Have Your Work Values and Priorities Changed? You’re not Alone.

Right now, we are in a moment of transition. As Canada slowly opens up, we are all re-introducing ourselves to the world – to our friends, family members, and coworkers. As many of us encounter more and more of the familiar trappings of our pre-pandemic lives, old lifestyle habits, values, and goals may not make sense anymore. 

Much of this shift is happening at our workplaces. 

What has shifted for you? Do you know what’s working for you in your career and what’s not? What values are you bringing to your work that you didn’t before? Is your job fulfilling your needs? 

In a changing environment, these answers can be difficult to gage. Not to mention, feeling unfulfilled at work or craving a career change in a time of prolonged uncertainty is daunting and for many, simply not feasible. 

That’s where Challenge Factory comes in. In collaboration with CSI, this CSI Member designed a three-part online program for people seeking to better understand and align their values inside of their current roles. Think of it as a roadmap for a career tuneup rather than an entire career change. 

Ignite Your Career 

Ignite Your Career is a three-part curriculum-based program designed for people who are looking to make a stronger connection between the work they do, their values, and the world around them. You’ll learn how to navigate uncertainty, identify the supports you need, and communicate your goals to your employers.

We know the power of great career conversations. Strong career development is linked to better mental wellness. It leads to more confident and creative teams. It fosters a sense of belonging that comes from understanding how work connects with personal values. 

After a year of change, many folks are asking more questions than ever about their work, lives, stretch goals, learning, and careers. If you’re one of them, this workshop series is designed to help you imagine your best self and create a collaborative action plan to help you get there. (Plus, CSI Members get in at a discount!)

What You Can Expect 

Over three modules, happening August 4, 11, and 18, participants will learn how to engage in more meaningful career conversations, challenge their limiting beliefs, and ask better, more action-oriented questions of themselves and their employers. 

For example, Module One, Imagine, focuses on envisioning what your career could look like and imagining the kinds of actions you can take to achieve it. Challenge Factory Facilitators, Lisa and Ali, say they often hear, “I hope the new normal is better. I wonder what it will be like?” In response, they encourage participants to ask more empowered questions: “What am I going to do to ensure my career and life move in a direction that is supportive of the future I want to create? What actions am I going to take individually and where can I find support?” These slight reframes can lead to long-term breakthroughs. 

Facilitators will provide take-home exercises to accompany live sessions, building on the content week to week. For the entire month of August, registrants will receive access to all course materials through Challenge Factory’s Centre for Career Innovation website. On August 4, 11, and 18, it’s time to start translating your newfound values and priorities into action

About the Facilitators

Lisa Taylor is a sought-after expert on today’s changing world of work. As President of Challenge Factory Lisa offers invaluable leadership and insights about the Future of Work. She is the author of the Retain and Gain series of career management playbooks and The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work. She is also a co-host on the highly anticipated podcast The Next Normal.

Ali Breen is Challenge Factory’s Learning Coordinator and leads our Centre for Career Innovation. With 10+ years in career development and human resources, Ali is a constant kick-starter. She brings her experiences in adult education & facilitation, curriculum design, leadership training, community growth, and personal branding.

Ready to register? Have more questions about the course? Read more


Break Free of Breakout Rooms

Entering break out room in: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1


This has been my experience again and again. Despite being an extraordinarily extroverted individual, there’s something about being told that you will spend the next 20 minutes with a random selection of strangers that triggers my anxiety.

Most online spaces aren’t designed for serendipity. They’re strictly regulated: every meeting is prescribed with purpose and a set list of attendees. This is great when you need to hit a deadline, but terrible when you’re looking to truly connect with people. It’s even harder when you’re trying to meet that one person you need to talk to when you’re faced with the Hollywood-squares-on-steroids of a Zoom call. The question of how to design a networking event to ensure you meet not just the most people possible, but the right people, is something that CSI has been working on for years.

Those who’ve joined us for our in-person events will remember “What I Need” and “What I Have to Offer” stickers, Sustainable Development Goal coloured wristbands, and even a social capital marketplace. Over the 16 years we’ve spent gathering folks in space we’ve honed our skills at breaking through the awkwardness of early interactions and providing space to return to the people you need to have a longer discussion with.

With that in mind, here’s the big reveal: CSI is taking everything we’ve learned from our in person events, combining that with our learnings from our Holiday Gathering and Virtual Coworking Office and launching 8(bit) Degrees.

Alright, I hear you: You just derided online networking events! How is this one any different?

8(bit) Degrees is a virtual networking event series that gives you the ability to talk to just that one person in a room of a hundred, lets you walk into and out of conversations as you like, and connects you to people while freeing you to experience it how you want to. It’s hosted on our favourite platform: Gather.town.

We want to make these events the best they can be, and we know the key to creating a valuable networking experience is not wrapped up in the perfect mix of facilitation and open time. Instead, it all comes down to one thing: clarity.

Pixel illustration of person with dark skin, brown buzz cut, black jacket over green shirt, and blue pants.

How do you know who you should talk to?

Pixel illustration of blond person with thick black-framed glasses in blue clothes.

How do you make the most of your conversations?

