Last year, as we navigated the pandemic, communities came together to take care of one another. They formed grassroots and community-led initiatives, like neighbourhood pods and mutual aid groups. This year, as we continue on a path of recovery, we must ask how we can support these initiatives as they grow and expand their impact.
One solution is shared platforms. Traditionally, organizations who want to grow will incorporate and/or register as a charity. However, incorporation also brings on additional administrative and governance responsibilities, adding to an already-full plate.
In a shared platform model, another organization provides the administrative and governance infrastructure. This frees up time for the newer initiative’s leaders to develop a solid foundation, build, and grow.
The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) describes it as “an alternative […] that is more accessible, and is more time- and cost effective.”
In Shared Platforms: An Introduction, the ONN outlines why the shared platform model is a critical tool for pandemic recovery:
Almost every nonprofit got started when a community identified a need and did something about it. But it has become harder to start, operate and sustain an organization over time. This is why it is so important for established nonprofits and charities to support emerging grassroots projects through shared platforms. Some of these projects will grow into new organizations, while others will remain small and project-based. All will enrich our communities and allow for innovation and emergence of new ideas and new ways of doing things in our communities.
At CSI, we understand the importance of shared resources. We were built — quite literally — on shared supports for social enterprises, nonprofits, and innovators. We offer shared workspace, to lower the cost of rent; our buildings have shared printing and fax services, to lower the cost of equipment.
We took it one step further when we incubated the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN). We provided insurance, bookkeeping, leadership, accounting, management, and a board of directors. Ultimately, we were responsible for the ONN’s success. This allowed the ONN leadership to figure out what worked (and what didn’t), build a strong foundation, and grow their network. After spending seven years at CSI, they got to a place where they were able to incorporate.
Recently, we built a virtual shared space for social innovators: The Common Platform. It’s a hub for ideas, opportunities, events, and conversations. It’s a place where people who want to make a positive impact can find what they need to succeed. And since we can’t meet, ideate, and innovate in person right now, we hope you’ll join us online!