Acting as a venture capitalist for social change, CSI is more than just an incubator for projects, we are more like an engine for impact. For some projects, we provide strategic advice and full-on management. For others, we provide back-end administrative services and gentle prodding. In all cases, we provide whatever it takes to help an initiative find its feet and actualize its potential. We’re proud to have been associated with a ton of projects since first opening our doors in 2004. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the projects with which we are currently engaged.
Project Wildfire was an initiative to support social entrepreneurship among youth in Toronto's diverse communities. Project Wildfire, which ran through 2011, was a competition to identify sustainable small businesses with high potential for making change. With a blend of capacity-building workshops, financial awards, and business mentorship, Project Wildfire worked to build a social enterprise movement in some of Toronto’s most underserved neighbourhoods. CSI provided strategic and administrative support.
Ontario Nonprofit Network
There are over 45,000 nonprofit organizations in Ontario that represent 7% of our GDP and employ over 1 million people. But they have no voice in decision-making that affects them, leaving the sector vulnerable to shifts in policy and funding practices. In 2007, the Centre for Social Innovation was part of a small group of sector leaders that came together to respond to issues affecting the sector - namely Bill 65 - the Nonprofit Corporations Act. This group then convened sector leaders across the province to imagine together a new model for working across geography and issue areas. The result is the Ontario Nonprofit Network, a member-based network that has already seen incredible success advocating for the sector’s interests on a number of important legislative and policy issues. CSI serves as secretariat and co-chair to ONN.
Frontline Partners with Youth Network
In 2005, Toronto was devastated by a season of gun violence that took the lives of too many of our city’s youth. Frontline youth workers, who were immersed in the lives of at-risk youth throughout the city, decided that something needed to be done. Isolated from each other and subject to the policies and politics of both governments and their own organizations, these youth workers decided to band together and formed The Frontline Partners with Youth Network – a network dedicated to supporting the work and lives of those working on the front lines. The Centre for Social Innovation helped FPYN find its feet by creating a governance structure based on the constellation model, and provided strategic and in-kind support to this important initiative.
Nonprofits and charities suffer from a lack of resources and expertise when it comes to technology. TechSoup is a solution to this challenge, facilitating low-cost access to new software for those organizations that need it most. In 2007, the Centre for Social Innovation began working with TechSoup Global to establish TechSoup Canada – a project with a dedicated focus on this country. Since the project’s launch, TechSoup has provided donated software to over 13,000 Canadian nonprofit organizations and libraries, and has saved the sector more than $143 million.
Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Space blends arts and activism to produce public space “artivism”. Artivism is a strategy to engage citizens in the transformation of their local environment while building a strong community. Through various artistic interventions, STEPS asks citizens to become active co-creators of the communities they inhabit, working together to create the future they imagine. The Centre for Social Innovation is formerly administrative home to STEPS, and continue to provide ongoing strategic advice and managerial support.
CSI is also proud of our support of previously incubated projects including: the Enterprising Nonprofits Program, Green Enterprise Toronto, Heliotrope, and others.