonials speak to BEE’s impact:

  • “Being part of BEE brought me into a community of Black men who genuinely want to see the next generation of Black youth thrive. Every staff member was so inspiring, and dedicated to doing what was best for youth.”
  • “I can wholeheartedly say that this program played an integral role in helping me confront the challenges and intricacies of being a Black man – but more importantly helped me feel confident that the challenges and obstacles, though present, are not roadblocks.”
  • “BEE was successful because of the community aspect. As we built relationships, we empowered the youth to be the best versions of themselves.”

Hart House Black Futures Barbershop

Another example of impact is from Hart House Black Futures, a series of programs using the lens of Afrofuturism to explore and present arts, dialogue and well-being. Part of Black Futures, the Barbershop drop-in was bi-weekly services running from September to November for Afro-textured hair. Barbershop was also part of the Black Hair Fair that took place during Orientation Week at U of T, in partnership with the Black Hub.

Barbershop offered bi-weekly services for Afro-textured hair.

Hosted in the Hart House Map Room, with campus and community partners, including the Village Barbershop, the National Society of Black Engineers: U of T Chapter, University of Toronto Students’ Union, Black Students’ Association and Black Student Engagement, Barbershop offered services from fresh trims and healthy tresses to fly beats, eats and comfy seats.

Community Connector, Hip Hop Education, marcus singleton, aka iomos marad, was the special guest host. “I love building community,” he said. “Engaging with people, being in conversation with them. How’re you doing? How’re you feeling? I like getting to know people and what they're going through. As human beings, we need that interaction. Hart House is about connecting communities and connecting students.”

Hip Hop’s 50th Birthday

Another example of the impact is the special programming around Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary. This autumn, Hip Hop was applauded in a series of events at Hart House, York University and Toronto Metropolitan University.  In fact, Hip Hop’s 50th birthday party, “We Do It for the Culture: A Hip Hop at 50 Event Series,” spanned months. From September to December (November being Hip Hop History Month), Hart House co-presented a novel, multi-part series with The Urban at York University and Roots Rhymes Collective.

Hip Hop at 50

The series acknowledged Hip Hop’s influence and contributions to culture, education and pedagogy, business and branding, and the collection of oral and archival histories. Marco Adamović, Learning and Community coordinator, elaborated: “The series focused on how Hip Hop culture began as a trans-local phenomenon and has since become a global expression of culture, social activism, commerce, community building and storytelling.”

Marco was part of the organizing team, which also included marcus singleton, aka iomos marad; Dr. Francesca D’Amico-Cuthbert, Hip Hop educator and program associate at Hart House; Dr. Rhonda C. George, postdoctoral researcher, McMaster University; Michele Geister, creator and producer of MuchMusic’s RapCity; and Jeff ‘Spade’ Duke, owner of Treehouse Records.

Maamawi: Tattoo Gathering 2023

A partnered event on October 20, Maamawi: Tattoo Gathering 2023, is another example of impact. The event was open to the public, but the primary audience for the tattoos was Indigenous youth 18 to 29 years of age. Three hundred people attended the event and 110+ Indigenous students and youth community members received tattoos. 

Getting a tattoo in the Great Hall. Photo credit: Matthew Volpe

“This gathering is about love, healing and connection,” said Justin Moore, supervisor, Youth Engagement at the Native Youth Resource Centre, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. He worked with Hart House and First Nations House, planning this event. 

“Maamawi is an Anishinaabeg word that means together. That’s the spirit of the event,” he explained. “It's about bringing community together to honour our ancestors and our traditional practices. It's also about providing opportunity for our youth to practice ceremony and to hold space for healing.”

Justin described what made this event so special. “When we gather tattoo artists from across the city, across the province and across Turtle Island, we provide the youth with a unique opportunity to access culture in a way that maybe they don't have readily available to them.”

Stay tuned for more news about programs, events and offerings stemming from the Innovation Fund.

For more information on how you can support Hart House, contact Peter Wambera, 416.946.3993