CSI CEO Tonya Surman talks to Bloomberg about The Future of Cities

The global pandemic changed everything in 2020. Now it is going to change everything forever. In the “The Future of” series, BNN Bloomberg looks at what is next for our transformed economy and daily lives. For their examination of The Future of Cities they spoke with people like Richard Florida, and CSI CEO Tonya Surman. Here is an excerpt:

Tonya Surman, CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation, says she thinks the office of the future will resemble the co-working model her organization first brought to Canada 15 years ago, which companies like WeWork have since taken mainstream.

“Community is going to become even more important,” she says. Smaller employers, in particular, will downsize but maintain enough space so staff can come in a few times a week, hold meetings, train staff and reconnect.

“The whole idea of separating work from home, the way we did in the industrial revolution, and enduring long commutes is starting to finally at long last decline.”

Florida agrees office designs will have more of a focus on common spaces and collaboration. “The office as workspace — where you have a desk or a cubicle — will give way to the office as meeting space or interaction space,” he says, adding that there will be spaces for people to work out, do yoga or meditate, and more outdoor spaces for people to congregate.

And for those whose employer decides to go completely virtual or move to the suburbs to avoid the high cost of downtown commercial real estate, niche third-party co-working spaces such as CSI will fill the void, says Surman. Where CSI provides networking and business development opportunities for individuals who want to make the world better, other co-working spaces will become networking hubs for communities with other personal or professional interests, she says.

Read the full piece here.


Are you looking for a networking community hub?  Learn more about becoming a CSI member!

Dwelly.ca makes buying and renting a home simple and more affordable for every Canadian

The decision to buy, sell or rent a home is an overwhelming one. Dwelly‘s mission is to make buying and renting a home simple and affordable for every Canadian. We talked to Broker of Record (and CSI member!) Karim Elbarbary about how he has simplified this complex, thorny experience and dramatically lowered the cost of buying a home.

What is your biggest hope for Dwelly? What does the world look like if those hopes come true?
Our biggest hope at Dwelly is to create an end-to-end product that empowers any person thinking of or planning to own a home. We hope to alter the world’s perception of a Realtor from that of pressure, redundancy and rushed processes, to one of genuine support, complete transparency, informed advice, and technological advancement. The world would have more people feeling confident to eventually own a home, with no ambiguity throughout the home-buying process.

How has being a CSI member impacted Dwelly’s work so far?
Being a member of CSI has been absolutely incredible so far! We’ve had the opportunity to receive lots of insightful feedback from the community regarding their personal experiences when purchasing/renting homes in the past. We have also already helped a fellow CSI member purchase a home and are currently in the process of helping another. Joining CSI was a goal of ours, partly to have office space, but mainly so Dwelly can continue to be a people-focused and feedback-driven company. Being able to directly communicate with such an inspiring community has helped us meet that goal far more than we could have asked for.

How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in Dwelly?
The best part about being in the business of helping individuals move homes is that it is a universal process – almost every single person experiences it in some shape or form, whether it’s renting or buying. With that in mind, we are always looking to learn more about people’s experiences with moving homes so we can improve our own ways of addressing pain points throughout the process. In addition, our ears are always ready for feedback on our platform if you have a minute to browse through the site, drop us an email with any feedback you may have.

Aside from that, Dwelly is a growing company and we are always thinking on our feet. We’re open to collaborate on projects with fellow CSI members – some of the fields we constantly need help in are legal, financing and fund-raising, web development, design, and marketing. So if you’re a fellow member with expertise in those fields and are open to project based work please feel free to reach out to us at hello@dwelly.ca

How is Dwelly pivoting and surviving through COVID?
To preface, we’d like to acknowledge how hard this time has been for everyone. At Dwelly, we were fortunate enough that the business was built digital and remote from day one. Our whole team works remotely and we do most of our team meetings online so, in that sense, we weren’t affected much in terms of internal operations. However, on the flip side, real estate is one of the few areas of business that really require entering peoples’ homes to do showings. The entire real estate industry has had to pivot and adapt to new requirements, like COVID-19 screening forms and limitations around in-person showings.

Although we’ve always offered our users the ability to request remote video showings via FaceTime and Zoom, we’ve now pushed that forward even more. However, we’ve made sure to adhere to safety precautions when it comes to in person showings. Nevertheless, like the majority of businesses, we’ve experienced a slow down – especially during the lockdown. The pandemic has affected the typical influx of students, new immigrants as well as travel in general – all these factors have played a visible role. At the end of the day we’re happy that we were able to push through some hard times, stay afloat and continue to push the envelope in our industry. I’m lucky to have an incredible team to weather the storm with (thanks Dwelly family!).

