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How 12 Women Entrepreneurs are Building the Next Economy

Graphic of 8 women entrepreneurs featured in the blog

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, here’s a statistic we’re pondering: women are the majority owners of only 15.6% of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Canada. 15.6%. That’s it? It portrays a dire picture of gender inequality in our sector – but it’s one we can change.

Take our women-focussed WOSEN programs, for example. The WOSEN partnership is all about upleveling women entrepreneurs with the skills and resources they need to grow their ventures. We’ve also got Social Entrepreneurship 101 – our education course for burgeoning entrepreneurs – of which 75% of past graduates are women! Of course, building an inclusive Next Economy doesn’t stop with our programs – it’s happening in the heart of our network where over 75 CSI member organizations are working to end gender inequality. We’re also proud to say 59% of CSI members are women – many of whom are the founders, CEOs, and leaders of their organizations.

Here are just some of the brilliant women entrepreneurs at CSI building the Next Economy by combatting the climate crisis, creating healthcare solutions, developing new technologies, and mentoring the next generation. 

A headshot photo of Minelli Clements Minelli Clements

LorCan Technologies Inc.
Earth Tech Accelerated Venture 

Minelli Clements wants to break systemic barriers and challenge the “archaic” idea that green technology and circular business models are not viable. This dream found its legs when Minelli founded LorCan Technologies Inc

While volunteering for a conservation agency in Alberta, Minelli noticed researchers had to manually retrieve data from sensors placed in wildlife corridors. She saw a need for a solution that can help these agencies connect to valuable data without trekking through harsh terrain and disrupting natural environments. LorCan Tech will help agencies reduce environmental impacts by providing companies with real-time monitoring connectivity solutions for remote sensing devices, empowering them to create more sustainable business practices.  

What does Minelli envision for the Next Economy? 

“I want us to look at the entire supply chain to find ways we can reduce our impact. And I want us to come to a collective understanding of ‘sustainability’, so that we can measure our progress and hold accountable those that can do more.”

A photo of Amoye Henry

Amoye Henry 

Pitch Better & AH Consulting
WOSEN Coach 

Amoye Henry describes herself as “a rockstar millennial entrepreneur.” The description fits: in 2018, Amoye was named one of Canada’s top 100 Accomplished Black Women. She is on a mission to help scale growth-based businesses led by unique founders. “Basically, I want to see the underdog win,” she says. 

Co-founding Pitch Better with Adeela Carter-Charles, Amoye is bridging the gap between women-led start-ups and their means of acquiring capital through grants and investments. With a mandate to “create more women millionaires,” Pitch Better connects innovative Black women entrepreneurs with seasoned professionals via workshops, talks and coaching sessions.

Taking their work to the systems-level, Pitch Better is currently completing the first national market analysis of Black women founders in Canada. In part, the FoundHers campaign aims to address gaps in the social economy by resolving gaps in data collection; Black women-led organizations can complete the survey here. 

What does Amoye envision for the Next Economy? 

“We need to empower more women as agents of change. We need more diverse voices at the table making decisions and informing policy and systems.”

A headshot photo of Yamila Michelle Franco PenaYamila Michelle Franco Pena

Nyoka Design Labs
Earth Tech Accelerated Venture 

Yamila is a proud Afro-Indigenous woman working to empower and elevate her community through entrepreneurship and education. She is the co-founder of Nyoka Design Labs, a clean technology social enterprise creating plastic-free, non-toxic and sustainable technology. Starting with the world’s first sustainable, non-toxic, bioluminescent glow stick (the Nyoka Light Wand), Nyoka is designing products that leverage advances in sustainable biotechnology, material sciences and Land-based knowledge. Yamila is also creating more accessible opportunities for communities to access STEM, emphasizing that “our stakeholders include our community and the Land.” 

Her advice for new entrepreneurs? 

“You must be consistently bad to get good at something. Consistency is key. Stay in long enough, ask for help, access mentorship and support. It will pay off.”

A headshot photo of Kelly Emery Kelly Emery

Troop
WOSEN Participant

Kelly Emery leverages technology to mainstream generosity and “help create communities where basic needs don’t go unmet.” In 2019, Kelly founded Troop, a tech-based needs marketplace to help neighbours and businesses discover local, tangible needs in their community. 

