“People need people” – Tonya Surman

It’s obviously an unusual time to be a coworking space. What happens to shared spaces when we’re not allowed to share space with one another? As a not-for-profit, CSI has always been about more than bricks and beams. We’re about people. And we’re not going to let a global pandemic keep us from supporting people as best we can.

This is a fact our CEO outlined in a recent interview:

“We’re trying to maintain communication, collaboration, and the sharing of ideas,” she said. “We’re really looking at how to keep these networks robust.”

Despite those efforts, the reality is small businesses and organizations are struggling to remain afloat.

“This is a really difficult time. We’re seeing about 60 per cent of our members in some form of financial trouble,” Surman shared, adding the absence of the in-person interaction among CSI members and staff is also taking a toll.

“The question is how long will they be able to keep going (like this)? People need people. Social distancing is so hard.”

Want to get a quick idea of how we are continuing to support our members right now? Check out CSI Supports! Here are some highlights:

Calendar: CSI’s Programming Calendar is your place to check out all the online webinars, workshops, peer circles, and talks we have available.

Programs: Our accelerators and educational courses such as Social Entrepreneurship 101Agents of Change and Earth Tech are all now taking place online.

Community: We’re still fostering the CSI community – moving the party from the kitchen to the cloud! Salad Club is still happening, check out our calendar!

Concierge: CSI will help our members navigate government programs. If you need help, email us support@socialinnovation.ca. Looking for help with CERB? Check out this blog post!

Newsletters: Get daily updates, resources, and stories of hope from the social innovation community in your inbox. Sign up here!

 

Op-Ed: Don’t let COVID-19 take down our clean tech sector

In addition to its contribution to saving the planet, the value of environmental and clean technology activities totalled $61.9 billion in 2017, and accounted for 3.1% of Canadian GDP. These tens of billions of dollars have been put at risk by the COVID-19 crisis.

Cleantech ecosystem accelerator Foresight, in partnership with CSI, recently surveyed more than 300 cleantech companies to learn the impacts this crisis has had on their work, and what would help keep them in business right now. The majority of those surveyed said what they needed was a one-time grant.

Foresight CEO Jeanette Jackson collaborated with CSI’s Director of Programs Barnabe Geis on an op-ed in the National Observer that shines a light on how important these types of investments are right now. As governments design stimulus packages to help us prepare for the post-COVID-19 world, they have the chance to create a green economy powered by clean energy and enabled by clean technology:

If there isn’t a concerted effort to support this sector right now, many companies will go bankrupt or be so delayed in getting their technology to market that Canada’s competitive advantage may be lost, and climate action will be delayed when we can least afford it. Instead of leading, as we were positioned to do, we will be playing catchup in the biggest, most important transformation since the Industrial Revolution.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world are announcing trillions of dollars worth of monetary and fiscal stimulus. Where this money goes will reshape the global economy.

Canada must seize the moment, and invest in the future. This means ending subsidies to fossil fuels and not bailing out the economically unviable and ultimately doomed oil sands. This means investing in climate action broadly as well as cleantech specifically, leading to sustained job creation and economic growth.

Our response to the pandemic is our chance to make the best of a terrible crisis. If we prioritize short-term growth by investing in the status quo, we will have squandered our opportunity and financial resources, leading to untold economic and social hardships down the road due to a worsening climate crisis.

One way CSI’s Climate Ventures is working to build a New Green Economy is through Earth Tech, a six-month accelerator for those working on climate or freshwater technology solutions that will positively impact communities and ecosystems across Canada. You can meet the participants here.

Self-care ideas in the time of COVID-19

Photo of red couch pillow and cup of hot chocolate looking out through a window to the road

Right now, we’re sailing through uncharted waters. There’s a shared sense of anxiety and uneasiness about the future. And physical distancing, while necessary, can amplify the loneliness we feel.

That’s why, right now, the priority shouldn’t be to spend all of your “newfound” time working, or learning a new skill, or picking up old hobbies. As we navigate through these stormy seas, what’s most important is putting your physical and mental health first.

Here are some self-care ideas and online mental health resources to help get you through the next little bit!

Connect from afar

Friends and family are, quite literally, one phone call away. Our screens are connecting us to the people we can’t see in person.

This could mean calling up an old university roommate for a virtual coworking session. This could mean watching a TV show or movie with a good friend using Kosmi or Netflix Party. This could mean joining one of CSI’s virtual rituals and chatting about the mundane with some familiar faces.

Make time to relax

Take a moment to ground yourself, calm your breathing, and clear your mind. Light a scented candle, take a long hot shower, or bask in the afternoon sun.

