Staff and Board
A small but dedicated team of individuals committed to positive social change leads the Centre.
Tonya Surman, CEO
Raised by hippies, Tonya Surman has been making peace signs and raising a ruckus since the day she was born. Her most recent ruckus is the Centre for Social Innovation. As founding executive director, Tonya imagines the Centre as space that sparks creativity, connectedness and fun. Before this, she channeled her overzealous optimism into a national coalition of organizations working on children's environmental health, a social enterprise offering e-mail to activists and an edgy online news hub for Canadian progressives. Between these experiments in social entrepreneurship, Tonya has found the time to create a coop daycare, host chaotic street parties and create community gardens. She is also the mother of two wonderful boys which, in the end, is what matters most. Tonya is available for consulting and speaking engagements... Full bio.
Eli Malinsky, Executive Director CSI Starrett-Lehigh, NYC
Eli prefers the cause of helping other people’s causes, which he supposes has now become his own cause. He started thinking this way in his mid-twenties when he gave up his lavish lifestyle to toil away in the research program at Imagine Canada. This was followed by a return to school where Eli was reunited with his first love – receiving A’s from approving teachers. Eli used his time at school to explore how networks of activists and nonprofits use technology to work together. When he graduated, he found a perfect home at the Centre for Social Innovation, where he oversees programs and strategy, and where Tonya indulges him with quarterly report cards. Eli is both a dog and cat person and isn’t sure why it’s always one or the other. Eli is available for consulting and speaking engagements.
To reach Eli, drop him an email.
Adil Dhalla, Director of Culture
Adil Dhalla is the ukulele playing, bow tie wearing, Director of Culture at the Centre for Social Innovation. His story, as he describes it, has been "one helluva adventure", which includes community organizing for the Obama campaign in Brooklyn, helping Tanzanian farmers leverage technology to improve their efforts and most recently, being among the pioneers in the mobile video space with his acclaimed brainchild - My City Lives. Adil has long been enamoured with CSI and the potential of its community to create a social innovation movement. He strongly believes that it's up to each of us to change the world, and accordingly, his energy is spent animating the community by instilling a shared sense of purpose, elevating happiness levels through awesome service and evangelizing the many stories of systems change and social innovation. Adil is available for both consulting and speaking engagements.
To reach Adil, drop him an email.
Karine Jaouich, Director of Operations
Karine's ideal holiday involves mucking around with 600 farm animals. She tolerates, and even enjoys, being surrounded by chicken poo because of her passion for food and sustainable farming issues. Before joining the CSI team she worked in an operational capacity with both FoodShare and Local Food Plus, where she was also able to apply her other passions: systems processes and efficiency. She has found that building community is central within the food movement as well as all other movements. And because of this, she is ecstatic to be CSI's Director of Operations, to be surrounded by a community of communities and to be in the organizational role that she loves best.
To reach Karine, drop her an email.
Dave Kranenburg, Director of Programs
Dave was raised in a military family, traversing Canada every two years as a child. It’s how he honed his skills at marching to a different beat, which he later perfected at the University of Guelph. After six years of dabbling in everything, his marching was rewarded with a BSc in Zoology and a BA in Criminal Justice and Public Policy. So naturally he took this wealth of knowledge to work for a food charity, Meal Exchange. Before he knew a thing about budgets and grant proposals he found himself in Montreal for a series of meetings between social entrepreneurs called “Applied dissemination and sustaining social innovation.” He was hooked, and continued traversing the country, now to bang the drum of social innovation on university campuses. He has served as advisor, mentor, treasurer and supporter for food, technology, youth, environment and international development start-ups across the country, and is happy that his nomadic life has come to a stop in Toronto at CSI. Listen closely and you’ll hear him pay tribute to his military upbringing with a barrage of phrases like “down in front.” He has yet to figure out how to pay tribute to his zoology degree in everyday language.
To reach Dave, drop him an email.
