How it All Got Started
CSI’s story begins in 2003 when a handful of visionary social entrepreneurs came together to solve what we referred to as the “photocopier problem”. Too many organizations were working in isolation, paying too much for equipment and substandard facilities. They asked, “what might happen if we share?”
Part of the answer came in the form of the Robertson Building at 215 Spadina Avenue in Toronto. With generous support from co-founder and landlord, Urban Space Property Group, and donors, the Centre for Social Innovation Spadina opened its doors to 14 founding members in 5,000 sq. ft. of space in June 2004 – one of the very first coworking spaces in the world!
On This Page
Our Theory of Change
We begin at the bottom of the pyramid, focussing on the creation of the physical space. We do this carefully, designing a space that’s functional, whimsical, inviting, and energizing.
The next layer is community. What begins as a group of people looking for a place to work becomes a community through conscious and careful curating and programming.
These layers form the basis for innovation — the serendipity that happens when you mix the right people, the right values and the right environment; when you set the conditions for social innovation emergence.
We opened our first space in 2004 with just a handful of tenants. This brought co-working to Canada and maybe the world! (Though we called it "virtual tenancy.")
Canada's first Social Entrepreneurship Summit brought together 160 leaders to showcase Canadian social entrepreneurship and foster the growth of the sector, with MaRS, CivicAction and the Boston Consulting Group.
DECAs are the heart of CSI! Learn more about our Desk Exchange Community Animator program.
Networking on steroids! Now we host an annual CSI Member summit where folks can get to know the friendly faces they see in the hallways and online!
Our fourth location, the first outside of Canada. CSI New York, located in Manhattan at the Starrett-Lehigh building, was a bubbling hub of community activity, however, due to the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic we made the difficult decision to close its doors in 2020.
The CSI Institute is a registered charity helping Canadians use social innovation to get at the root causes of systems-level problems.
Over 250 people came together to our first national social innovation conference to exchange ideas, promote learning, connect participants and forge a renewed commitment to action around social innovation in Canada.
A joint project operated by Code for Canada and with the City of Toronto, Civic Hall Toronto is the home for civic innovation in Toronto.