“I was blown away by a stat from Imagine Canada that the charitable sector is anticipating a 30% shortfall in donations by 2028. I kept coming back to that,” Kelly reflects. “I knew something needed to change.” Enter Troop. Members receive weekly text or email notifications letting them know how they can help out a local neighbour by, say, donating bed sheets to a women’s shelter or buying a stroller for a new parent. And it’s working: so far, Troop has fulfilled over $40,000 worth of tangible needs for over fifty charity partners, and The Future of Good recently ranked Troop among Canada’s Top 100 Recovery Projects in 2020. Congratulations, Kelly! 

What does Kelly envision for the Next Economy? 

“There is this thought that generosity should not be self-serving. I believe we need to adjust our thinking in this area and instead focus on the personal benefits derived from acts of kindness. 

There’s data to prove that strong personal connections, generosity and finding purpose in life play a significant role in overall health. Let’s take advantage of the growing trend around improving personal wellbeing to engage more people in building a better, more kind world.”

A photo of Ami Shah Ami Shah

Peekapak | Social Emotional Learning
CSI Annex MemberOntario Catapult Microloan Fund Recipient 

Ami Shah is the co-founder and CEO of Peekapak, an award-winning social-emotional learning platform that engages elementary students to learn skills like self-regulation, empathy and teamwork through stories, evidence-based lessons, and personalized learning experiences. 

Having taught in classrooms before, her work now reaches over 400,000 educators and students in classrooms, libraries, and after-school programs. Behind the scenes, teachers and administrators receive real-time reports indicating a student’s progress and emotional state. Educators can then share pre-written class updates, activities, and stories with students’ families to reinforce learning at home in English and Spanish. In this way, Peekapak empowers educators and families to be proactive to help curb future mental health issues. 

What is something Ami wishes she had known from the start? 

“How important it was to take care of my own mental health through this journey.” 

A headshot photo of Stevie Klick

Stevie Klick

The Indoor Forest
WOSEN Participant + Climate Ventures member

Stevie is a nutritionist, an artist, and a self-described “barefoot tree hugger.” She is also the owner and creator of The Indoor Forest, a biophilic design company that makes preserved moss frames and walls, as well as living green walls and other custom plant installations. 

Inspired by American biologist, Edward O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis that “humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life,” The Indoor Forest enables people to adapt their home and office environments to better interact with the natural elements and promote wellbeing for people and the planet. 

Stevie was motivated by her love of nature and “by the lack of product choices, availability, costs, and people out there actually focusing on vertical growing, especially here in Toronto. I want to help make these products more available because I believe Toronto could be a lot greener.”

 her advice for new entrepreneurs? 

“Adopting a solution-oriented approach to obstacles has helped me achieve goals and push through challenging or uncomfortable moments that come with entrepreneurship.”

A headshot photo of Gillian Cullen Gillian Cullen

Birth Mark
CSI Spadina Member 

Raised in Toronto’s northwest, Gillian’s keen sense of social injustice was ignited at a young age having witnessed the disparity in treatment of people based on their appearance and circumstance. 

Flash forward: Gillian is now the founder of Birth Mark, a registered charity providing free reproductive doula support to folks in Toronto and Hamilton. Birth Mark doulas pursue social change by assisting at-risk and marginalized individuals and their families navigate the public medical system. They are a source of knowledge and comfort to their clients as they navigate pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting while dealing with the obstacles often faced by our focus population in today’s society. Birth Mark is revolutionizing reproductive health care for all.

What does Gillian envision for the Next Economy? 

“Our primary hope would be an inclusive recovery. To achieve this we need to assess the inequalities and racism in our society and rebuild the systems that have continuously failed our society.

A headshot photo of Anthea SargeauntAnthea Sargeaunt

2S Water Inc.
Earth Tech Accelerated Venture 

Anthea Sargeaunt is the CEO of 2S Water, where they have developed the world’s first sensor for detecting metals in water in realtime. She is also an MBA, a three-time entrepreneur, and a mother of two. 