What social/political/health/other issues is Dwelly working on?
I would say, at Dwelly, we aim to be socially innovative by solving a market inefficiency. We all hear about how real estate agents get overpaid and tend to under-deliver. We want to bring more fairness and higher value-for-money to our clients – one way we accomplish that is by offering half of our commission fees we receive as a buyer’s rebate to clients. We built our platform (with many filters and automated alerts) in a way that gives clients the power to browse and search for homes on their own time and from the comfort of their own home, rather than relying completely on us to send them options.

We consider ourselves to have a large social responsibility, since we assist people in making life-changing decisions. When you look at how many complaints go to real estate councils regarding fraud, misrepresentation, and just lack of understanding of what’s in the paperwork, it’s extremely important to us to lead with integrity. We focus on simplifying things as much as possible and being ultra transparent so that our clients can truly understand how the process works and be directly involved in their home purchase.

What impact does Dwelly have, as in, who do you serve?
Currently we serve home buyers & renters in the Greater Toronto Area. Our goal is to expand to helping Canadians across the country find their next home as seamlessly as possible. We look forward to taking our mission nationwide in the future.

Is Dwelly creating jobs at the moment?
At the moment, we have a number of fairly new team members who joined the team this year so we are not actively looking right now. However, we’re always excited to meet like-minded agents who share our values and drive. If you are or someone you know is a licensed real estate agent and would like to join us on our journey in changing real estate, please do reach out.

If CSI could be of greatest help to you, what could we do?
As mentioned, CSI has been a great help so far – the space is welcoming and inspiring, and the community is game-changing. In terms of additional features, it would be great if CSI added a specific section in the members portal where people can share new product features, designs, code, etc. where others, especially specialists in the field, can share their feedback and give tips on improvements. That way we can all build products with direct input from the community – which might end up being the end user as well. Other than that nice-to-have, this community is really more than what I could have asked for.

Are you looking for a community where you can grow? Learn how you can make change at CSI!

We can give more when we give together

Pine needles
Buy Good Feel Good

Believe it or not, the Holiday season is upon us! And after the stress and isolation of 2020, we’d love to spread some cheer. To make that happen, we are doing what we’ve been doing since COVID (and CSI itself!) started. We’re giving you the chance to support each other.

(Think: “The rent pool … but make it festive.”)

What that means is that this year for Giving Tuesday, you can give to your community as your community gives back to you. Namely, when you buy something from our Holiday Giving Catalogue, you will get a discount on your purchase, while our Community Resilience Fund gets a portion of the proceeds.

That’s right! Each item you buy will let you support local social entrepreneurs, access exclusive discounts, and help our Community Resilience Fund to:

  1. Contribute to direct member support and services.
  2. Host a crucial series of Next Economy Conversations.
  3. Help women-lead social enterprises retool and adapt.
  4. Launch the Common Platform and Community Resilience Dialogues.
  5. Systemically respond to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

So dive in and start shopping! We’ve selected a few members below to draw you in, but be sure to check out the whole list. Our catalogue has everything from delicious snacks to designer sacks!

We can’t wait to hear about what you get! Be sure to use the code “CSIHolidayGiving” at check out!

Toronto will more than double its supply of winter park washrooms

Pipes on a white brick wall

The City of Toronto and CSI are working together to facilitate a set of meetings between homelessness experts and social entrepreneurs. Our Homelessness and Hygiene lab was created with the goal of of building a socially responsible, community based solution to the issue of hygiene in homeless encampments. The months since the COVID-19 have seen an increase in the number of homeless encampments across the city, encampments that do not have access to washroom facilities, laundry, or clean water.

In the warmer months, the City of Toronto maintains 187 park washrooms. But because most of them were not designed or constructed for winter use, they can lack insulated plumbing and sufficient electrical for heating of the building to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. So all but 64 of them are usually closed by Thanksgiving weekend.

This year, however, City staff have determined that an additional 28 park washrooms can be kept open with minor retrofits to support winter use. The expanded locations include washrooms at golf courses, fieldhouses and stadiums that are not normally kept open through winter months. Additionally, portable toilets will be deployed to 51 high-use locations where winter activities will occur. Snow clearing will be provided at all winter washroom locations in parks. Washrooms will be also be available at 47 outdoor rinks once the season begins in late-November, weather dependent.

