2019 PRO Award of Excellence: HIGH FIVE Champion

City of Toronto

The City of Toronto is the largest municipality in Canada and fourth largest in North America, serving a diverse population of 2.8 million people. The City's Community Recreation Branch has over 9,300 staff delivering 65,000 programs annually across five Districts covering 630 square kilometres. In 2016, the Branch launched a dedicated project to implement the HIGH FIVE® Accreditation Standard across all children's recreation programs over a 2.5 year timespan.

The City worked tirelessly to gain the status of Accredited Organization using new and innovative methods to ensure adoption across its many districts, programs, and facilities. This represents the first time that HIGH FIVE accreditation has been implemented on such a large scale.

For this reason, it was clear that the project team needed to engage a number of new techniques to ensure the success of the process. The project team pursued a range of innovative implementation approaches including establishing an Innovation Fun Team of 31 management/supervisory staff to be change leaders in the field and creating HIGH FIVE promotional materials with a “Toronto” look and feel.

Given the size and complexity of the City’s Recreation branch, establishing and implementing consistent practices and operations was a massive undertaking. However, the HIGH FIVE® Standard allowed the City to bridge gaps between program areas, districts and the wide variability of program participant experiences across the city.

As a result of this process, public surveys have indicated that awareness of HIGH FIVE® and improvements in program quality have increased by 11% and 6% respectively, over a single year. This translates into tangible service delivery improvements for nearly 160,000 recreation program participants.

Toronto’s HIGH FIVE accreditation process had an impact far beyond the jurisdiction of the city. In undergoing its own accreditation process, the City produced a toolkit to chronicle the trajectory of the Project, including the challenges encountered, lessons learned and best practices to encourage other municipalities or organizations, big and small, to seek HIGH FIVE® Accreditation. This serves as an invaluable resource to HIGH FIVE Canada and will be a significant support for other organizations and communities seeking accreditation.