Timna Ben-Ari, Executive Assistant
Timna has always been “that-person-taking-notes” in class, at home and even at the gym. Even as a child, she was a diligent note-taker, although her initial writing process was mirror image and upside-down—really, ask her kindergarten teacher about it. Now, with the invention of the computer, she is perpetually the one taking notes and then re-typing them. As a lefty, Timna has never been quite normal—she takes her own path and takes as many people down it with her as possible. Described by those who love her as charmingly neurotic, and by others as just neurotic, Timna has always been a creative problem solver. A hypochondriac at heart (is that a heart murmur?), Timna always provides an understanding shoulder to lean on and has empathy up the ying yang! Her interests include dancing (awkwardly, but with passion), playing trumpet (loudly, but with passion) and eating (often and with passion). Her dislikes are members of the onion family—white onions, red onions, green onions and leeks, to name a few— and the inconsiderate (i.e., those who put onions in everything). She studied Film and English at The University of Manitoba, which led her towards various administrative roles (don’t be sad—she loves administrative work!). In this regard, she had the opportunity to work for many years as a Personal Assistant to iconic filmmaker, Guy Maddin. The majority of her experience has been in Production Management in film and theatre, where she honed her skills and her love for organizing the world. CSI is the community Timna has been searching for her whole life—a community of those interested in helping others and doing it through an organized system of efficiency! With a notebook and pen in hand, she is happy to be home.
To reach Timna, drop her an email
Brittney Drysdale, Community Animator, CSI Annex
Brittney was raised on a farm in rural, northern Alberta. She can drive a tractor. You probably could too though, it’s not that hard. Or maybe you've got your own interesting skills - why don't you stop by and tell her about them sometime? After the farm chores were done, she moved to Montreal to study Political Science and Humanistic Studies at McGill University. Brittney has recently returned to Canada following a two year sojurn in South Korea where she taught English to impossibly cute children. Along the way she had a chance to travel throughout Asia, but kind of missed the snow back home. Kind of. Brittney is excited to call Toronto home now, and even more excited to start her journey with CSI!
To reach Brittney, drop her an email
Shona Fulcher, CSI Spadina Manager
Shona has long had a softspot for the reluctant hero who, when faced with a wrong they can right, quietly pulls up their socks and changes the world. This early fascination led her to a degree in Peace & Conflict studies and a career in the social services sector with the Ontario Child Welfare Training system. After a brief detour through the world of private sector finance, Shona returned to the social mission sector as one the CSI's inaugural Agents of Change interns. Now Shona excitedly returns to the real business of changing the world here at CSI & has high hopes to become her very own reluctant hero someday.
To reach Shona send her an email.
Barnabe Geis, Communications Lead
Barnabe Geis didn’t learn to speak conventional languages until after he was three years old. Before that, he spoke his own unintelligible dialect, which his parents painstakingly transcribed into a dictionary for his Parisian grandmother. When he learned French in preschool, he forgot all of his English save for a few choice expletives in Jamaican Patois he had picked up from his nanny. So a career in communications was a no-brainer. As a teenager, inspired by the stories of botanists and explorers, he wandered through Latin America in search of shamans. A few reality-defying experiences later, he resigned himself to higher education and completed a B.A. in Political Science “With Distinction.” He moved to the West Bank and founded a tourism company, guiding people behind the headlines of the Middle East. He travelled through the region over land, and then took a position as a communications officer and Middle East policy analyst back in Canada. Always an avid writer, he moved to New York and did his Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University. He once met a half-crazy, toothless taxi driver in Iraq who told him “politicians don’t fix problems, neighbours do.” Barnabe thought it was a pretty succinct way of saying that systems-change most often starts at the grassroots level with a few dedicated individuals. He wishes he could tell that taxi driver where he now works.
To reach Barnabe send him an email.