The increase of 79 new locations brings the total number of washrooms available from 64 to 143. Winter accessible public washrooms are also available in community recreation centres, libraries and City-owned buildings throughout Toronto. The City is working to post a comprehensive list and map of locations on the City’s website.

The City had also opened a number of facilities with showers and washrooms for all individuals in need of these services, including those experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable individuals. Portable toilets with hand-washing stations are also available in key locations. Detailed information about these facilities, including hours of operation and amenities, can be found on the City’s website.

Do you have an idea to make our city work better for everyone? Find out out CSI can help!

Member Moment: Venture for Canada

small portraits as fridge magnets

For many members of our community, the best thing about CSI is Salad Club. For years, this weekly potluck offered participants a chance to connect, inspire, and of course eat. As COVID-19 forced us to find ways keep social closeness while maintaining physical distance, the logistics of Salad Club had to change a little as it moved online. But even though we can no longer share food, we are still able to share strategies and encouragement!

We are also still able to shine a light on the incredible work of our members, through ten minute “Member Moments” where they are invited to share a bit about their vision.

First up is Juanita Lee Garcia, from Venture for Canada.

Entrepreneurial grads want to excel at dynamic startups, and startups want energized contributors ready to hit the ground running. CSI member Venture for Canada connects these two groups, giving keen Canadian students and recent grads immersive entrepreneurship training and real-world job experience at innovative startups and small businesses.

Hear a bit about what that looks like:

Our favourite quote: “We have a vision of a Canada where young people can really explore their entrepreneurial potential, to build the most inclusive and prosperous place in the world.”

Do you have an idea of how to make Canada more inclusive and prosperous? Become a CSI member today!

EcoIndustrees is handcrafting beautiful and sustainable bags

CSI Climate Ventures member EcoIndustrees (formerly Hemplab Inc) works with sustainable and reusable organic materials like hemp to build beautiful, handcrafted bags ideal for gifting. Founder Mihir Jagdish grew up in an industrial town in India and had previously worked in the chemical industry, where he kept feeling an uncomfortable urge to be a part of the solution instead of continuing being part of the problem. He founded EcoIndustrees to reduce the toxic materials in our day-to-day consumption.

Recently, EcoIndustrees has made its entire catalogue available online! As production of their bags begins once again, the creators, artisans, and farmers involved with this early-stage startup will be positively impacted. You can support Mihir and his team by taking a look at their bags. We sat down with Mihir to talk about how COVID is impacting his business, and how being at CSI is helping.

Person standing in front of a chalk board modelling a hemp bag

What is your biggest hope for Ecoi?
The biggest hope of Ecoi is to influence the culture of industrial production and consumption by creating well-designed sustainable and handmade consumer products. And to make a platform for art based on sustainability, particularly art made by students and young artists.

What does the world look like if those hopes come true?
The world would have more organizations and consumers influenced by ecological restoration and more eager to stop climate change. There would be huge communities of artisans around the world with work that pays well monetarily, traditionally and satisfactorily. There would hopefully be a better distribution of wealth and more access to dignity for more people on the planet.

How has being a CSI member impacted your project so far?
I got a better insight into social enterprises and the value of people, planet and profit. Being a CSI member we also have a perfect community platform and support of like minded members. This is critical for fledgling and social enterprise like us. CSI’s secret sauce of community enterprise and entrepreneurship is a platform we need to thrive in.

How is your project pivoting and surviving through COVID?
We have pivoted by going online. We were focused on working with B2B orders for hemp and cannabis conferences around North America. All our sales had to stop because of COVID. We also had to shut all the production in India and Nepal to keep the artisans safe. In an attempt to restart after months, we have finally pivoted by launching our ecommerce store for hemp bags and stationery that is targeted at eco-conscious consumers. We would be starting to work on the art platform sometime next year.

Is your project creating jobs at the moment?
It creates jobs in the artisan communities in Nepal and India, as well as for designers in India and Canada. With further expansion we will be looking to set up management team based in Canada.

What impact does your project have? Who do you serve?
It reduces the impact of conventional dyes, water intensive fabrics, and resource intensive fibres. We source our organic fibres from the farmers in Himalayas, fabric is woven by artisan communities, ensuring sustainable livelihood. We are looking to find New age designers in Canada to work on the old values of materials.

 

Fitec Environmental Technologies is transforming organic waste into renewable energy

Abstract image of vines

CSI member Fitec Environmental Technologies recovers organic waste from a variety of sources and transforms it into renewable fuels. They strive to provide robust and reliable solutions for farmers, municipalities, project developers, waste management companies, and more. We talked to CEO Tom Ferencevic about how COVID is impacting those efforts, and how what made him decide he wanted to be part of CSI.