It’s part of our responsibility as hosts to help you answer question one. The second question is yours to answer, but we have a few helpful tips:

Know why you’re attending

There are hundreds of valid reasons to attend a networking event – being clear on yours will go a long way. It can be as specific as “finding a graphic designer for an upcoming project”, or as general as “meeting new folks in your sector”. The key is deciding beforehand and acting accordingly.

Have fun with it

While not everyone you meet will be the person you thought you needed, you might be exactly who they’re looking for. The great thing about these events is that they open spaces for serendipity. The power of community grows with each new addition, so don’t close yourself off from expanding your understanding of who you’d like to chat with.

Follow up

Time and time again we hear that folks make a bunch of interesting and valuable connections only to have them fade after the event. So for those you wish to stay in contact with, be sure to follow up in some way. Hint: If you are both CSI Members, The Common Platform is a great way to do this!

Our first 8(bit) Degrees will be February 25th from 4pm-6pm. Space is limited, so get your tickets today!

A Community Celebration Goes Virtual and We Honour the Toronto Tool Library

snowy 8bit pixel art

It’s snowing and the end of year is in the air as innovators across our community wrap up their work. At CSI, December usually brings our end-of-year holiday party, an all-out bash famous for its cocktail and cookie competitions and busy dance floor. Despite the challenges of being physically distant this year, we weren’t about to give up on a ritual. On December 18th we brought together over 250 of our nearest and dearest to celebrate community resilience in a year that showed us just how important community is. 

The 3rd Annual BowTie Award for Exceptional Community Leadership 

Named for former Executive Director Adil Dhalla’s proclivity for community leadership (and a certain kind of neck adornment), the BowTie Award honours community builders by recognizing their work. Thanks to 2019 BowTie recipient Linda Odnokon for helping us recognize the work of the Toronto Tool Library (TTL) by presenting them the award.

Celebratory image featuring a black bowtie and gold glitter with CSI logo in the bottom right corner. White text reads: Congratulations Toronto Tool Library. 2020 BowTie Award recipients for exceptional community leadership

To illustrate all TTL has done this year, CSI’s Chief Community Officer, Shona Fulcher and Facilities Manager, Matt Gutherie, put it this way: 

“When the Toronto Tool Library was forced to close their doors back in March, true to form, they sprang into action. Using the many tools at their disposal a small group of determined staff and members began 3D printing face shields and splitting valves for ventilators to distribute to hospitals. Since these intrepid makers couldn’t be together in the maker space, their team brought the work home with them, 3D printing life-saving equipment day and night in their own homes. Executive Director Tim Willison biked the city to pick up these vital parts, sanitized them in their workspace, and biked them out to the hospitals for delivery. To date they have made over 800 face shields, protecting health care workers here at home and in hospitals as far away as Ukraine.

Two makers stand behind a plexiglass shield at the Toronto Tool Library.

Seeing a need, the team pivoted again to produce affordable shields for businesses across Toronto. In the CSI spaces, every plexiglass shield you see was built on one of their CNC machines by maker Marc Shu-Lutman.

This was not an easy year for the resilient Tool Library team. They made the tough decision to permanently close their location on St. Clair and were forced to consolidate their operations solely to their CSI Spadina location. But they didn’t let these setbacks slow them down for long. By the summer, the Tool Library reopened both their makerspace and the lending library. And Makerspace Manager, Jeniffer Cote once again began offering classes to aspiring woodworkers. 

With the most recent shut down they are showing their ingenuity again! Their team of experts moved online offering instructional videos on their Youtube channel helping to keep our hands busy and our minds healthier while still lending out tools via curbside pick up.

So, in recognition of your commitment to the power of community. And for everything you’ve done for this community, health care workers, and people all over the city of Toronto, we are honoured to present CSI’s 2020 BowTie award to the Toronto Tool Library!

Thank you Tim Willison, Marc Shu-Lutman, Jennifer Cote and the whole TTL team. We couldn’t be prouder.” 

You threw a virtual party for over 250 people?

Well, yeah. We did. And you know what? It was pretty great! We used a new conferencing software called Gather.town that gamifies the online party experience, letting us create a virtual CSI world, and giving guests the ability to pop in and out of video chats as they moved around the space. Goodbye Zoom fatigue! 

Party-goers gathered with colleagues across a virtual CSI Annex space filled with the familiar and fantastic. Member organizations like Cycle Toronto and Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC) hosted their own volunteer and staff gatherings in private, custom-built spaces. Guests found artwork created during our Art and Art History Club sessions displayed in the Annex vault. And old friends ran into one another searching the starry skies for cookies on our soon-to-be-legendary Cookie Quest (a nod to our annual member cookie competition). 

Gather.town platform

Some innovators settled into the Moon Room for individual coaching sessions with our mysterious Tarot Reader Lady V while others pulled up a virtual stool to learn how to make the perfect Holiday Drink with Chief Technology officer Jane Zhang and Temperance Cocktails in our workshop studio. Then we honoured the Toronto Tool Library and opened up the dance floor for a killer set with the incredible DJ Ameel. 

It was a blast and we were so glad to have you all back together here in our (online) space. 

We’ll be exploring more with our virtual convening in the months to come. Get in touch to learn about CSI programming and everything it means to be a CSI Member!  