Water quality is a global issue affecting the most marginalized populations worldwide. Canada is no exception. We are on a mission to protect the world’s water with real time data. It’s that simple, she says. According to Anthea, 2S Water’s technology provides an automated, real-time, and cost-effective alternative to traditional laboratory services, enabling operators in mining, oil and gas, municipal water systems and other industries to see a problem as it occurs and take immediate action to prevent health issues and reduce costs. 

What does Anthea envision for the Next Economy? 

“We have a very specific mission on the Next Economy. Green technology is based on metals. Metals for batteries, metals for windmills, metals are the core of the future. If we don’t bring green to mining, then we are building that on a false foundation. We are doing our part to green mining, because we believe it’s where we can have the most impact on the world.”

A headshot photo of Jessica L. CorreaJessica L. Correa

Random Acts of Green, Inc.
WOSEN participant + CSI Agent of Change: Climate Solutions 

Jessica L. Correa is an expert in sustainability and environmental education. Since 2015, Jessica and her team have been encouraging and empowering both individuals and organizations to take action for our planet through Random Acts of Green

Through their app, website, social media networks, and blog (not to mention their “out-of-the-box toolbox of actions”), Random Acts of Green is a women-led and women-operated social enterprise with a vision to build a global climate action community. Jessica believes one small “Act of Green” at a time can change the world – that’s why her and her team developed a mobile app that incentivizes people to log their sustainability actions in order to acquire “green points” that they can then redeem for real-life discounts. 

What does Jessica envision for the Next Economy? 

“The Next Economy must be sustainable. That’s why Random Acts of Green has set out to inspire others to overcome apathy, eco-guilt, and eco-anxiety with hope and action. Our business model is a testament to how sustainability is just better for business – in fact, it is a business. We’ve designed ‘Green Programs’ for individuals and businesses – both for-profit and nonprofit. We’re encouraging everyone to recognize the role they play in the Next Economy and to take accountability – but most of all, staying positive about what’s ahead!”

A headshot photo of Monique ChanMonique Chan

Bruized
WOSEN participant + past DECA

Bruized is a Toronto-based, women-run startup on a mission to revolutionize our food systems. They create wholesome plant-based products from up-cycled ingredients and imperfect produce that are unnecessarily discarded as they make their way across the supply chain. 

After noticing “horrendous amounts of food waste” while working as a line cook in restaurants across Toronto, Monique began visiting local farms and grocery stores to better understand the extent of our current food waste problem. Through conversations with suppliers, she discovered that discarding perfectly edible food was common practice. From there, Bruized was born. 

“Bruized aims to challenge this damaging notion of ‘perfection’ or ‘all or nothing thinking’, and show people that with a little creativity and care, perfectly good food can be transformed into something both delicious and nutritious,” Monique explains. And she proves this every day: when Monique isn’t taking part in WOSEN’s incubator program, she can be found wandering her local farmer’s market, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, and – of course – cooking delicious meals with perfectly good, ‘imperfect’ ingredients. 

Her advice for new entrepreneurs? 

“Some advice I drive home to myself on the daily is to not be afraid of simply asking. In the beginning, it was daunting to start a venture when I felt I didn’t even have any connections or knowledge on running a business. And yet, the relationships and knowledge built over the last few years are THE foundation of Bruized.”

A headshot photo of Adrianna Couto Adrianna Couto

Inwit
WOSEN participant

Adrianna Couto, alongside co-founder Erika Reyes, wants to make sustainability “irresistible to all Torontonians.” ‍Inwit is a women-led social enterprise  working to make the takeout industry circular and zero waste. 

“Imagine ordering takeout that doesn’t compromise your love for food or the planet. Imagine returning our reusable containers while out walking your dog or heading to the grocery store.Adrianna explains. “We are piloting Toronto’s first low waste takeout platform that will offer a glimpse into our low-carbon future.  In three simple steps (“Order, Return, and Repeat”), Inwit believes there is a way to live a modern lifestyle without compromising our ecosystems – and they’re set to prove it starting this April.

Her advice for new entrepreneurs? 

“Find the people who really hear your voice because it reminds them of their own.”

The Mommy Monitor logo Elsie Amoako

Mommy Monitor
CSI Spadina Member + CSI Agent of Change: Community Health

As the founder of both Mommy Monitor and the Racialized Maternal Health Conference, Elsie Amoako is a rising leader in racialized maternal health. She is motivated by the knowledge that effecting change in reproductive and birth rights of Black women begins by changing the narrative for “the Black women who think they have no choice but to be in pain, be abused or die and the little girls who continue in that cycle.” 

