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With open arms in Regent Park

This week, the Centre for Social Innovation opened its third location in the new Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre at 585 Dundas St. East. This is an exciting step for CSI as we dig deeply into our exploration of how shared spaces for social innovation can contribute to the revitalization of a neighbourhood.

When CSI agreed to partner with Artscape, Toronto Community Housing and The Daniels Corporation, we recognized this space would be different. It is smaller than our other spaces, a little bit off the beaten track, and it would be our first time as part of a broader neighbourhood initiative. The numbers weren’t as predictable. The staffing costs would be higher, and we struggled a bit with capacity and focus. We also wondered how a CSI in a brand new building would differ from the renovated brick & beam buildings home to CSI Annex and Spadina. There were lots of questions and not a lot of solid answers.

But when we started to visit Regent Park to check it out, we were struck by the incredible smiling faces, the joy and life of young and old, and the willingness to reach out to connect with us. Sure there was a bit of skepticism at this outsider coming in, but when we started to talk, you could feel the sense of hope and optimism. There was a willingness to share, to help each other, and to immerse ourselves in the laughter of the moment.

We chose to do this because of our deep belief in the power of community, and a profound recognition that Regent Park is a vibrant community of hope and potential. But it's these smiles on faces from all over the world that make us ecstatic to be opening in Regent Park.

This may sound silly to some: “Laughter! Smiling! How will that help? We need to get down to business and address economic development, entrepreneurship programs, and provide opportunity for everyone.”

Yes, we agree. But it all starts with a smile and a willingness to open our arms to each other. There is such a fundamental alignment of our values as an organization with the values of the team and the residents of Regent Park. We are honoured that the community has opened its arms to us. We are thrilled at the potential of what we can co-create. 

At our core, CSI is grounded in a belief that it is up to us – each of us – to make change in the world. CSI Regent Park has opened, new members have moved in, and every day entrepreneurs and innovators walk into this beautiful space determined to do exactly that.

We couldn’t be happier to be a platform of possibility in this vibrant community. Thank you for inviting us in with open arms.