Six Big Ideas for the Next Economy

Lightbulbs drawn on dusty black chalkboard

At CSI, we believe we need an economy that is regenerative, equitable, and prosperous for all. Since 2012, we’ve been supporting nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, activists, and advocates as we work toward this Next Economy together.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to ignore the failings of our current systems. Racism, poverty, the climate emergency: every time we look at a problem, we find our economic structure holding us back. If we’re going to make the world better, we need to design an economic system that puts people and planet first.

Luckily, many people and organizations from around the world have the same idea. They’ve been innovating new solutions, championing community-based, circular, participatory, equitable models that prove a Next Economy is possible.

Next Economy Conversations powered by Fiix is an opportunity to meet these leaders and hear about the solutions they have built and implemented. Tonya Surman, CSI CEO and serial social entrepreneur, facilitates the discussion, incorporating questions from the live audience. These conversations help us all learn, reflect, and integrate these ideas into our own efforts to build the Next Economy.

2021 is going to be a year of recovery, and we need big, bold ideas to get us started. We’ve chosen some highlights from each of our past events to cover in this blog, but if you want to fully immerse yourself in their work and optimism, you can watch all our Next Economy Conversations in full here.

On This Page

Failing so we can succeed

For our first Next Economy Conversations, we asked Bill Young to join us for a discussion about how he founded Social Capital Partners and why failure is necessary in creating systems-level solutions.

The thing about systems change is: it’s risky.

“Most funders don’t like funding things that aren’t working,” said Bill. “So the tendency is ‘let’s do things that will work.’”

Social Capital Partners is lucky to have independent funding. It means they have the freedom to experiment, to push boundaries, to do things that are inherently really, really hard.

“We flipped the script and said ‘no, we aren’t succeeding unless we are failing,’” Bill explained. “We will fail because we are trying stuff that nobody else is going to try. And that’s our role.”

They’re always aiming for the greatest impact they can have.

“How do we transform this economic landscape in the most powerful, equal way? How do we solve inequality? If we saw that what we were doing wasn’t going to get us there, whether it was branded a success or failure, it didn’t matter to us.

“To us, it’s kind of like a maze. In the centre of the maze is the magic of the biggest impact you could possibly have. To get to the center, you hit a lot of dead ends. You need to hit those to get to the centre. So we never look at failure or success as either failure or success. We look upon it as part of the road map on the way to have the most impact we possibly can have. ‘Is this the route to get there?’ If it isn’t, we change. Success and failure has nothing to do with it.”

Creating community-based solutions

Jeff Cyr of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners joined us in June to discuss what Community-Driven Outcomes Contract (CDOC) are and how they are serving the Indigenous community. This innovative new investment vehicle is changing the game in Canada — connecting social finance with deep-rooted respect for community.

The idea of an Indigenous intermediary came to Jeff a few months after the inaugural Indigenous Innovation Summit. His conversations with Indigenous entrepreneurs leading up to, during, and after the summit revealed massive barriers in access to capital.

“What didn’t exist was Indigenous investment vehicles. That’s the problem. We said: ‘We need Indigenous equity. I wonder if we can raise capital from the non-Indigenous world to invest in Indigenous enterprise and prove that this can be done.’”

They did! Raven Capital completed their sixth investment in June 2020. All of their ventures so far are promising — and one in particular sparked the development of a new social finance model for community-based solutions.

In a CDOC, the community in question determines its priorities and how they’re going to get there before they look for capital. It places control into the hands of the beneficiaries, rather than external parties that don’t fully understand the problems they’re trying to solve.

The CDOC itself is basically a pay-for-performance model: private investors upfront the investment and tag a rate of return based on success. The Indigenous social enterprise will work with the band to implement the solution. Once they hit success, the outcomes buyer (the government) pays the private investors back with a rate of return. Raven Capital acts as an intermediary between all three parties.

It’s an intentionally slow, deeply collaborative process.

“We will often say ‘we are now going to be in relationship with each other,’” explained Jeff. “At the end of the day, when things get tough you rely on relationships to see you through. So we spend an inordinate amount of time building relationships and trust.”

Using business as a force for good

B Lab Canada’s Country Manager Kasha Huk joined us in July to talk about using business as a force for good, stakeholder capitalism, and the stringent requirements businesses need to meet to maintain their B Corp Certification.

We often face silos when trying to address systemic inequities: “Nonprofits and governments are creating these policies on one side to do good, and then businesses are doing the work they want to do and donating money toward causes. But they were kind of seen as separate.”

This is where the B Corp comes into play: “The B Corp movement [is] this place where businesses are seeing that [they] can address complex social and environmental issues through their business model.”

Essentially, these are for-profit organizations that want to use their influence for good.

A B Corp (not to be confused with a Benefit Corporation, which is a legal structure) embraces the idea of stakeholder capitalism. They define what’s in the best interest of a company not solely by profit, but by thinking about different stakeholders.

Currently, there are over 260 Canadian B Corps – a number that has grown exponentially in recent years.

“We work with these companies to help them achieve greater impact through the assessment process,” Kasha explained. It’s a lengthy, stringent evaluation that asks businesses to consider all their stakeholders in their operations, and must be completed once every few years to stay certified.

While the B Corp Certification is available only to for-profits, Kasha encourages all organizations to use the free online assessment as a tool to track their improvements over time across five different areas: governance, workers, communities, environment, and customers.

