The New Tribalism (Because It’s 2016)

Many of you may have wondered about the theme of Our New Tribalism for #Spur16. I know I did. I remember asking myself “what is the definition of a tribe?” and whether it is what distinguishes us from one another.

Is it by the colour of our skin? Perhaps it’s the deity or higher power that we look to for guidance, or any other countless way that we are different from one another. This is what Ben Rawlence identified as the “politicization of differences.”

Both he and Irshad Manji discussed at the Opening Event: Our New Tribalism how tribalism can be used to divide us. As humans, we are social creatures who just want to belong. We want to be a part of something and “identity is a shortcut to belonging” says Irshad Manji.

This identity can be defined by any of the factors that I had mentioned earlier like race or even how we dress. These are easy ways to distinguish us from one another, but what’s easiest is not always what’s best.

The 2016 Tribalism

Like having the courage to say what is right rather than what is popular, the new, better tribalism is not about what separates us, but rather what brings us together. The new tribalism is one where people are united by a cause and led by shared values.

I saw this new tribalism in action just a month ago at the launch of a residents association that I helped to found in Toronto’s Southcore neighbourhood, an area that, while old and established in geography, is new in identity. Located south of the Financial District, it is a community that is experiencing significant change and development.

In this vibrant neighbourhood, I have the privilege and responsibility of leading one of the vertical communities as president of the condominium corporation. It was during a joint meeting with my community over shared amenities that we found common cause in the need for a united voice on changes in our neighbourhood.

For example, in early 2015 Toronto City Council quietly approved a proposal to widen Harbour Street and make it two-way, taking away our beautiful green canopy that adds rare and much-needed greenery to our concrete jungle. This was the result of a plan to allow as much as fifteen levels of underground parking—that’s right, fifteen with a one and a five!—at the proposed One Yonge development with towers as high as 96 storeys. Some of my residents are concerned that they won’t be able to see the sun! The sun!

My New Tribe

(One more time) THE SUN! Individually, we felt helpless but together, via the Southcore Community Association, we are a sizable tribe. Collectively, our vertical communities are home to over 2,500 Torontonians. To our political representatives, our tribe is home to 2,500 potential votes.

And this tribe? It is one driven by our cause to have our voice heard. We want to have a say in what is going on in the community because we live here—it is our community! Our tribe is defined by our shared values for building a livable and welcoming neighbourhood, and a strong desire to give back.

This is our Southcore tribe.

This is my tribe.


Kevin is a connector, city-builder, and military officer working to build a stronger, more resilient and prosperous Canada through social innovation and cross-sectoral collaboration.

As Head of Municipal Partnerships at Magnet, Kevin is building cross-sectoral partnerships across Canada to combat unemployment and underemployment among individuals facing barriers connecting to jobs. He is also a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow, former banker, and a naval intelligence officer active in city-building.

In Toronto, Kevin serves as Co-Chair of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, the Steering Committee for Poverty Reduction TO, and other city committees and community boards. He also sits on the University of Western Ontario, his alma mater, Council of Presidents as Chairman of the Dan Management Advisory Council.

Named Canada’s Top Under 30 Pan-Asian leader in 2014 and a 2015 RBC Emerging Scholar, Kevin has represented Canada at the 2010 G8 and G20 Summits, the 2013 G20 Summit and a trade mission to the Asian Pacific. Most recently, he was awarded a Harvard Kennedy School of Government fellowship and selected to take part in their Emerging Leaders program in the summer of 2016.

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