When the Toronto Community Foundation first started Toronto’s Vital Signs Report in 2001, an effort that now tracks hundreds of data indicators across 10 quality-of-life issue areas, the goal was to help the Foundation understand needs and opportunities in Toronto and to make informed choices about its grant making and programming.
Since then, however, Vital Signs has moved steadily from the edge of the Foundation’s work toward its core. The Foundation created the Vital Toronto Fund, which uses the Vital Signs Report as a blueprint for its funding decisions and allows the Foundation to make concentrated investments when the Report surfaces issues in the city.
Back in 2001, the Foundation didn’t necessarily know that the Vital Signs project would become so core to its business model. It wasn’t part of some centralized change strategy for the organization. Instead, the Foundation, in collaboration with a broad range of city leaders, saw a need, tried something new, and grew the initiative as it demonstrated potential. Vital Signs, which now reaches more than one million people in the Greater Toronto Area, is used by government officials to inform public policy and has been incorporated by local universities into curricula that reach more than 10,000 students.
In New Zealand, Acorn Foundation (Tauranga) and Momentum Foundation (Waikato) conducted the Vital Signs research through Waikato University and partnered successfully with philanthropic funders and local Councils to produce their reports.