Erin Kang, Events Coordinator
Erin’s parents owned a restaurant for most of her childhood, and at the age of eleven she was thrown into the world of customer service—now part and parcel of all she does. From bartending to leading volunteer garden groups to designing her jewellery line, she always strives to bring efficiency and vibrancy to her work and hobbies. She enjoys exploring Toronto’s lesser-known corners—her background in Urban Studies, Geography and History coming in handy. A brief rendezvous in Europe opened her eyes to a whole other world of city-building and community development, which inspired her studies and urban explorations. As the Events Coordinator, nothing could excite her more than supporting social innovators by helping them hold spectacular events at CSI.
To reach Erin, send her an email.
Sacha Kumar, CSI Annex Manager
Although he was born and raised in Oakville, Sacha has always been a Torontonian at heart. As a child, he would express his devotion to the city by attending as many Blue Jays games as possible. He once caught a home run ball (from Devon White) and appeared on the Jumbotron in the same game marking what was easily one of the greatest days of his entire childhood. As the son of an Indian father and Irish/French mother, Sacha has fallen in love with the diversity and vibrance in Toronto. His ethnic background instilled a keen interest in culture that has taken him on adventures overseas including a trip through the Middle East and , more recently, a trip to Karnataka, India where he worked as a Global Fellow for the Deshpande Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, training and mentoring youth social entrepreneurs. He is also a Co-Founder of BizInc, an on-campus business incubator for undergraduate student entrepreneurs at the University of Western Ontario that he started with a few friends after completing a Political Science degree. Now that he calls Toronto a permanent home, he is looking forward to making a splash in the Social Enterprise scene in the course of his career. While he isn't working at CSI, he volunteers his time with the ACCESS Community Capital Fund and Endeavour Volunteer Consulting.
To reach Sacha, send him an email
Farah Malik, Manager Accounts
Feels like a fish, swimming without boundaries, in the peace and serenity of a social change ocean. Farah was born and raised in Kuwait. Deep down in Farah's heart the fire of wanting to make a difference has always burned brightly. In Pakistan, Farah joined the Insan Foundation- an NGO working for child rights and peace. First as an accounts volunteer and later as Program Manager. Then she found CSI and decided it was the best place to feed and sustain her fire; the fun and innovative place of social innovators where a numbers job is anything but boring. She is now working on her CMA.
To reach Farah, drop her an email
Heather Neville, Community Animator, CSI Spadina
As comfortable on the back of a horse as she is on a bicycle, Heather is equal parts city girl and country girl. After completing an Honours BA at the University of Toronto and an MA in Communications at Concordia University, where she specialized in gendered communication styles, Heather became a certified birth doula and childbirth educator. Her passion for birth, coupled with her intensely social nature have garnered her a reputation as an advocate for the rights of birthing women and a champion of birth as a normal, natural process that can be a source of power and pride when women are active and informed decision makers. Eager to influence system changes in maternal health care, discovering CSI felt like coming home. Here, she has found a place where passion for change is the norm and where she supports and is supported by her fellow social entrepreneurs. In addition to her doula practice and her work as a Community Animator at CSI, Heather is a member of the Women and Children's Health Community Advisory Panel (WHCAP) at St. Michael's Hospital and a member and Secretary on the board of directors of DoulaC.A.R.E., a non-profit organization that supports Canadian doulas and matches volunteer doulas with low-income women.
To reach Heather, drop her an email
Faith Nkomo, Community Animator, CSI Regent Park
After growing-up bathed in Zimbabwean sunshine and fed many servings of mielie-meal porridge, the political and economical problems she witnessed back home and her personal experiences left Faith with a burning desire to be involved in the solutions to social issues. Adventures through Europe, the US and the Caribbean also shaped the faithful Faith you will find at CSI Regent Park today. She came to call Toronto home in 2011, and CSI has provided a platform for her to explore the social and cultural issues that affect women. A self-diagnosed perfectionist with an obsession to organize and colour-code everything she can get her hands on, she aspires to be the most efficient person she knows. Faith reckons herself a top ambassador and front line barista of the power of positive thinking. She is passionate about giving back to the community that has welcomed and embraced her through volunteer activities across the city. She can also be found where the cakes and cookies are, re-reading a piece of old English literature, at the back and center rows of the cinemas, and all around the city discovering, exploring and falling in love with Toronto over and over again!
