Let’s Build the Next Economy Together

When we opened the first Centre for Social Innovation in 2004, we did so with an invitation that was, at the time and from our perspective, totally new: let’s stop working apart, and let’s start working together. And to that original 5,000 square feet (the first shared workspace of its kind in Canada, and possibly the world) we welcomed 14 founding organizations from across sectors and created a new economic model, the thing someone in Silicon Valley would later name “coworking.”

CSI: THE HOME FOR PROVING WHAT’S POSSIBLE 

That was just the first time CSI proved that new forms of collaboration were possible, and that world-class innovation can thrive in community-owned organizations. It certainly wasn’t the last. Over the past 16 years we’ve continued to bring innovative people and organizations together to become more than the sum of their parts. At the provincial level, we co-founded and incubated the Ontario Nonprofit Network because we knew nonprofits needed a voice in policy. As technology became more and more essential to the work of mission-driven organizations, we co-created TechSoup Canada which now connects over 42,000 nonprofits and charities across Canada to over $496 M in software and hardware donations. We borrowed ideas from co-ops and private finance to create The Community Bond, a fundraising tool that’s since been used to create community spaces, food co-ops and green energy projects from coast-to-coast.

At the risk of being bold — but these are times that demand boldness — we have proven that our craft of social innovation can create thriving, solutions-oriented communities that can change policy, markets and culture, shifting systems and delivering huge impact here in Toronto, and across Canada.

And now, with your help, we want to prove it again. We want to help shape and create the next economy.

THE NEXT ECONOMY WILL BE CREATED WITH US — OR WITHOUT US 

Make no mistake, the shift to the next economy is already underway. It’s up to all of us to decide what that economy looks like. Will it be the Next Economy we so essentially require — one that is regenerative, equitable and prosperous for all? Or will we allow short-sighted, old ideas to repeat or accelerate the mistakes of the past? There’s no denying the energy and momentum of the market economy and the many benefits it does offer. Of course, we know that if left untethered it also has a tendency to concentrate wealth, deplete our planet’s resources, and leave us unable to make policy decisions at a global level. COVID-19 has revealed and exacerbated these vulnerabilities at every turn.

We believe the shift to the Next Economy is urgent and possible and that applying social innovation principles and practices is essential for identifying, creating, demonstrating, amplifying, and scaling the solutions that will be required to create it. We’re digging into core areas, where communities, entrepreneurs, policymakers and business leaders can come together to find solutions and remove barriers for those creating social ventures, working on climate solutions, and advancing initiatives that build community wealth. Through our “intentional economy” methodology, we’re not just waiting around to see what enterprises might emerge, we are actively pursuing and nourishing them, bringing the insight gained through social innovation labs to the firepower of acceleration and incubation.

Together, we’re empowering our thousands of members and fueling the movement to build the Next Economy our planet and communities need. Will you join us?

IF YOU ARE COMMITTED TO WORKING TOWARD A BETTER WORLD, WE’RE COMMITTED TO HELPING YOU!

We will support you and your ideas at any stage. We are one of the only incubators and accelerators of both for-profit and non-profit organizations. We are in it for collective impact.

While much of the economy emerges from COVID-19 heavily indebted to old economic models, our community remains strong, and our commitment to community is stronger yet. By implementing a CSI Rent Pool early in the pandemic, we trusted that those who could afford to, paid their fair share, and those struggling financially due to the economic consequences of COVID-19, paid what they could. CSI imagined our responsibility to hold the hopes and seeds that would, with great care and intention, build a Next Economy that puts people and planet first.

The time has come to do just that.

THERE ARE MANY WAYS YOU CAN JOIN THE MOVEMENT 

We know not everyone is a social entrepreneur in search of workspace, and thank goodness for that. But there are lots of ways to get involved. We need everyone to pitch in if we’re going to pull this off together.

  1. Sign up for our communications. We need your eyes and your ears and your enthusiastic cheers.
  2. Become a member. For $36/month, you can join the community and support the work of CSI and its members. We’ve got members as small as Grandma’s bake sale and (almost) as big as Google.
  3. Work here! If you have a project, small or large, what are you doing working anywhere else? We have a place for you!. 110,000 square feet of it in fact. You can work with us on-site everyday in a physically distanced, private office, or bring your team together once a week in a meeting room or pop-up office with lightning fast wifi and big Chromebox-equipped screens. We have the people you’re looking for and the tools and programs you need to succeed. Our coffee is great. It’s time to come home. Email join@socialinnovation.ca to set up a tour.

SEE YOU SOON 

As we Canadians emerge (albeit cautiously) from our homes and life inches closer to normal, I hope you feel the way I do: like there is more demand and opportunity for social innovators now than ever before, like we have never found each other more valuable, and like our values, people and planet first, have never been more widely accepted.

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We feel comfortable and safe where we feel at home. And it is precisely that image – the safety of home – that I want to evoke to my nonprofit friends when I ask you: come home to CSI. Let us welcome you into our warm, brick-and-beam communities.

Making social change and having fun doing it

Next Economy, Staff
Our CEO Tonya Surman spoke at the 2020 Creative Bureaucracy Festival: “I like to try new things out and give things a shot and have as much wonderful people around me as possible co-creating these ideas and solutions because I guess we never really figured out that we couldn’t.”
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