“[The assessment helps you] understand how you’re doing across these areas, and gives you a road map for improvement.”

Measuring success with community capital

We spoke with Buy Social Canada Managing Director David LePage in August about social procurement and the Marketplace Revolution.

In the early 2000s, David realized that while there were lots of employment social enterprises doing great work, there was a stark lack of demand for social enterprises and the people they hire.

“The companies that were saying ‘we want to help’ were [also] like ‘we don’t hire these people,’” David recalled. “But they buy the products and services that hire people into entry-level jobs. So how do we […] create the demand side that says ‘I’m going to buy from the companies that will hire these people’?”

This is the foundation of social procurement theory, which proposes that the purpose of a marketplace is not to create economic value, but to create healthy communities. This means taking into account human, social, physical, and cultural capital along with economic capital – something Buy Social Canada calls “community capital.”

“When we start to measure success in community capital, we start to change the very activity of business,” said David. “So if you aren’t paying a living wage and beyond, if you aren’t environmentally sound, then you aren’t fulfilling your capitals.”

Social procurement is about looking past financial reward as a sole measure of success, and making intentional purchasing decisions that have a positive impact across all capitals.

Government support is imperative to driving this change in how we do business, and can support social enterprise through its procurement decisions.

“The whole policy system is set up to reward big business and financial gain. We need to make accessible the same supports for social enterprises that are available to private businesses,” said David. “We have to shift how we value. It’s not the lowest price, it’s the best value. And the best value is about community capital.”

Rethinking food waste

Marcos Igreja, Genecis’ Associate Director of Engineering and Operations, joined us in October to speak about the circular economy, turning food waste into biodegradable plastic, and the environmental and human costs of the products we use every day.

Genecis takes local food waste and turns it into PHA, a biodegradable plastic whose properties are almost indistinguishable from the traditional PET plastics many manufacturers currently use. It’s an excellent example of a business contributing to a circular economy.

“The circular economy is an economy that knows how to take into account the entire life cycle of any good that is produced,” Marcos explained. “You need to be able to understand everything that came before it – all the labour, all the resources – and what happens after… how it is disposed, where it ends up. Most importantly, you have to be able to connect the two ends back together.”

The startup has already seen interest from clients across multiple industries, from medical equipment (e.g. biodegradable sutures) to household food producers (e.g. packaging). It’s hard not to get excited about their PHA: it’s sustainable, locally-sourced, and most importantly, it minimizes externalized costs.

“When people say that petroleum is cheaper than biofuel or bioplastic, they’re not taking into account costs caused by disposal, the pollution this causes in oceans, greenhouse gas emissions which affect our atmosphere, and all sorts of other political conflicts created through the improper use of those resources,” said Marcos. “In a fair economy, you have to take into account those costs.”

Democratizing control of community resources

In December, SolarShare General Manager Chris Caners sat down for a conversation about democratic control, community-financed projects, and the importance of government support for systems change.

SolarShare is a nonprofit cooperative that owns, finances, and operates 49 solar facilities across Ontario. They’ve raised over $60M with their community financing model, and their values are rooted in giving communities ownership, access, and control over local infrastructure (specifically, a renewable energy source).

“Fundamentally, the thing I’m excited about is the participation and role of community in our day-to-day lives, and in SolarShare’s case, the infrastructure,” said Chris. “The co-op model is a great model. It speaks to me about democratic control.”

It’s a lot harder for a solution’s beneficiaries to get taken advantage of when they are also its owners and key decision-makers.

“It gets a lot better when we have resilience within the community, and are able to [supplement] it with external sources,” said Chris. “For me, democratic control of infrastructure is one path to a better, more equitable future for all of us.”

Chris acknowledged the challenges of scaling community-based solutions right now. We designed a system that rewards only a small group of people. So of course the people who benefit from this system – the ones who currently hold power – aren’t eager to disrupt the status quo.

“Fundamentally, we need to change the way we operate. If we want a better and more equitable future, we need to design it into how our organizations and our laws work,” he said. “There are lots of people doing lots of excellent work, like SolarShare, TREC, and CSI. But in order to make it scale, we need our governments to help.”

What’s Next

We’ve seen some common themes run across our conversations with these leaders: the need to think holistically about how businesses operate and who they impact, the importance of strengthening communities through democratic control, and the need for government policies that support the organizations creating change.

We’re excited to continue these conversations, and we hope you’ll join us on this journey! Our first Next Economy Conversations of 2021 will be with Paul Taylor, Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto, on February 4. Get your tickets!

Further Reading

Still hungry for more? Here are a few full-length recaps from the other conversations we had last year:

Visual learners, we’ve got you too. Watch all the recordings from Next Economy Conversations and Climate Ventures Conversations on YouTube.

A Just Transition for Oil and Gas Workers: A Conversation with Bruce Wilson

Solar panels, wind turbines, and building labelled energy storage in background of sun-lit field.

CSI Climate Ventures Conversations are a chance to hear from leaders working for climate solutions. This event series is a part of CSI’s Climate Ventures initiative.  

After almost 16 years with Shell, Bruce Wilson felt his life philosophy was diverging more and more from his work at the global energy giant. In 2018, he left to take more urgent action on the climate crisis.