To reach Faith, send her an email
Liz Phillips, Leasing Coordinator
After more than a decade of freelance writing/editing/project coordination for a variety of organizations – most notably Gender at Work, rabble.ca, Web Networks, and Queen’s School of Business – Liz is thrilled to bring her passion for communication, organization, and people to the Leasing Coordinator position at CSI. Her experience as a volunteer in the Desk Exchange Program for over a year at the Annex honed her skill in artfully, wittily, and respectfully slapping wrists for dirty dishes. She plans to evolve those skills as she welcomes new members to participate fully in the incredible community that is CSI.
To reach Liz, send her an email
Leah Pollock, Program Coordinator
As an avid microphone user, Leah often finds herself speaking to a wide variety of people with a wide array of interests - this is her happy place. With a passion for music, collaboration and hosting events, the microphone has allowed Leah to reach larger audiences through hosting open mics, facilitating collaboration jams and belting out Led Zepplin songs in karaoke rooms around the world. Leah's background includes growing up on (but mostly IN) Lake Simcoe where she continues to swim, ice fish and cross country ski. Leah entered into Anthropology at Dalhousie University where she was able to explore dynamic cultures and cultural behaviours via text books. Not satisfied with this learning medium, the next logical step was to move to Asia to explore, teach, cycle and learn. It was there that she discovered her deep love of wild dogs, riding motorcycles in a skirt and drinking whiskey out of a bucket with elderly women. A return to Canada meant channelling this passion for absurdly beautiful things into something comparable...enter the Centre for Social Innovation! From the moment she walked through its doors, Leah knew she wanted to be involved with CSI. With a professional background in social enterprise, environment and innovation—Leah spent three years working with Me to We developing cutting-edge leadership programs with educators from across the world—she joined the team as Program Coordinator. Leah is also the co-founder of a face-to-face, collaborative problem-solving platform called #hatch, which she hosts quarterly in venues across the city.
To reach Leah, send her an email
Kirtan Shrestha, Bookkeeping Assistant
Kirtan loves numbers so accounting was an obvious career choice. He is passionate about football and cricket, and his accounting background comes in handy keeping track of scores and player stats. He also loves sketching and photography, and is honing his guitar skills in the hopes of one day delighting his family and friends. It may take a while… He graduated in business management, and is currently pursuing a CGA program. Kirtan, who strongly believes in supporting social causes, began his professional journey with Shanti Griha—an NGO in rural Nepal working for the empowerment of underprivileged and marginalized ethnic communities. He worked as an accountant, and also contributed to initiatives such as mobilizing local youth for community development. Settling in Canada in 2010 was a big transition for Kirtan, who, while adjusting to a new life, still desired to serve those in need and help build community. Kirtan is thrilled to have the opportunity to combine his love of numbers with his desire to support social causes at CSI.
To reach Kirtan, send him an email
Hamid Yusufi, Community Animator, CSI Regent Park
Hamid is a part-time Community Animator at CSI Regent Park. He hails from the mountainous landlocked country at the heart of Asia, Afghanistan. Hamid has worked in capacity building projects in Afghanistan, and has now taken his very first steps in Canada at CSI. He shares CSI’s goal to change the world with the power of innovation. He finds hockey interesting, though it’s certainly not as exciting as Buzkashi, the Afghan national sport played on horseback using a headless goat instead of a puck. Hamid likes taking long walks to discover the city. He doesn’t quite get the jogging craze. When he finds spare time, he grabs his pencil, finds a photo of a person he likes, and draws it.
To reach Hamid send him an email.