Mommy Monitor is a social enterprise that offers customized maternal health services, support and education. This comes in the form of an app, a full circle of care, various services and programs, resources, research and an annual conference to ensure that maternal health is equitable, anti-racist, patient-centered and enjoyable for parents, birth workers and health care professionals.

Elsie imagines a future with innovative, sustainable, and global maternal health services that are virtual, culturally safe, prevent adverse outcomes and promote reproductive and birth justice.

How does Elsie believe we should ”Build Back Better?” 

“We need to be able to prepare policies that support parents that lose their jobs. We need something that supports moms with new training or retraining for jobs, safe education for their children, and CERB-like payments for stay at home moms or moms that work in precarious jobs.”

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN EXPLORING YOUR PURPOSE AS A SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR?

Applications for the Spring 2021 WOSEN Start cohort are currently open! Apply by April 4, 11:59 PM ET.

CSI spaces: What’s changed? What’s the same?

When we closed our spaces in March, it was hard to feel like anything would be the same ever again. But after four anxious (and lonely!) months, we were finally able to re-open our spaces to members at the beginning of August.

Which isn’t to say that everything is back to normal! Or even to say that we know what “normal” really means anymore. So we checked in with the Community Managers of each of our spaces to get a sense of how things have changed at CSI, at what has stayed the same.

Quote from Stefan Hostettor, CSI Spadina Community Manager: "The coffee is still fresh, as is the oat milk, and the joy of a quick run-in with a member continues to be day-brightening."

Stefan: CSI Spadina
How is it different being at CSI Spadina?
Well it’s much, much quieter. Everything’s become a little more wide open space wise, but we do have a brand new beautiful and fully accessible ramp being completed in the next week or two on our ground floor! So that is exciting. We also have a bunch of beautiful stickers, hanging barriers, specially designed study carrels made in-house by the Toronto Tool Library Maker Space.

How is it the same?
We kept the plants alive! Despite the pandemic, the plants have made it through so the space remains bright and green. The coffee is still fresh, as is the oat milk, and the joy of a quick run-in with a member continues to be day brightening.

Quote from Gonzalo Duarte, CSI Annex Community Manager: "CSI Annex smells of anticipation and opportunities. We are ready for members to come back, and for new ones to join."

Gonzalo: CSI Annex
How is it different being at CSI Annex?
CSI Annex is more spacious, very clean, and less cluttered. It’s more focused. We are ready for members to come back, and for new ones to join. Our new air conditioning system is purring. The space is safer and healthier with barriers, sanitation stations and public health posters everywhere. We have two new Ideation Areas, a new Reflection Room, and a new kitchen going in on the third floor. CSI Annex smells of anticipation and opportunities.

How is it the same?
CSI Annex is still comfortable and productive. Tara, Deenie, Thom and I are able and willing to work with you. Familiar faces are around, and new ones are joining. Meeting rooms are equipped. Members are returning to Hot Desks, Dedicated Desks, Team Tables, and Offices. The coffee is brewing. All the greenery and plant life stands guard gently and fearlessly.

Quote from Denise Soueidan-O' Leary, CSI Regent Park Community Manager: "The warmth of the community is still strong in the space. Even with reduced occupancy, there's always a friendly face."

Denise: CSI Regent Park
How is it different being at CSI Regent Park?
We have hired a fantastic member of the RP community named Ibrahim Afrah as our Community Coordinator. He is super helpful, and diligent, and has been extremely on top of ensuring that the whole space is sanitized, clean, and safe for our members return. We are missing having the community flow through in our space; it’s a bit quiet. There isn’t nearly the volume of food and snacks that CSI Regent Park is known for.

How is it the same?
Green Thumbs Growing Kids have filled our space with plants, and candula oil, and the general hubbub of garden season and farmers market preparations. The warmth of the community is still strong in the space. Even with much reduced occupancy, there’s always a friendly face.