Today, he sits on the Board of Directors at Iron & Earth, deeply involved in paving a path for the just transition to a renewable energy economy. He also founded Thor Hydrogen, an organization focused on the potential of renewable hydrogen to create jobs and decarbonize our energy system.

In early December, Bruce sat down with our Senior Programs Manager Shea Sinnott for a virtual conversation about the challenges faced by oil and gas workers, hydrogen as an energy source, and the complexity of the fossil fuel industry. We’ve highlighted a few key ideas that resonate with us in clips and excerpts below, but you can watch the full conversation here.

On This Page

Iron & Earth: By and For Workers

Iron & Earth is a nonprofit organization led by oilsands workers that is building a future in renewable energy for their fellow oilsands workers through training, education, and advocacy.

At their core, they develop and deliver training programs to facilitate the transition of these workers to jobs in renewable energy. They blend classroom learning with hands-on project experience (through partnerships like RenuWell), so that individuals not only understand the technology and theory behind renewable energy, but are also able to put what they learn into practice.

Through community-based sustainable energy projects, Iron & Earth shows that this career transition is both possible and rewarding, and they build support for a just and prosperous transition. To encourage this shift to a green economy, and fast, they’ve prepared a four-point plan that seeks to retrofit and repurpose infrastructure, support and strengthen ecosystems, upskill the workforce, and support oil and gas companies who want to reposition their work.

For years, the federal government has dragged their heels in taking necessary, bold action to address the climate crisis, despite their stated ambitions to be net-zero by 2050. Since our conversation with Bruce, the federal government announced a long-awaited new Climate Action Plan, including a $15B increase in spending, with policies that match their stated ambitions for emissions reduction.

Yet as we discussed with Bruce in December, and still feel today, time will tell. Bruce put it well: “The devil is in the details, and not just in the details, but in the execution of the details. How do we get ‘er done? What do we need to do?”

A Just Transition for Oil & Gas Workers

Bruce contextualized the shift away from fossil fuels: “The ground that was once solid under the oil and gas industry is eroding, to the point that there’s real jeopardy for a lot of people. Add it to the government’s commitments [and] those all begin to amount to writing on the wall.”

He called on the need to act now, and to act while centring the people most impacted by this transition. We need to figure out a way to support those that would lose their jobs as they look for meaningful, fulfilling work in the Next Economy (as we at CSI and others call it).

“We can wait for bad things to happen, for more people to lose their jobs, and for there to be an economic malaise, the likes of which we’ve never seen — or we can take preemptive action now,” said Bruce. “A just transition is about looking at the totality… We need to protect people, we need to train them for new jobs, we need to identify what these jobs are, we need to identify who is disadvantaged by this. And it needs to be from the people, by the people, driven bottom up. We need a series of dialogues that make sure we bring everyone with us.”

Hydrogen: the new natural gas?

As the Founder of Thor Hydrogen, Bruce is a firm believer in renewable/green hydrogen both as an alternative to fossil fuels, and as a way to transition oilsands workers to new roles in the Next Economy. Our moderator, Shea, and a few attendees voiced some skepticism around hydrogen as a renewable energy source.

As Shea noted, not all hydrogen is truly renewable, and many are wary about the buzz and attention it’s getting as a solution. Shea put it bluntly: “Is hydrogen just the new ‘natural gas’?”

Bruce acknowledged this, but explained what makes him so optimistic: “Blue hydrogen is the new natural gas. It’s the new bridge to the future.”

“[But] to me,” he continued, “the beauty of renewable [green] hydrogen is decentralization. It can be a wonderful thing when you’re up in rural or remote regions where you’re not on the electricity grid, where you want energy independence. [Green hydrogen is] regional, and you can build ecosystems around it.”

The differences between blue and green hydrogen stem mainly from their production process. To make blue hydrogen, you strip carbon off of natural gas using steam methane reformation. To make green hydrogen, you pass a current through water (a process called electrolysis) using any kind of renewable energy. As a result, the water molecule (H2O) is split into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. With the exception of the buildout of equipment and the energy required in its production and possibly distribution, green hydrogen is a clean, carbon emissions-free fuel.

At the end of the day, hydrogen is one of many renewable solutions. (This idea came up in a previous conversation with Laura Witt, too!). We have the solutions we need – it’s a matter of implementation and leadership in making it happen.

Should we let the fossil fuel industry die?

People like Bruce illuminate the complexities of the oil and gas industry. Company leadership doesn’t necessarily represent workers, many of whom are a living dichotomy: they care deeply about the environment, but work in oil and gas (for a multitude of reasons).

“The industry is not monolithic,” said Bruce. “It’s not only full of people who are resistant to change, but people who want to make change and who want to understand how they could be part of an energy transition.”

Bruce explained the ecosystem that the industry creates: it’s not just the workers on the “coal face,” so to speak. It’s also the manufacturers, planners, engineers, accountants, and other workers that exist all the way up the supply chain.

“There are communities all around the world built on one resource [like coal], and so we need to break that down. Where that is most important is [in] conversations around a just transition,” said Bruce. “When we talk about who’s included in the just transition, first and foremost, it’s that ecosystem of everybody who makes their living directly from it. But one could argue [it has an international] impact. And intergenerational too. Let’s not forget about when you talk about how you plan for transition, we need to think of generations ahead.”

