Discover what is on this week in the Boma Global Studio
Mar 23, 2020

Boma COVID-19 Summit

Session 5: Canada — Making Smart Decisions in Turbulent Times

Making Smart Decisions in Turbulent Times

Understanding the choices from many perspectives: three roundtable discussions

  • Separating fact from myth in a fast-moving pandemic
  • Debating the tradeoffs between autonomy and safety
  • Acting to cushion the global shock

Expert panelists:

  • Dr. Duncan Rozario, medical director of the Oakville Virtual Care Program, Oakville, Canada

  • Steve Joordens, professor of psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

  • Julia Hanigsberg, CEO of Holland Bloorview Hospital, Toronto, Canada

  • Amanda Munday, founder of The Workaround, a parent-friendly co-working space, Toronto, Canada

  • Zabeen Hirji, executive advisor, Future of Work, Deloitte, Toronto, Canada

  • Karen Pastakia, lead human capital practice, Deloitte, Toronto, Canada

  • Ryan Merkley, chief of staff of Wikimedia, Toronto, Canada

  • Peter Faist, CEO of Staffy, a restaurant hiring app, Toronto, Canada

  • James Partridge, director of credit analytics, Moody's Analytics, Toronto, Canada

  • Harry Moseley, CIO of Zoom Video Communications, New York, USA

  • Janelle Hinds, founder, Helping Hands, an app to connect students with volunteer organizations, Toronto, Canada

  • Jon Shell, managing director, Social Capital Partners, Toronto, Canada

  • Kevin Johnson, CEO, MediaCom Canada, Toronto, Canada

  • Aneil Gokhale, director of philanthropy, Toronto Foundation

Moderator: Jessica Weisz and Dan Jacob, founders of Boma Canada

Live from: Toronto, Canada
Start time: 8:00 a.m. local time

Watch the free livestream here. Have a question for our speakers? Post it on Facebook. We’ll be answering questions live. Want to participate in a public discussion? Use #BomaCovid19 to engage and follow along.


8:00 a.m.

Jess Weisz and Dan Jacob open the session for Boma Canada. The key for this session is diversity - rarely will you see all these views gathered in one place, talking and reacting to each other. The format will be a digital roundtable. Ground rules: Let's go beyond the headlines and offer each other candor. Please voice dissent. The roundtable begins by defining some of the problems we face during this pandemic.


8:24 a.m.

Steve Joordens, professor of psychology, at the University of Toronto is focusing primarily on mental health:

"Yesterday there were people who believed in anxiety disorders and people who didn't. Now we're all feeling anxiety."


8:27 a.m.

Aneil Gokhale, director of philanthropy at the Toronto Foundation, pointed out that "to have this conversation is a privilege" and many people cannot work from home or take measures to secure their livelihoods and families at this time: "There are real consequences to communities that are struggling already."

Amanda Munday, a small business owner, shares her predicament starkly by explaining "I was effectively fired when the government ordered child-care centers to close. I went from a full calendar to no revenue."


8:40 a.m.

Our moderator, Dan shifts the conversation towards the tradeoffs individuals, governments, and businesses will be making as we combat COVID-19.

Ryan Merkley, chief of staff at Wikimedia, shares that they have reduced work for their employees to 50% while leaving salaries at 100% to acknowledge that everyone is suddenly called upon to do more at home and in their community: "If you can do less, then try to do less."

Janelle Hinds, founder of the app Helping Hands, describes her trade-off with the question: "Do you focus on helping people now, or focus on your sustainability?"


8:48 a.m.

Jon Shell, managing director at Social Capital Partners, points out the tradeoffs being made in Denmark to combat the novel coronavirus.

He also cautions that at the end of this crisis, we will need to protect deeply effected small and medium sized businesses from larger predatory entities, in order to keep them. Or else it could "play out to even greater inequality when we come out of this."


8:56 a.m.

Harry Moseley, CIO of Zoom, brings us back to some of the positives he's seeing around the world - from groups of local restaurants forming a subscription service and delivering meals, to creative ways of bringing people together for weddings and birthdays through technology.

In the same vein, Kevin Johnson, CEO of MediaCom Canada says, "Great organizations are standing up for purpose and turning away from profit."


9:03 a.m.

As the conversation turns to solutions, Jon Shell warns against the dangers of seeking balance in media coverage of the crisis: Small kindnesses are important, but do not counterbalance the severity of the global situation we find ourselves in.

He believes a central question should be: "How do we organize our social safety nets across countries so that we no longer incentivize companies to play countries against each other?"


9:08 a. m.

Karen Pastakia, lead human capital practice for Deloitte, feels that one of the groups not being supported or considered properly during this crisis is middle-management: "It's probably the segment of the workforce experiencing the most stress right now: mid-career, with small children or teenagers at home. Solutions need to focus on how we build leadership and resiliency [for them]".


9:16 a. m.

As we come into the last section of this session, participants are asked to share their calls to action.

On a personal note, Kevin Johnson asks that we "avoid silo-ism", calling on the education, communication tech, and mental health sectors to come together and provide strong solutions for educating children at home.

Steve Joordens warns that the collective anxiety we're feeling right now may turn towards depression - and that where anxiety calls for action, depression does not. "We have to honor that 'do something'" impulse and remember: "Staying at home is not hiding away."

Professor Joordens will have a free course on Coursera available later this week on mental health and hygiene.


9:25 a.m.

Julia Hanigsberg, CEO of Holland Bloorview Hospital, says that, "For a while now, our government has been promoting entrepreneurship - this is where the rubber hits the road on this." and "We need a safety net for entrepreneurs."

As the CEO of a hospital, she also continues to urge everyone: "Please, stay home."

Zabeen Hirji, executive advisor at Future of Work, Deloitte, says this is inflection point for mainstreaming mental health care in large organizations.


9:36 a.m.

Dr. Duncan Rozario, medical director of the Oakville Virtual Care Program, hopes that we can reframe the now common term social distancing, since what we need now is "social closeness and physical distancing."


9:38 a.m.

More takeaways:

Peter Faist, CEO of Staffy, says he sees his role as putting in "Unrelenting effort to change and effect people's lives in a positive way."

Aneil Gokhale urges those considering the decline in markets as an opportunity to look at investing in their communities first, while Janelle Hinds hopes that those with great privilege are also willing to make great sacrifices.


9:46 a.m.

Jess and Dan introduce several people solving problems for people now.

Zahra Ebrahim is working on an app which is a collaborative effort in the greater Toronto area to connect users with support (monetary, mental health, or errands), free activities online, and actions they can take.

Ricky Mehra is working to connect the Canadian government with reliable medical suppliers in Asia. He's also integrating learnings from apps used in South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan to combat COVID-19 to create a similar app for Canada.

Diana Weir of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is working to bring live virtual concerts to her patrons, after all the orchestra's concerts have been canceled. Her goal is "creating touching, relevant and empathetic content."



Jess and Dan wrap up the Boma Canada session of our COVID-19 Summit.

Jess encourages everyone to "Connect when you can, virtually. Call your neighbour. Call people you haven't called before." and shares our survey - which will help connect you to local actions and solutions related to the pandemic.


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