Headspace is offering a free selection of meditation, sleep, and other resources to help guide you through this!

Get some fresh air

Breathing in fresh air and absorbing the sun can do wonders for your mood. This can be as simple as watching the sunset or doing some reading on your balcony or front porch!

When you feel ready to stretch your legs, take a stroll around the neighbourhood. (Don’t forget to smile at other wayfarers you pass by — from a safe distance apart!)

Channel energy into a good workout

Lots of gyms, yoga, and dance studios are offering virtual classes to help pass the time while we stay inside. Some instructors and choreographers are also teaching classes online, so check their Instagram or YouTube pages to see what they’re up to!

CSI member Catherine Chan launched FitIn Live. A $10 day pass gives you access to a full day of livestreamed fitness and mental health classes run by local instructors!

Find solace in art and photography

Art is a wonderful way to express emotions! You could have your own paint night by following along a Bob Ross video, or spend an afternoon colouring in images based on the collections of over a hundred libraries, archives, and cultural institutions.

Peer-to-peer mental health support

CSI Regent Park member Big White Wall is an online community where users can support each other. They also offer self-guided courses, self-assessments, and creative tools to help you express how you’re feeling. Trained practitioners are available 24/7 and each user is protected by anonymity, so they can feel safe sharing how they feel.

Big White Wall is free for all residents of Ontario aged 16 and older, thanks to funding from the Ontario Government and Ontario Telehealth Network.

Tools and coaching for mental wellness

BounceBack® is a free skill-building program for youth and adults delivered through online videos and phone calls with a coach. It is designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry.

Self-care looks different for everyone! As long as it helps take your mind off of the world and brings you a bit of joy, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do.

CSI Supports: CERB application walk-through

IMPORTANT NOTE: The requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefits program have opened up.

You are now eligible if all the following apply to you:

  • You reside in Canada
  • You are at least 15 years old
  • You earn less $1000/month
  • You have not voluntarily quit your job
  • You have had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of your application. (Note: This $5000 does not have to have been earned in Canada

… and at least one of the following applies to you:

  • You have stopped working because of COVID-19
  • You were expecting a seasonal job, but it’s now gone
  • You’ve run out of EI since January 1

Additional note: If you are on EI, you will be automatically moved to CERB while it is available. Once the CERB program is closed, you will be moved back to regular EI.

As COVID-19 is increasing economic uncertainty and insecurity across the country, we want to make sure that everyone gets the support they need.

One of the programs that has been launched is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (aka CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you determine that the CERB is the best fit for you, you’ll be able to apply this week. Here is a screen-by-screen breakdown of what that process looks like. (We are including the address bar in the images so you can check to make sure you are on the right page!)

Step one: Check out this chart to determine which day you should apply:

Step two: On your application date, go to CRA MyAccount. You should see the screen below. Choose from one of these two options to log in. If you use online banking, you can choose “Sign-in Partner Login / Register” and sign in the same way you would to your online banking. (For the purpose of this walk-through, we will be demonstrating sign-in via sign-in partner.)

Step three: When you click “Sign-in Partner Login / Register” you will get this pop-up. If it is your day to apply, click the “Sign-in Partner Login / Register” button again.

Step four: Click on the logo of your bank or credit union. If your bank or credit union isn’t on the list, you will have to navigate back to the login screen and login via CRA. If you do not have a CRA login, this video shows how to sign up for one.

Step five: You will be taken to your online banking sign-in screen, with a “Secure Key Concierge” logo in the top right corner. This is what that screen looks like for TD Canada Trust; all the interfaces are pretty similar.

Step six: After you have logged in via your online banking details, you will be taken to a screen that looks like this. There will be a light cyan box specifically about the CERB. Click the “Apply” button in that box.

Step seven: You will be taken to this screen, which breaks down the Eligibility for CERB. If you meet the criteria, click on “Select a period”. A drop-down menu will appear that says “March 15 to April 11, 2020” (that will be the only option).

Step eight: You will be taken to a screen to certify that you meet all of the criteria. You will need no documentation to prove your eligibility. (The $5000 you are required to have earned could have happened between either January 1 2019 to January 1 2020 or April 11 2019 to April 11 2020.)

Step nine: You will be taken to a screen to confirm that your banking information is correct. Make sure the money is being deposited into an account you have access to! If it is not, click “update direct deposit” and navigate through that process.

Step ten: That’s it! You’re done! You should get your $2000 deposit in three business days!