Board of Directors
Jeb Brugmann, Managing Partner of The Next Practice, is a strategist and innovation expert in the fields of sustainability, business and urban development. He is best known for leading roles in the international establishment of the fields of urban sustainability planning, ‘base of the pyramid’ business development, and urban greenhouse gas mitigation planning. In 1990, he founded ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of 1,200 cities and towns that are advancing practices in local sustainable development. He served as ICLEI Secretary General from 1991-2000. He co-founded The Next Practice with Prof. C.K. Prahalad in 2004, managing market analytics, product development, and business model innovation to customize clients’ solutions to local conditions. Jeb is a speaker to business, government, civic and academic audiences worldwide, and has received a variety of distinctions and awards for his international initiatives and publications. He is a Senior Associate with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. His latest book is Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities Are Changing the World.
Brian Iler, Board Secretary
Brian brings valuable skills and experience to our board. As a commercial lawyer for the past 35(!) years, he's advised many of Toronto's (and Ontario's) co-operative, charitable, and non-profit organizations on a wide range of issues and transactions. He's been the creative legal mind behind many of our innovative social enterprises. He's learned and applied the business skills required to build his law firm - Iler Campbell - to its current twenty staff, including seven lawyers. And he's a committed community activist, as a member of Ontario Non-profit Network's Expert Working Group on corporate law reform; a long-time advocate for reforms to Ontario's Co-operative Corporations Act; a founder of Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative that erected the wind turbine at Exhibition Place; a founding director of the Community Power Fund, established to finance community-based renewable energy projects; a member of the management committee for the hugely successful Green Energy Act campaign; chair and spokesperson for CommunityAIR that campaigns to rid Toronto's waterfront of the scourge that is the Island Airport.
Thursdays all summer, he'll be out racing his sailboat Indefatigable on Humber Bay.
Marie Moliner identifies as a public sector entrepreneur, and sometime as an undercover fed, apt labels to describe her 25 +years of proud public service. Tri-lingual and raised in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Marie attributes her resilience, humour and do-it-yourself style to immigrant parents who met in Montreal and begat 4 children. As the eldest child she is bossy by nature and chose a career in law with the lofty goal of changing the system. In her fifties now, she concedes that she has made fewer inroads towards the revolution… but still aspires to it. Based in Toronto, she is the Ontario Regional Executive Director for the Department of Canadian Heritage where she focuses her work on building strong cultural and social infrastructure so Ontarians can actively participate in their communities.
Named in 2000 as one of the 100 Graduates Who Shaped the Century by the University of Toronto Alumnae Association, Alice Klein is co-founder of Toronto's news and entertainment weekly, NOW magazine and its editor/CEO. Launched in 1981, it boasts a weekly readership of 325,000. As a frequent writer, Klein draws on her experience in politics, business and psychology to focus on issues related to world evolution, the environment and the global economy. Klein is also a documentary producer, director and writer (2007's Call of the Hummingbird). She's a founding member of Green Enterprise Toronto (GET), one of the co-creators of VoteforEnvironment.ca and on the Board of the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) as well as the Centre for Social Innovation.
Bernie Li, Treasurer
Bernie brings his passion for entrepreneurship and innovation to the Board of the Centre for Social Innovation. He is a Co-Founder of Pure Energies, a company that created an innovative program for Ontario homeowners to earn money while producing clean energy for the province. Before that, he had the opportunity to invest in and work alongside many amazing entrepreneurs, as a team member of the venture capital funds iNovia Capital and Carrot Capital. During that time he founded and led the Emerging Partners, a not-for-profit organization to catalyze and foster the relationships between private equity professionals across North America. Bernie is an avid music fan and readily accepts suggestions for new bands/artists to listen to.
