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.")
If you've been to a CSI holiday party, you know the competition is real!
Co-hosted Ralph Nader at Ryerson Theatre. His topic: Innovative Solutions for our Survival: Connecting Climate Change with Social Justice
Sponsored by CSI and Tides Canada, the conference looked at the pros, the cons and some of the unexpected pluses that can come about when groups combine spaces and services to save time and money.
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.
One hundred and forty delegates and twenty speakers collaborated to advance the thinking on how to create an enabling environment for social enterprise.
The first of its kind, the bond that made it possible to buy our buildings. Learn more!
DECAs are the heart of CSI! Learn more about our Desk Exchange Community Animator program.
In 2010 we bought a beautiful brick and beam building at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor. CSI Annex is 36,000 sq. ft. and houses over a hundred social purpose organizations and hundreds of events each year.
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!
A community-immersed work space in east Toronto! Located in the Daniels Spectrum building CSI Regent Park was a hub of activity in the neighbourhood until March 2021.
In keeping with the spirit of scaling our impact, CSI open sourced our business model - read all about it.
Our fourth location, the first outside of Canada. CSI New York, located in Manhattan at the Scarlett-Leigh 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.
An effort to increase civic engagement for the 2014 municipal election, Turnout Toronto started at CSI Annex with around 400 Torontonians. All told, five Turnouts took place in 2014, with about 1,500 attendees and 125 civic champions inviting residents to get involved.
We launched our Inclusion Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Committee and committed to live our values in a more clear and transparent way.
Pillar Nonprofit Network engaged CSI to support the development of a coworking space for London, Ontario. Working from our models and best practices, the project was propelled forward.
The CSI Institute is a registered charity helping Canadians use social innovation to get at the root causes of systems-level problems.
Raised money for anti-racism training and through an epic goodbye to the iconic Honest Ed's. Read about our Honest Farewell work.
A conference meets trade show self-guided tour about our members' impact hosted at CSI Annex!
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.
Muhammad Yunus – founder of Grameen Bank and father of modern social entrepreneurship – shared his insights on how business can change the world at our Fireside Chat.
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.
An incubation, acceleration and coworking space for climate solutions at 192 Spadina!
A national initiative to connect social innovation practitioners, build the capacity of the sector, and to elevate this work in Canada and beyond. We're one of SI Canada’s regional members!
Our beautiful, accessible ramp for the ground floor of 192 Spadina was built using reclaimed timber and incorporating seating and lighting to make it a multipurpose masterpiece!