Better Together: Building a Strong Region from Diverse Communities

Join us in Durham Region on June 19-20 for the 2023 Top 7 Intelligent Communities of the Year announcement. At the eastern edge of the Greater Toronto Area, there is a lot to discover here. You'll get caught up in our mix of urban excitement and country charm. Extend your visit to explore Durham Region!

After registering for the event, In-Person Attendees will receive instructions on how to book a room at the official conference hotel, Holiday Inn Express – Whitby, at a discounted rate of $159 + HST for June 18, 19, 20, 2023. This rate includes Wi-Fi, Breakfast and Parking.

Watch this video to learn more about Durham Region:


Conference Theme: Better Together – Building a Strong Region from Diverse Communities

The 1990s began what we might call the Digital Decades. Experts predicted that digital would give rise to a “flatter” economy – but they led instead to an epidemic of concentration: of people, money, innovation and economic growth clustering in big cities with famous names.

Today, that concentration seems to be easing. But it has rekindled interest in a proven strategy: a regional approach to development. Together, cities and towns can punch far above their individual weight to bring their people, companies and institutions new, inclusive prosperity and create dynamic economies open to the world.

At “Better Together,” you will see first-hand how eight cities, towns and rural communities on the outskirts of Toronto are welding their differences together into strengths through an Intelligent Community development program. Durham Region is working to build a dynamic regional economy that also contributes to and benefits from proximity to the Greater Toronto Area. It is activating economic assets including agriculture, automotive and clean energy. It is working to attract new innovators to an outstanding quality of life and to extend digital connectivity to all its businesses, organizations and people.

In this two-day hybrid conference, the Region will take you inside its developing story through tours of key sites in its municipalities. A daylong program will bring together economic developers, urban planners, IT experts and community leaders from many provinces and nations to share best practices in regional economic development, shared services and collaborative innovation. The day ends with announcement of ICF’s Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2023, finalists for the coveted Intelligent Community of the Year award to be presented in October in New York City.


What you will take away from the event?

  • Ideas for transformative change you can apply in your own community
  • New and renewed relationships with colleagues in government, business and academia that contribute to your own development efforts

And best practices for:

  • Applying the ICF Accelerator Strategy across a region made up of independent local governments
  • Defining a vision of the future in which local governments, companies and organizations benefit from acting together as a region
  • Developing and growing a regional identity for citizens and organizations
  • Creating a culture of respectful and productive collaboration across municipal boundaries
  • Managing the competing and sometimes conflicting interests of different communities
  • Engaging education and business as genuine partners in economic and community development

Who will attend?

Mayors, members of Council, CIOs and economic development officers from ICF’s global network of communities, and executives of their partners in technology, telecommunications and consulting.

Conference Agenda

Monday, June 19 - Durham Region Tour:

The June 19 Durham Region Tour will begin at 12:00pm at the official conference hotel. Additional registration is required, and space is limited. If you with to attend the tour and are unsure of your registration status, email Matthew Owen at [email protected]

Tour stops include:

Ontario Tech University

At Ontario Tech University delegates will visit two facilities – the Nursing Simulation Lab features human simulation mannequins that are programmed to train students on a wide variety of health conditions, and ACE – the university’s state of the art climatic and aerodynamic wind tunnel

Celebrating its 20th year, Ontario Tech University was named one of Canada’s Research Universities of the Year.

Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment Project (DNRP) & Darlington New Nuclear Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Project

Delegates will also visit OPG’s Darlington Nuclear site to learn about their industry-leading nuclear projects; the Darlington Refurbishment and Darlington New Nuclear Project. The visit, which will consist of two separate sessions including a walking tour and a drive, will not only provide perspective on the size and complexity of one of the world’s top performing nuclear power plants, but also an early glimpse of the foundation laying work being done to prepare for future nuclear construction. 

Note: additional information will be required of delegates to acquire necessary PPE.

Monday, June 19 - Welcome Reception

The Welcome Reception takes place at 1855 Whitby, Durham Region's first and only technology accelerator, from 5:30 to 7:30pm.

The Welcome Reception is open to all registered conference attendees, however, RSVP is required. Please email [email protected] to confirm your attendance by June 12.

