Seeing is Believing: Toronto CEOs and a challenge from Prince Charles

Lots of press releases flood into my inbox. Most get a cursory glance before being deleted. So when one titled,  “Toronto CEOS take up Prince of Wales’s Challenge” I was curious about what businessmen in Toronto had to do with a future monarch and his royal challenge. It turns out that Gay Mitchell, deputy chair of RBC Wealth Management, is leading a group of business leaders to cultural and artistic centres in Regent Park (the spectacular new hub Daniels Spectrum) and Queen Street West (Sketch, which focuses on street-involved and homeless youth) in the city to see first-hand how those organizations are creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities. And how the business leaders can help.

It’s part of a two-decade-old Seeing is Believing program, founded by the Prince of Wales.  “The program was born from a simple but powerful idea—to close the gap between the boardroom and the community,” noted Amanda Sherrington, the CEO of the Prince’s Charities Canada. The release went on to explain that during the day “the CEOs will be immersed in activities with Regent Park tenants and young artists and learn about the problems they face. At the end of the day CEOs work with each other to come up with tangible solutions and then drive their implementation.”

The concept is elegantly simple: “CEOs solve problems for a living,” explained Mitchell. “This program taps those skills and puts them to work in support of the community.” This isn’t the first time such a visit day has been arranged. Previous ones led to internships and jobs initiatives.

If this sounds a bit airy-fairy, then consider that his oldest and largest charity, the Prince’s Trust, is now Britain’s largest youth trust with a solid reputation for getting young people into the workforce. Since it started in 1976, it focuses on those aged 13 to 30 who are struggling in school or unemployed and helping them get into work, education or training through loans and mentorship. For those wanting to create a small business, there’s even a start-up guide to that.

It’s helped more than 750,000 youth in the last 37 years. It will be interesting to see what Seeing is Believing can do in Toronto.