What is your biggest hope for Fitec Environmental Technologies? What does the world look like if those hopes come true?
I’m aiming to become a market leader in designing and building organic waste recovery and biogas production facilities. This will allow me to be more influential in my push for organics recovery and reuse policies. It will also show potential clients — like municipalities and waste management firms — that there are off the shelf options today that can improve plant performance, keep opex low and improve investment returns.

How has being a CSI member impacted Fitec Environmental Technologies?
I joined CSI because I wanted to surround myself with more like minded people and businesses. People who don’t just talk about action, but actually take it. I’m a small business right now and it’s so important to be involved with positive and outside the box thinkers and doers.

How is Fitec Environmental Technologies pivoting and surviving through COVID?
So far I’ve not been greatly impacted because all three of my projects this year started before COVID hit. They all fall into the category of  “essential” because they are renewable energy related. But some of clients that collect commercial organics from restaurants, schools et cetera have seen their businesses cut in half.  Many of those businesses aren’t producing even half the waste they used to, and some have gone out of business entirely. It’s not that we are necessarily producing less organic waste, but it has shifted to being generated at the household level.

What issues is Fitec Environmental Technologies working on?
My company is pretty new, going on three years old. So far it’s just been about getting a solid base and getting the business to a sustainable steady state. However, I need to do more than just sell organics recovery and biogas production systems. My goal is to be carbon neutral and to give back by joining a sustainable corporate movement like 1% For The Planet. I just don’t know which one(s) yet.

What impact does Fitec Environmental Technologies have, as in, who do you serve?
I serve municipalities, waste management companies, farmers. My systems make it easier for any potential client to recovery and beneficially reuse and recover any type of organic waste. This should allow for more diversion from landfills and the replenishment of organic matter in agricultural soils.

How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in Fitec Environmental Technologies?
Good question! I’m not sure at the moment, as I’ve been just too busy to lift my head up. I know there is proposed legislation to look at banning organics from landfills. Once I can free up some time I’d like to develop an education and lobbying campaign outside the traditional big corporately funded organizations like ONEIA, OWMA etc would be a hugely beneficial.

Do you want to be around people who take real action? We’d love to meet you! Check out our membership options today!

Maayan Ziv: Governor General Laureate and Community Advocate

Chalkboard welcoming CSI members home as they move into 192 Spadina. Photo credit: Sara Elisabeth Photography.

The objectives of the Governor General’s Innovation Awards are to celebrate excellence in innovation across all sectors of Canadian society and inspire Canadians — particularly Canadian youth — to be entrepreneurial innovators.

The list of 2020 laureates, includes Torontonian Maayan Ziv. Maayan was part of our 2016 Agents of Change: Community Health accelerator with her Access Now app. Using crowdsourced information, the app connects people with ratings, insight and information on the accessibility features and status of businesses and experiences in over 30 countries.

In addition to being a social entrepreneur, Maayan is also an advocate and activist. She has recently launched this online petition after learning that American Airlines has created a new policy banning people using power wheelchairs from flying.

She says:

“Like many, I have personally had my wheelchairs damaged or totaled. I have faced extreme discrimination, emotional trauma and physical harm.

What the entire travel industry needs to do is redesign wheelchair handling and overall customer care for people with disabilities…not further isolate and discriminate paying customers.

I am calling for an immediate reversal of this new discriminatory policy by American Airlines, and further, a complete and comprehensive review of how American Airlines addresses customers with disabilities in designing new policies moving forward.”

Sign her petition here.

 

Are you a social entrepreneur or advocate looking for a community to help accelerate your impact? Join CSI today!

How A Global Pandemic Impacted Our Oceans

Pipes on a white brick wall

Picture of woman holding a large starfish and smiling

Impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic have been far reaching, touching industries and issues as diverse and complex as tourism, education, and mental health. And now, we know that COVID-19 is also impacting our oceans.

CSI member Ocean Wise have been examining COVID-19’s impact on the ocean.

In COVID-19: Waves of change – How a global pandemic impacted our oceans, they examine how public health restrictions have resulted in lost ocean research opportunities, reductions or cancellation of volunteer-based ocean conservation activities, as well as shifts in seafood related industries.

The immensity of global actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 demonstrates that we can make large changes to better care for our oceans. What we do to restart after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted will define a new ‘normal’ for our oceans. We have an opportunity to prioritize ocean health, to invest in research to improve our knowledge, re-evaluate our waste production, and choose sustainable seafood in support of healthy ocean.