We hope this has been helpful; remember that you will have to do it again next month! If you use an online calendar or day planner, make a note to remind yourself to go through the process again the week of May 11. We will update this doc if any part of the process changes. If you are looking for other types of information or support right now, check out CSI Supports.

CSI Supports: How we’re moving our rituals online

Salad Club at CSI Annex

One of the most difficult parts of staying at home is being unable to see everyone’s lovely faces. Whether it was bonding over bagels, making friends with salad (yes, it is possible!), or just smiling at each other as we walked through the halls, the positivity inside the CSI buildings has always been energizing!

As Tara, our CSI Annex Community Animator, put it: “At a time like this, where we are distancing physically, community becomes more important than ever.”

Of course, CSI was built to bring people together — and our team has been working especially hard over the past week and a half to move that special sense of community online.

This new method of convening has its upsides, too. We just had our first virtual Salad Club, with members, DECAs, and staff across all three CSI locations. It was an opportunity to see familiar faces and make new friends!

CSI's first ever Virtual Salad Club, on April 1 2020

 

Zoom has proven to be a versatile tool. Just like how we would normally grab our salad and sit down at a table, we broke out into smaller groups to chat about how we’re adjusting to this new way of life.

In the last fifteen minutes of the lunch hour, we were brought back together, where we shared the meat (haha) of our breakout group conversations.

By the time we signed off, we were all in high spirits. It was like that special CSI energy found its way into each of our homes.


We’ve got a bunch of virtual rituals and events planned in the coming weeks as we continue to navigate through this strange time together! Every Monday, we’ll host a quick check-in to do a gut check and some goal-setting. Friday evenings will be reserved for a small toast to celebrate getting through the week!

Visit our Programming Calendar to see what’s next, and check out our full list of CSI Supports here.


(Header photo: Sammy Tangir)

Four Ways CSI Members are Offering Support during the COVID-19 Crisis

As we continue to see uncertain (and sometimes scary) news headlines, it’s important to remember the acts of kindness and selflessness that shine through during these difficult times.

Today, we look at four ways the CSI community has come together to make these challenging days just a little easier.

Coming together to preserve local culture

The Tranzac Club is one of the local cultural spaces that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. This independent community folk music venue in the Annex was forced to close its doors on March 16. A few days later, CSI member Lokchi Lam sent out a heartfelt email to our community. She detailed how devastating the closure was to the venue and its staff and asked for support. Within a week, the Tranzac Club received 64 new or renewed memberships (a large chunk of which came from CSI)!

The venue was delighted: “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our hearts are very warm, and we look forward to getting you new members t-shirts and membership cards when we reopen.”

Delivering fresh, locally-sourced food from farms to homes

Farmers’ markets have been closing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Annex Market is supporting the city’s food infrastructure by filling in the gap: they are inviting local farmers to sell their produce at Annex Market’s physical location.

Also, CSI alumni Fresh City Farms has waived delivery fees for its customers until May 15! In an email, CEO Ran Goel explains: “You will be able to shop for the items you need, when you need them, without having to leave your home if you can or don’t want to.”

To support the increase in demand for grocery deliveries, Fresh City Farms is hiring restaurant staff who were laid off due to COVID-19.

Sharing educational resources with school boards and parents

As students, parents, and educators adapt to virtual learning, Peekapak has opened up its lessons, at-home activities and interactive learning games for all affected families with children between Pre-K to 5th grade. Their resources help improve literacy and social-emotional learning skills. Request access here!

Cataloguing the COVID-19 resources available in Toronto

CSI member and ER doctor Ilan Shahin collaborated with Zahra Ebrahim to create the COVID-19 Resources Toronto app. Whether you’re looking for ways to help your community, or you need a bit of help yourself, this directory can point you in the right direction.


If you or someone you know is working on a project to help your community, let us know!

CSI Supports: Six ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 misinformation

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the most important thing we are all doing right now. But also crucial at this time is not spreading inaccurate information about the virus.

From our social media feeds to our inboxes, we all have a lot of articles coming at us right now about this disease. It can be difficult to know what is worth taking seriously, what is worth ignoring, and what is worth passing on to others. Melissa Ryan — author of Hope Not Hate’s weekly newsletter — has put together good guidelines to help you sort that out.