Therefore, we must understand the fossil fuel industry and those who work in it with nuance. While there’s a mounting call to just let the industry die, as Bruce hinted, we can’t just turn the taps off. Rather, we can plan for a “managed decline”: one that includes a fair transition for those most impacted – including the people whose livelihoods depend on our current energy system – and, most critically, one where no one is left behind.

And, commenting on the pride and deep-rooted culture that many draw from long associations with the oil and gas industry, Bruce said: “Pride is portable. You can bring it with you and apply it to new endeavours.”

Further Reading

Our conversation with Bruce covered a number of topics, and we’ve only highlighted a few big ideas here! You can watch the full conversation on YouTube and check out the links below to continue learning:

Our next Climate Ventures Conversations with Seth Klein, public policy expert and author of A Good War, is coming up on February 11. Get your tickets!

CSI Climate Ventures is an incubator, coworking space, and a range of national accelerators that support entrepreneurs and innovators working on climate solutions.

The Role of Economic Policy in Climate Justice: A Conversation with Marc Lee

Close-up shot of plant in front of window

CSI Climate Ventures Conversations are a chance to hear from leaders working for climate solutions. (Formerly Climate Ventures Mornings, we gave this event a new name to welcome speakers and attendees from coast to coast!) This event series is a part of CSI’s Climate Ventures initiative.  

Marc Lee is not your average economist. Though classically trained, he became interested in ideas outside the mainstream, finding inspiration in institutional and ecological economics. This becomes clear in his writing, where he blends his background in economics with ideas from sociology and psychology, often arguing against the conventional wisdom.

Today, Marc is a Senior Economist with the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), where his work focuses on the role of policy in climate justice.

On a November afternoon, Marc sat down with our Director of Programs Barnabe Geis for an online conversation about his research, what he’s learned over the years, and the possibilities the future holds. We’ve highlighted a few key ideas that resonate with us in excerpts and clips below, but you can watch the full conversation here.

On This Page

Growth at All Costs

The word “economics” originates from the Greek root oikonomia, which means “management of the household for the benefit of all members.” Yet, in our capitalist economy, we’ve equated economics with growth and the maximization of short-term profits (a term Herman Daly coined as “crematistics”).

Marc called on us to interrogate which industries we’re allowing to grow, who that growth impacts, and how it impacts them:

“Ultimately this is about the growth and amount of resources that are consumed by the top tier of humanity – the top 10% to 15% – and the amount of waste and resource depletion that we collectively impose on the planet, often for frivolous things. Meanwhile, huge portions of human civilization are very poor and don’t benefit from economic growth. So coming back to the idea of what an economy is for… we need to use our collective wealth and intelligence to build an economy to ensure we meet everyone’s basic needs.

A Phantom Fear of Debt

In discussions about policies and programs that will create a more equitable future for all, we are often hindered by what Marc calls a phantom fear of debt: the idea that in the future some group of people will owe too much to another group. What matters is that we deploy resources in the here and now to stabilize incomes and employment.

Public debt is not as scary as some make it out to be. When the Government of Canada issues debt (i.e. borrows), the Bank of Canada is also buying up a lot of debt in the form of outstanding government bonds, effectively becoming the lender. And at the end of the year, the Bank of Canada’s profit reverts back back to… the Government of Canada! This is a process called quantitative easing.

Issuing government debt has a number of benefits: it creates a safe place where Canadians can invest their money, it stimulates spending and injects money back into the economy, and it helps maintain higher levels of employment.

The Price is Right

There’s this idea among economists that if we could just set a carbon tax that reflects all the costs being imposed on third parties, then the market would do its job and get us on the net zero path. But Marc called for caution here, noting that carbon pricing is just one tool in a government’s policy toolbox and that there are many other environmental externalities besides carbon emissions.

Carbon pricing is very difficult to get right because it’s so intensely political – after all, it’s essentially a tax. We’ve made headway with some modest pricing, but politicians are wary of committing to the pricing levels we need to drive the emissions reductions necessary to meet reduction targets. However, if it is done right, it can be a great source of funds for activities that can drive climate action.

Of course, when we focus too much on carbon pricing, we lose out on opportunities to enact change through other methods. Marc expressed the need for clear rules and bans on certain activities detrimental to our environment, as well as big public investments into infrastructure – like high-speed rapid transit and affordable housing – that can act as a foundation for a healthier community.

Bodies in the Street

Much of Marc’s work focuses on government policy and regulation, but he emphasized the importance of grassroots advocacy in the movement for climate justice. Differing approaches can and do work in concert to make change.

He pointed to the Unist’ot’en peoples resistance to development on their traditional lands, which peaked early this year and sparked Indigenous-led protests (and fierce debate) in solidarity all across Canada. Hundreds of Canadians joined in, shutting down ports and stopping traffic – refusing to let the issue go unaddressed.

Marc called on us to keep up the pressure: “We need bodies in the streets to keep politicians focused. If people lead, politicians will follow.”

Further Reading

Our conversation with Marc covered a number of topics, and we’ve only highlighted a few big ideas here! You can watch the full conversation on YouTube and check out these links to continue learning:

If you want to hear more bold ideas from the world’s leading climate experts, tune in for our next Climate Ventures Conversations on December 3! We’ll be sitting down for a conversation with Bruce Wilson, who sits on the Board of Directors at Iron & Earth. RSVP here!