What can you do?

  • Help contribute to monitoring wildlife by downloading the WhaleReport app for iOS or Android.
  • Participate in community environmental and citizen science groups.
  • Consider a safe shoreline cleanup, either solo, household or small team.
  • Reduce waste and consider taking the Ocean Wise plastic pledge.
  • Look for the fish symbol and choose to buy sustainable Ocean Wise recommended seafood.
  • Support local and seasonal seafood.
  • Support Ocean Wise Seafood partners near you.

What the government can do:

  • Fund and support marine environmental research and consider it vital to our welfare and economy.
  • Support the creation of ocean management plans and networks of Marine Protected Areas to protect habitats and species, with the goal of healthy oceans.
  • Support programs for reduced waste.
  • Incentivize sustainable fishing methods.
  • Phase out fishing methods that are damaging to the environment or have high by-catch

Do you have a climate or water technology solution that will positively impact communities and ecosystems across Canada? Our six month Earth Tech accelerator is accepting donations until November 8.

SchoolMatch helps find the school that is right for you

Canada has great schools. Students from Canada and from all around the world choose to further their education by studying at Canadian universities and colleges. But how do you select the best school for you? How can you be sure which school is the right choice for you? Will your school live up to your expectations?

SchoolMatch Canada was born out of the idea that matching — not searching — is the simplest and most effective way to answer some of these questions. SchoolMatch takes a student’s individual characteristics and uses them to identify the best possible schools for that student. Students are given unbiased results about which schools would fit them best and why. It’s an entirely new way to think about finding the right school.

SchoolMatch was a CSI member for five years, but have decided to work from home during COVID-19. We chatted with SchoolMatch’s  Anthony Di Monte to say farewell (for the time being!) and share a little more about being part of the CSI community these past years.

What first brought you to CSI? What did you need? What were you looking for?
We had just launched our website and were working out of a small space above a store further West on Bloor St. We were starting to transition from part-time to full-time work and needed a bit more space. We had hosted an event at CSI a few months earlier, and it just kept popping up as a collaborative hub where these interesting things were happening. There were these neat small and growing companies, and interesting events all in this eclectic space. It seemed like the perfect fit for us, so we applied and moved in a few months later.

Can you tell us about a few of the relationships you built with other members?
GoodFoot was in the office beside us when we moved in. They impressed us right from the start. It was great to see an organization bring so much to the community, and to get to know their hard-working staff. They offered us a great, new perspective on work, and challenged our concept of what it takes to succeed. They really showed us that everyone has abilities, these just may be different from our own pre-existing ideas. GoodFoot gave us daily proof that with the right tools and support anyone can thrive.

How did working in a space with a shared set of values benefit your work?
One thing that we took away was the sense that the initiatives all around you start to sneak into your thoughts. When I first learned about the work that OceanWise does, I thought it was great… but that it was in a different sphere from my focus. Then, over time, as we chatted more, and spent more time with their organization, I started to think a little more about small things that I could do to personally help improve the fate of marine life. With repeated exposure, what seemed like a disconnected and monumental objective became personal and doable. Something as simple as asking for no straws at a restaurant is painless and can have a huge impact if everyone does it. That then translated into “are we using other plastics that could be reduced or eliminated?” These daily interactions with other organizations peppered our thoughts with their efforts. That made their efforts more salient, and helped us reflect on how we can integrate their causes into what we do personally and professionally.

What’s a memorable moment from your time at CSI?
When we first moved in, OceanWise was in the office immediately to our right. At the time their team lead was a friend of a friend of mine. That was a total coincidence and completely unplanned. We were both like, “You work right beside us every day? That’s crazy — what are the odds?” It was a great start to our time at CSI.

What’s happened for you in your time at CSI? We want to share your successes!
We started out focused on students locally, Torontonians and Canadians. At CSI though, we learned about Canada’s strong standing around the world for post-secondary education. Our time at CSI helped us understand the benefits of reaching an international demographic, something we had not originally considered when we set out to help students choose the best university/college. That helped us grow to where we are today.

What’s next for you and your team? What are your hopes for the post-COVID-19 world?
Though international travel has slowed down with Covid-19 we’re hopeful that students from across the world can continue to see what a great place Canada is to study and to live.

How can CSI members (or anyone!) support you?
We’re still operating (from home!) and we’re hoping to continue helping future university/college students for years to come! SchoolMatch can be a valuable resource for these prospective students who need a little help in selecting the best post-secondary school for them.