Speakers include:

  • John Jung, Co-Founder, Intelligent Community Forum

Tuesday, June 20 - Conference Sessions:

The June 20 Daytime Conference Sessions take place at the W. Galen Weston Centre for Food at Durham College's Whitby Campus (1604 Champlain Ave, Whitby, ON L1N 9B2). Transportation to and from the campus will be provided from the official conference hotel.

9:15 a.m. - Registration and Badge Pick-up

9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. - Welcome & Introduction, Opening Remarks

10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. - What is an Intelligent Community?

A brief introduction to the ICF Community Accelerator Strategy, and use cases of successful projects that produced lasting changes for the better from Intelligent Communities of different sizes and shapes. Presented by Robert Bell, Co-Founder, Intelligent Community Forum

10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. - Panel 1: From Many, One - Partnership Framework

The journey of the Regional Municipality of Durham and its constituent communities in partnering in the development of these outlying suburbs of Toronto, including launch of a formal Intelligent Community development program for the Region. Speakers include:

  • Chris Gillis, Manager, Applied Research Business Development, Durham College
  • Savanna Myers, Director of Economic Development, Tourism & Culture, Grey County, ON, Canada
  • Tara Sutton, Project Lead, Stiletto
  • Travis Dutka, Senior Director, Culture and Learning​, 360insights (Moderator)


11:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. - Refreshment & Networking Break

11:20 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. - Panel 2: What Works in Regional Development

Regions and communities share lessons learned in developing regional collaboration, identifying programs to serve their communities as they exist today while simultaneously charting a future of greater scale, integration and economic vitality. Speakers include:

  • Jan De Silva, CEO​, Toronto Board of Trade (Toronto Waterloo Innovation Corridor)
  • Simon GillDirector, Invest Durham
  • Fiaz Jadoon​, Director of Economic Development​, City of Pickering,​ Ontario, Canada​
  • Michelle Crandall, City Manager, Hilliard, OH, USA (Moderator)


12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. - Lunch

12:45 p.m. - Welcome Back/Tour of Centre for Food

Speakers include:

  • Kelly O'Brien, Associate Dean, Faculty of Hospitality and Horticultural Science, Durham College

1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. - Panel 3: Beyond Government: Secrets of Building a Strong Industry & Educational Partnership

Innovation is the key to economic growth in these Digital Decades.  The experience of hundreds of Intelligent Communities shows that business-educational-governmental partnership is the most powerful way to create it.  Community leaders share their experiences, good and bad, with creating and maintaining those partnerships, and the lessons learned along the way. Speakers include:

  • Jennifer Alsop, Strategic Partnership Officer, Ontario Tech University
  • Andrea Johnson, General Manager, Centre for Emerging Research Initiatives, Mohawk Community College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Stuart Valentine, Co-Founder, Centered Wealth
  • Robert Bell, Co-Founder, Intelligent Community Forum (Moderator)


1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. - Tech Demo

This Tech Demo Presentation will start in the Conference Room but will involve departing to a particular area outside to view the demo. Please be sure to be in the Conference Room at 1:45 to participate. During this demo, attendees will have time for a bio break or to get refreshments as needed.

2:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. - Panel 4: Marketing a Region to its People and the World

Creating an expanded identity for a region where loyalties tend to be local can be a major challenge.  Successfully navigating it leads to stronger collaboration and greater progress, but also to more powerful competitive advantages in business and investment attraction.  Regions share their experience with building a regional brand that powers positive change. Speakers include:

  • Sherry Colbourne, President and CEO, Spark Centre
  • Patrick Lyver, Community Builder, Durham Region​Startup Canada​
  • Jacquie Severs, Manager of Marketing and Cluster Development, Region of Durham
  • Isaac Wanzama, Founder & Chief Strategist​, geekspeak Commerce​
  • Paul Brent, Freelance Communications Consultant (Moderator)


2:50 p.m. to 3:35 p.m. - Panel 5: Pulling the Strengths of a Region Together - Energy & Automation

Speakers include:

  • Jason Wight, Chief Information Officer, Ontario Power Generation

3:35 p.m. - Closing

Tuesday, June 20 - Top7 Awards Announcement Dinner

The June 20 Top7 Awards Announcement Dinner takes place at Slabtown Cider Co. (4559 Concession Road 6, Uxbridge, ON). Transportation to and from the venue will be provided from the official conference hotel.

More schedule details and confirmed speakers to be announced shortly. Watch this page for updates!

June 19, 2023 at 9:00am - June 20, 2023 | Eastern Time (US & Canada)