CSI’s Climate Ventures is an incubator, coworking space, and a range of national accelerators that support entrepreneurs and innovators working on climate solutions. Learn more at climateventures.org

Moving at the Speed of Trust: A Conversation with Cat Abreu

Crowd holding protest signs at a climate action protest. Photo credit: Saph Photography.

CSI Climate Ventures Conversations are a chance to hear from leaders working for climate solutions. (Formerly Climate Ventures Mornings, we gave this event a new name to welcome speakers and attendees from coast to coast!)

On a cool September day in Toronto, with hazy skies from climate change-fuelled wildfires thousands of kilometers away, our Senior Programs Manager Shea Sinnott sat down for an online conversation with internationally-recognized climate justice campaigner Cat Abreu. Currently the Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada — Reseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac) and with over 15 years of experience in the climate movement, Cat has a reputation for being tenacious and steadfast in her work.

Over the hour-long conversation, Cat shared many thoughtful insights – too many to summarize here! We’ve highlighted a couple of key ideas that resonate with us in excerpts and clips below, but you can watch the full conversation here.

From climate change to climate justice: putting people at the centre of the work

A large part of our discussion focused on Cat’s perspective of the evolution of the climate movement in the last couple of decades. Cat noted the shift from older approaches to climate organizing – with their narrow focus on solely environmental impacts (see: saving polar bears) – to a contemporary focus on climate justice – with a focus on people and systemic injustice (see: naming and addressing the phenomenon of “climate refugees”).

Cat recalled her time at the Ecology Action Centre in the early 2010s and joked: “I had to ban all pictures of wind turbines because that was the only image we ever used for climate action: images that had no people in them, where people couldn’t see themselves in this huge change that we were so passionate about making in the world.”

Climate justice acknowledges that the same series of systemic inequities that have caused climate change also underpin other forms of oppression, like racism. “[Climate change] is both a result of those injustices and inequities, and it worsens those injustices and inequities.”

A climate justice approach contends that we can’t meaningfully address the climate crisis without taking this systems-based approach. And that making these connections and structuring our campaigns accordingly is both right and effective.

“The attempt to address all those injustices and inequities are the same fight,” explained Cat.

“It’s not that we work on human rights issues because it’s a nice thing to do and it strengthens our work on climate change, but because they are one and the same. If we’re going to solve the climate crisis, we need to fundamentally change the systems that are causing these injustices.

Today, the global climate movement is defined by campaigns that take this approach: “[Initiatives like] the Just Recovery, Green New Deal, and #KeepItInTheGround are all about people,” said Cat. “They’re about figuring out how we can transition into a climate-safe society in a way that [not only] takes care of people, [but] actually improves the lives of people.”

Moving at the Speed of Trust

In her work with Climate Action Network Canada — Reseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac), Cat focuses on relationship-building with and between the 120 organizations across the country that make up CAN-Rac’s membership in order to promote the interests of the climate movement as a whole.

Cat’s motivations for working together are clear: “Very quickly when I got out of school and entered my career, I realized that when I was doing things alone, I wasn’t really making big changes happen. It wasn’t until I started working in coalitions that I was able to be a part of big changemaking. It really turned my life around.”

When our conversation turned to current events and all that the world has experienced in the last six months, Cat cited the often-repeated saying: “change happens in two ways: very slowly and incrementally, or suddenly, all at once.”

She brought a new perspective into the mix, reiterating the importance of strong partnerships and co-creation.

“The thing that people don’t say about change is that it always happens, no matter the speed, because of relationships of trust. People who trust each other come up with ideas and work together over time to spread those ideas, so in those moments of disruption, when change can happen all at once, the bedrock is already there and the relationships to get it over the line are already formed.

With an ongoing global pandemic, mounting calls for a just, green recovery, and our federal government announcing big plans in the Throne Speech, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the pace and scale of change afoot, to feel a sense of urgency to act. Yet, we cannot be too hasty or sacrifice a climate justice approach in favour of speed. Cat quoted Indigenous Climate Action Executive Director Eriel Deranger to drive this point home: “We need to get better at moving at the speed of trust.”

Our conversation with Cat made it clear that lasting change is driven by many, not one — and we must put care into building the relationships that will create a better future for all.

Our conversation with Cat covered a number of topics, and we’ve only highlighted a couple big ideas here! You can watch the full conversation here. Check out these links for ways you can learn more and take action:

If you want to hear more bold ideas from the world’s leading climate experts, tune in for our next Climate Ventures Conversations on November 5! We’ll be sitting down for a conversation with Marc Lee, Senior Economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. RSVP here!

BLOOM: What you saw, or what you missed!

On Friday May 31 2018, we held BLOOM, a spring event like no other. Complete with packed dance floor, fascinating conversations, and raucous laughter, BLOOM was a perfect celebration of 15 years of CSI.

CSI’s co-founder and CEO Tonya Surman

But alongside all of the trips down memory lane, we also looked forward, towards the emergence of the Social Innovation Institute.

