Tonya Surman, CEO and cofounder of Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) and an Ashoka Fellow, is stepping down from her additional role as CEO of the charity Social Innovation Canada (SI Canada), an organization she co-founded in 2016 as the Centre for Social Innovation Institute, and has led since. She is succeeded by SI Canada Executive Director Andrea Nemtin, who will be stepping into the Acting CEO role. Tonya will remain as the CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation.
Through this new structure, both organizations will focus on growing the communities of exceptional people and organizations that they are convening, connecting, and accelerating to impact.
BUILDING INITIATIVES TO CHANGE THE WORLD
“We founded both CSI and SI Canada to catalyze social innovation because we believe profoundly in radically redesigning our world to put people and planet first. We are doing that every time we unlock a new initiative that has world-changing potential. It has been an honour to work with colleagues from coast to coast to coast to build SI Canada’s national impact. There is no greater fun than to galvanise great people to achieve great change in the world together!” says Surman.
“We have reached 2,500 people with social innovation education and engagement programs and built a national network for over 3,000 practitioners. SI Canada is off to a great start and now new leadership is ready to take it to the next level.”
“I am excited by the Vision that has been set by Tonya and the many other early collaborators. I know that together, we can make a difference,” says new Acting CEO Andrea Nemtin.
This new and more senior leadership role at SI Canada will build on Andrea’s career heading complex organizations and initiatives focused on creating positive social and environmental progress through strategic philanthropy, media and arts, social innovation and impact investing. In addition to her former role as Executive Director of SI Canada, Andrea served as the CEO of the Inspirit Foundation, Executive Director at Rally Assets, and President of PTV Productions, as well as a board member and advisor to numerous organizations. Andrea is committed to finding innovative ways to support cohesive and prosperous communities and was recognized in 2017 with a Governor General’s Meritorious Service Award for her contribution to inclusion in Canada.
A HISTORY OF INNOVATION
This leadership handoff follows other successful projects and initiatives that have emerged at CSI over the years. Other notable initiatives include:
Since 2018, Climate Ventures has supported 138 ventures that have secured revenues and follow-on funding over $130M. Climate Ventures fast-tracks the success of early-stage entrepreneurs and innovators developing and implementing solutions to the climate crisis. It also collaborates with innovators, investors, industry, government and academia to solve challenges and scale solutions. Climate Ventures, under Barnabe Geis’s leadership, has spun out into a national partnership with Foresight Canada.
An Ontario-focused network of nonprofits and charities chaired by Surman and incubated at CSI, Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) supports a strong and resilient nonprofit sector. They work to engage, advocate and lead with- and for- organizations working for the public benefit in the province. ONN’s focus is on public policy, legislation and systems issues to influence change at the broader level.
STEPS (Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Space) creates one-of-a-kind public art plans, installations and engagement strategies that meet public art and placemaking needs, transforms space into a cultural destination, fosters stronger relationships with the community, and showcases the talent of diverse Canadian artists. STEPS has received numerous awards for their high-impact programs, including the inaugural national Culture Days Innovative Event Award; the NXT City Prize, and Imagination Catalyst Best Social Enterprise Award from OCAD University.
SI Canada was envisioned as the spiritual successor to Social Innovation Generation but with a strong focus on building a more open and inclusive network that was rooted in community. With strong regional nodes from across the country, SI Canada was founded to strengthen Canada’s social innovation ecosystem, empowering people, organizations and systems with the tools, knowledge, skills and connections that they need to solve real and complex problems. CSI will remain as the Ontario node for SI Canada
On June 1, Centre for Social Innovation celebrated its 18 year anniversary under Tonya’s leadership, and is facing its greatest challenge since its founding. As the world recovers from COVID, CSI will focus on the future of work including hybrid workspace, rebuilding CSI’s communities, rebuilding the human experience that makes CSI the “best place to work in the world!” as well as building and incubating the “next generation of programs that will one day leave too,” Tonya says.
“We’ll be raising a little hell as we create the next generation of CSI Ventures – the impact businesses that the world needs.” Her current ideas include a Culture Academy, to help the world build healthy cultures, a fund to finance community wealth, expanding her real estate partnerships, and tackling social impact measurement, “to name a few.”