Eric Meerkamper, Board Chair
Eric is the President of The RIWI Corporation, which creates real-time global market intelligence (www.riwi.com). Over the past 12 years, Eric has been actively involved in facilitating the interaction between "space" and "creativity". In addition to being a Co-Founder of the Centre for Social Innovation, he was the Founder and President of the Spadina Bus business association, and was on the Leadership Team for Toronto's "Strategies for a Creative Cites Project". Eric is the past Chair of the Daily Bread Food Bank and holds an MBA from the Ivey School of Business and an Honours BA in International Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. Co-Founder and Board Member 2004 - present
Mary W. Rowe is currently Vice President & Managing Director of the Municipal Art Society of New York City (www.mas.org), a century-old advocacy organization working to promote the livability and resilience of New York City. She recently returned to the northeast United States after several years working in the philanthropy, most recently coordinating the New Orleans Institute for Resilience and Innovation, a loose alliance of initiatives that emerged in response to the systemic collapses of 2005. Previous positions include: a fellowship and subsequent staff position as Vice President, Urban Programs with the blue moon fund of Charlottesville, Virginia, to focus on self-organization in cities as the underpinning of urban and regional social, economic and environmental resilience; President of Ideas that Matter, a convening and publishing program based on the work of Jane Jacobs based in Toronto. She is a contributor to several volumes on urban life, with a particular interest in self-organization. She served on the founding Board of the Centre for Social Innovation.
André Sorensen is Associate Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Social Science, University of Toronto Scarborough. He has published extensively on urbanisation, land development, and urban policy processes. His current research examines processes and institutions generative of urban space, and the engagement of civil society actors and networks in urban conversations and city-building. A particular focus is on non-market spaces and practices in cities. His most recent book, co-edited with Professor J. Okata, titled Megacities: Urban Form, Governance and Sustainability was published by Springer in January 2011. His book ‘The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the 21st Century’ (Routledge 2002) won the book prize of the International Planning History Association in 2004.
Jini Stolk is founding Executive Director of Creative Trust, a $6.4 million program to improve the financial health and sustainability of Toronto's creative performing arts organizations. Before that, she was Managing Director of Toronto Dance Theatre and Executive Director of the Toronto Theatre Alliance/ Dora Mavor Moore Awards; at the TTA she acquired and revitalized Toronto's half-price ticket booth, T.O. TIX. She was also Associate Director of the Association of Canadian Publishers and General Manager of Open Studio. She is Vice-President of the Toronto Arts Council, a director of the Centre for Social Innovation and on the steering committee of the Ontario Nonprofit Network; and is Past-President of Toronto Artscape, Hum dansoundart and Six Stages Theatre Festival.
Past Board Members
For more than fifteen years, Jacline Nyman has built an impressive track record in the fields of marketing higher education and business strategy. As a management consultant, Jacline works with social mission organizations on strategic business planning, in addition to pursuing doctoral studies at the Schulich School of Business, York University. Prior to this, Jacline was vice-president of fundraising and donor relations with the York University Foundation (2002-04) and director of external relations for the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary (1999-04). Jacline has also held the following positions: Director of Development with the University of Calgary (1997-99); Director of Advancement Services (1994-97) and Manager of Student Recruitment, both with the University of Ottawa (1992-94).
Board Member 2005 - 2008
Sandy Crawley is a lifelong Arts Activist and, as the erstwhile Executive Director of the Documentary Organisation of Canada/ Documentaristes du Canada, he was also the first tenant of the CSI. Among his many roles, Sandy has been President of the Alliance of Canadian Radio and Television Artists (ACTRA), director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts for Film and Broadcasting, Chair of the Cultural Human Resources Council, delegate to UNESCO Conference on the Status of the Artist, 1996, Executive Director of Canadian Screen Training Centre, and a Board member of the Great Canadian Theatre Company and Word-On-The-Street Ottawa. Behind it all, Sandy has been self-employed as an actor, composer, musician, writer, teacher and director for over 35 years.
Founding Board Member 2004 - 2008
Margaret Zeidler is president and creator of 401 Richmond Limited, a vibrant urban community of diverse artists and entrepreneurs, located in the old garment district in the Spadina and Richmond area of downtown Toronto. Margie was formally trained as an architect at the University of Toronto and the University of Westminster, and subsequently worked for a number of years with the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), raising money and monitoring projects in eastern Africa. Margie has served on the Board of Artscape and is a current board member of Foodshare/Field to Table. Margie is currently the President of Urbanspace Property Group... Read about Margie's many incredible contributions to CSI.
Co-Founder and Founding Board Member – 2004 - 2010
|Tonya Surman Resume.pdf||173.67 KB|