Our Biggest Year Yet! 2014-2015 in review

Our Biggest Year Yet! 2014-2015 in review

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Oct 1, 2015

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“First and foremost, we want to do what we do, better.” That’s the opening line of our 2014 strategic plan, the same year we turned ten. Like any milestone, it was a mixed bag of celebration, business as usual and reflection. After almost 40% growth each year for the last seven years, however, we were ready to slow things down and really understand what we had on our hands. To honour that last point, our CEO, Tonya Surman, famously decreed, “No new projects for one year!” and “This year we shine the jewel.”

The experience was illuminating on so many levels. Some of my favourite outcomes, and there were many, include:

  • Crystallizing our vision of a world where we put people and planet first.
  • Updating our values and asking ourselves what we are willing to stand for.
  • Affirming our ability to connect people—to other people, resources and tools—as the essence of what we do.

The year was also a hard one because the reflection and consolidation went against our fast-moving and opportunistic nature. Near the end of it, some of the restlessly entrepreneurial staff even said they were getting bored! More importantly, it raised so many questions. How sound would our business model be five, ten and twenty years from now? How do you effectively structure an organization that operates in two countries? Was our work actually changing the world? Good questions, but collectively, exhausting.

“First and foremost, we want to do what we do, better.”

Forty-five days after we lifted the moratorium on doing new projects, we purchased a 64,000 sq. ft. brick and beam building at 192 Spadina Ave. in downtown Toronto (see
p. 18). I think it’s fair to say we were raring to go! The reflection process of the last year gave us greater organizational capacity, resolve and confidence. The building is a giant strategic leap forward for the organization and our ability to support social innovation.

Another area we wanted to strengthen was our core technology in order to better connect members of our community with each other, and to measure our impact and our community’s impact on the world. So we grew our tech team from one to six tech whizzes just in the last year.

Another thing I personally geeked out on was the introduction of nametags for members. We’ve always designed our spaces for collisions and serendipity, from communal kitchens to lounges to having as few walls as possible. This year we took it one step further by making it easier to know someone’s name. This can foster more than just
connections — it builds belonging and trust.

Reflecting on the past ten years, we thought a lot about our members and alumni and all of their incredible accomplishments. We’re not short on stories, and we needed to find better ways to share them. So we commenced a project to overhaul our websites; every week we entrusted a staff or member with our Facebook page so they could share a week of their life with our followers; we made an awesome video that tells the story of CSI; and we made this: our latest edition of The Collider.

The Collider is an earnest attempt at telling you what’s happened in the last year, how we’re doing (see p. 42 for our financial story), and of course, why we believe social
innovation is awesome!