Here are some highlights:

  1. You have probably been hearing the phrase “Flatten the curve” a lot. Well for simple, clear, actionable science about how you can do that, check out Flattenthecurve.com. (This is also a great link to send folks who won’t stay home!)
  2. Mike Caufield is working to improve civic discourse by developing web literacy skills. He offers a simple and effective method for how to gut check information you see online, specifically for COVID-19. You can see him apply this method to daily examples on his Twitter feed.
  3. Reporter Jane Lytvynenko tracks disinformation about world events in real-time both on her Twitter account and in articles she files.
  4. Journalist resource First Draft has built a searchable archive of COVID-19 debunks, and pulled together a great list of reliable sources from around the world.
  5. Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis has created this COVID Twitter list of 500 epidemiologists, virologists, physicians, researchers, NGOs, and selected specialist journalists.
  6. Pinterest has limited COVID-19 searches to only show results from internationally-recognized health organizations. So if you’re going to search social media for information, it turns out Pinterest is your most fact-checked option.

There are lots more gems in Melissa’s full blog post. It is something that is unquestionably worth checking out and sharing.

 

CSI Supports: How to get financial support during COVID-19

UPDATE: Applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are now open! Click here to see our walk-through of what the application process looks like!

As COVID-19 is increasing economic uncertainty and insecurity across the country, we want to make sure that everyone gets the support they need. So we are sharing the most recent information we have about how to make this happen.

First and foremost, if you are eligible for Employment Insurance you should apply as soon as possible. You can get details about eligibility requirements here, and you can start an application here. (Before you begin, make sure you have all of these documents handy.)

For those who don’t qualify for EI, the Government of Canada has announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (The CERB is a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.)

Applications will begin in early April, and Canadians would begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of application.

You will be able to apply for these benefits starting in April 2020, in one of two ways:

  1. Via CRA MyAccount
  2. Via My Service Canada

To access these funds, you must have an account set up in one of those places; do this now. That way, money can be deposited straight to your account without delays in April. You should also make sure you have online banking already set up as you will need this for the registration of your account.

Additionally, the Government of Canada has shared a number of resources for small businesses during this time:

Also applicable to small businesses:

We will update this page as new information becomes available. Best of luck, everyone.

CSI Supports: Leadership from our CEO during COVID-19

Tonya Surman sitting in front of a fire place on a fur rug.
CSI was created to build social cohesion – we have been carefully designed to facilitate human-to-human connections. You can just imagine what the idea of social distancing does to us – it pretty much breaks our hearts. Today I am writing to you to announce that we have decided to close our spaces and move our love and belonging into the cloud where we will continue to foster community and social innovation together.

For the last week, CSI has been implementing increasing levels of social distancing and now, with Ontario’s Emergency shut down, we have made the difficult but responsible decision to close our buildings effective Wednesday, March 18 at 4pm. We have made this choice because we believe that a community-wide effort is needed as we work together to #flattenthecurve and protect our vulnerable populations.

What does this mean for you, our community?

  • Our buildings are closed to the community and public at this time. No public events will be permitted in the space. All common areas will be closed. Tenants and members will still be able to access their own spaces and are strongly encouraged to stay home in solidarity with those most at risk.
  • We will also be closing our event spaces and asking for planned events to be postponed effective tomorrow in order to adhere to the call to action from Canada’s top health officer, from Toronto Public Health, and the Premier to cancel all gatherings of 10 people or more.
  • We will not be postponing any meeting room bookings at this time but we do strongly recommend to members that they consider moving their meetings online or postponing them as a way to maintain the two metres of distance recommended by our health officials to combat COVID-19 transmission.
Just as fast as we are closing our spaces, we are also opening up new online convenings and ramping up our news and information about local solutions and strategies to help us all through this extremely challenging time. Watch our daily online newsletter – CLICK – for all of the latest from around the world and right here at home. We are also organizing a major online convening on how COVID-19 may be a catapult to the Next Economy and devising a Universal Basic Income advocacy strategy. Ironically, we were already implementing a digital transformation – talk about an impetus to make that happen faster than ever. Suffice it to say that we expect to be very busy in the coming weeks as we work to feel a little less isolated and a little more socially connected.

We have no idea how long this will last but we will be reviewing this position on a daily basis. I think it is fair to say that we expect to be out for at least as long as the schools are out and are looking to the province and Toronto Public Health for their best advice.

Strangely, when you step back, it is kind of amazing that the world is demonstrating its capacity to act at a global level to address a global threat. Never in the history of the world have we ever seen such clear alignment and demonstration of what we are capable of. This gives me profound hope and maybe, just maybe, we will see that this capacity can be applied to many of the other global threats that we face. The one thing I know is that we are being forever changed.

With so much solidarity and love in my heart, please take care, reach out if you need something, use this moment to breathe, appreciate what we do have, and act with patience and love.

In peace,

Tonya Surman
CEO, Centre for Social Innovation