Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Dave Meslin

Dave Meslin
Photo by Mitchel Raphael

With one foot planted firmly in the world of mainstream politics and the other foot dancing in the more vibrant universe of grassroots activism, Dave Meslin has found ways to bring them both together and turn energy into action. His TED talk about apathy has more than 1.7 million views and his 90-second video clip from the 2016 federal election coverage, using colourful stacks of Lego bricks to explain how our voting system fails us, has over 2.5 million views on Facebook alone.

A passionate Transpartisan political disruptor, Meslin has spent the last twenty

years as a political biologist, exploring the strange and mysterious worlds of protest movements, party politics and non-profit organizations. Wearing a suit and tie one day and shouting through a megaphone the next, Dave has worked as an executive assistant at both city hall and the provincial legislature, painted do-it-yourself bike lanes on the street, organized hundreds of volunteers, started a handful of non-profits, helped draft new legislation, survived tear-gas riots in three countries, buried his car and got thrown in jail. Not in that order.

An urbanist, community organizer, trainer and political entrepreneur, Dave has left a trail of campaigns and organizations in his path, including the Toronto Public Space Committee, Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto, Unlock Democracy Canada, Dandyhorse Magazine and Cycle Toronto. Dave also co-founded Spacing magazine, in 2003.

Described by journalists as a “wizard,” a “mastermind,” “the ultimate ideas guy,” a “mad scientist,” and a “start-up genius,” Dave has shown that politics and civic engagement can be fun, colourful and constructive. His work inspires us to invert the traditional pyramid of hierarchy by creating meaningful opportunities to engage neighbours, employees or students. His thesis is simple: We’re stronger and smarter when we’re all involved. By replacing cynicism with a culture of participation, we can re-imagine our role in the world and the possibilities of the future. Dave Meslin lives in Toronto.

Twitter: @meslin

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