SII believes that Canadians can be global leaders in driving change for a better world. We know that this work builds from and in communities, and that it takes grit, passion, smarts and resources. That’s why SII is dedicated to inclusive social innovation, removing economic barriers to participation, and creating opportunities for education and building connections.

Social Innovation Canada Director Chi Nguyen

In the coming years, we are going to be supporting the incredible leadership of social innovators working in communities from coast to coast by building Canada’s first national social innovation network. And we will be developing ‘social innovation 101’ education and training programs that deepen knowledge and strengthen individual and collective capacity.

Through SII’s Community Fund, we will make these programs accessible as well as provide affordable workspaces for newcomer and economically marginalized audiences, starting right here in Toronto at CSI’s Regent Park Community Launchpad.

CSI’s Marketing and Communications Manager Lisa Amerongen

It’s early days yet for SII but we’re making great progress. Your generosity can make this work possible, enabling us to reach more members of the community every day.

Once again, we hope you will consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount, large or small, to support SII’s Community Fund. Thank you for being part of this world-changing community!! And check out these fantastic photos of the event, courtesy of You the Best Photography. Tag yourself and tag your friends!


Five astonishing people you will meet at BLOOM

Centre for Social Innovation and the Institute co-present Bloom

15 years ago we opened our doors to 14 organizations with a simple idea about sharing. Since then, we’ve seen over 5000 social innovators call CSI home. On Friday, May 31 we celebrate those 5000 amazing, creative, innovative social entrepreneurs who have helped us grow by hosting BLOOM. In addition to those familiar faces, BLOOM will also feature five other creative people at the top of their game.

Natalie’s work wins awards, grows audiences, and introduces people to the thing they often end up loving most in the world. She’s the author of two books: DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains, and Thumbscrews. She recently finished writing a video game about wanton destruction, adorable gore, and gardening. Her first novel — Hench — will be published next year by William Morrow. (The book is dedicated to the plight of hench-people: the downtrodden and often expendable employees of supervillains.)
Find her online: On her robust Twitter timeline
Find her at BLOOM: Writing personalized short-short stories for attendees, about life in the year 2034.

Josh is a Toronto-based cartoonist and illustrator. He spends most of his time drawing goblins, vampires, professional wrestlers, and other subjects of serious import. Previous clients include Slate, Dartmouth University, and Seven Days Magazine. When not doodling, he helps run arts and literacy-oriented educational programming through the organization Story Planet. His graphic novel, The Secret Adventures of Felix Pinn won the The Center for Cartoon Studies Book Proposal Contest.
Find him online: On his charming Instagram feed
Find him at BLOOM: Doing personalized illustrations for attendees, about life in the year 2034.

Influenced by jazz, world folk songs, and hip-hop, Jazz Money turn heads with their unique and infectious sound. Though they began as a street band, nowadays Jazz Money can be heard in venues all over the city as a jazz trio or hip-hop sextet. With a collaborative hip-hop album in the works featuring some of Canada’s finest MCs, they’re committed to reaching for new artistic heights while remaining a versatile band suitable for any occasion.
Find them online: At Bandcamp, where you can download their albums!
Find them at BLOOM: Setting the mood

Miranda Tempest has been a professional aerial performer for ten years. She has trained and worked with artists from around the world​​​​​ has toured as an aerialist internationally. Early on, Miranda decided to follow a less traditional path within the world of aerial performance, and has since performed in some of Canada’s edgiest underground events as well as within the upper echelons of corporate and private parties. Miranda is the producer of the “Nerdgasm” cabaret series.
Find her online: In this Youtube featurette
Find her at BLOOM: In the air

DJ Steph Honey is an emerging, versatile Toronto-based DJ. The art of bringing music to the world is something that run in her veins; she is the daughter of a DJ who devoted himself to the long hours of digging for new and obscure records, honing his skills and developing a personal relationship with music. From the example of her father and other mentors, DJ Steph Honey learned a love of music that understands its limitlessness.
Find her online: On her Soundcloud
Find her at BLOOM: Filling the dance floor.

There is still time to get tickets to this amazing party! We can’t wait to see you there.

Climate Ventures Pitch Night 2019

Want to meet the winners of Pitch Night? Come to CV Mornings on April 3!

Agents of Change: Climate Solutions is an early-stage accelerator run by Climate Ventures, our incubator for social enterprises who are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling the climate crisis.

The final major event for this cohort was participating in our Pitch Night. 250 people came out to show their support for the 13 ventures pitching! Each venture delivered an elevator pitch to the audience, who then voted on which five would get the chance to give their full pitches to a panel of esteemed judges. These judges determined the strongest pitches, and gave out awards totalling $20K.

The first place prize of $10K went to to Biopolynet. Check out their pitch deck!

The second prize of $6K went to the Spent Goods Company. Check out this Q&A with the founder!

The third prize of $4K went to Feedback! Check out this recent article about their work!

All the pitches were amazing and it was a super tight competition. Take some time to learn about the important work of all the Agents of Change.

If you weren’t at the event, this is what you missed!

A huge thank you to our advisors and coaches that helped make this program possible, and to our audience for making Pitch Night such a success. Most of all, we are so proud of the Agents of Change and the progress they have made. Thank you to the entrepreneurs working on creating our low-carbon economy and future! Want to be part of it? Book a tour of Climate Ventures today!