If your new normal maybe requires a new space to work, we’d love to hear from you! While we are still not yet able to open to the public, we have a few spots for new members! If you are looking for a safe and welcoming place to work outside of your home, email join@socialinnovation.ca

Next Economy Conversations: Jeff Cyr of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners

A headshot of Jeff Cyr of Raven Capital.

As we look to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that now, more than ever, we cannot go back to the way things were. From the climate crisis to deep social inequalities, the challenges of our time require us to build the Next Economy – one that is sustainable, equitable, and prosperous for all.

Next Economy Conversations — our monthly event series — is your chance to hear from incredible leaders helping to build this Next Economy. Learn about their work as well as their personal journeys, learnings, and visions for the future.

This week we are talking to Jeffrey Cyr, about his Indigenous approach to equity investment and fund management. He is the Chair of the Indigenous Innovation Council at the Indigenous Innovation Initiative. He is also the co-founder and Managing Partner of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, Canada’s only Indigenous venture capital intermediary targeting innovative and scalable social enterprises.

For nearly 20 years, Jeffrey has provided strategic leadership for Indigenous, not-for-profit, and government organizations. He is Métis from Manitoba’s Red River Valley, and a proud husband and father. He has helped create and implement the a unique pay-for-success social finance model called community-driven outcomes contract, and earned an Ashoka Fellowship for his Indigenous Solutions Lab process.

Jeff’s work enables Indigenous social innovation and builds Indigenous social finance in Canada, empowering Indigenous communities and innovators.

He will be sitting down (online of course!) with our CEO Tonya Surman, to talk about how we can collaborate to build the Next Economy.

Tonya is fuelled by her belief in the power of collaboration and belonging. She knows that putting the right people in a room is only the first step in creating real change. You also need to build a culture where everyone knows that they have value and a voice to radically redesign our futures. She knows building relationships between people is the foundation for a better world. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun!

Please note that we’ll use Zoom to connect. Register now, you will be emailed the link before the event.

Tonya Surman and Tim Nash talk Community Bonds

CSI invented the Community Bond in 2010 as a means to turn a non-profit’s social capital into financial capital. 10 years later, the Community Bond is a household name in impact investing, having been replicated around Toronto, and the world.

Tonya sat down for a video chat with CSI member Tim Nash, to tell the story of the Community Bond’s beginning, and how it is helping CSI build the next economy:

 

The whole interview is absolutely worth your time. Here are our favourite four quotes, to entice you to watch:

On the behind-the-scenes glamour of buying the first building
“I was literally biking around the city picking up cheques the day of closing from this amazing group of people who I am so grateful for.”

On the frustrations of navigating unimaginative systems
“The bank just says if you are already wealthy and a so-called ‘qualified investor’, it’s no problem we’ll take care of you. But if you’re not — which is most of us — then they think it’s just a pain in the butt.”

On sticking with the Community Bond model, ten years later
“It would have been easier to go to one investor, but we wanted to prove this is a viable model. This is how our economic systems should be working. It’s our commitment to social innovation and our commitment to social finance that draws us back to this process.”

On being a role model for change
“We really want to make sure that we are accelerating the next economy. It’s about ethical investing, it’s about social enterprise, it’s about actually crafting and demonstrating what the next economy looks like. These are the types of tools that allows us to show the rest of the world that another way is possible.”

Do you want to be part of building the next economy? Check out our Community Bond 2020 investor package. It contains everything you need to know, including how you investment will create impact across six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Black Lives Matter

On June 2, CSI joined a community of organizations and individuals across the globe who chose to create space, to reflect, and most importantly to listen to the voices of the black community raised in protest, rage, heartbreak, and loss.

Black lives matter. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and the changemakers, activists, and advocates fighting for racial justice and an end to anti-Black violence across North America.

We share the outrage over the senseless deaths of Tony McDade, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other victims of systemic anti-Black racism and white supremacy.

We know that many of you face racial injustice and discrimination in your lives and in your work every day, and that this has been true, not just in generations past, but in our very real present.

So what is the next step?

There are choices to be made – by all of us, right now – ones which will determine if the systemic oppression of people of colour will continue unimpeded, or if we will be part of the sea change necessary to overturn centuries of racial inequality, and to ensure that this is not just a moment, but a turning point for a movement.

We are choosing action. We are choosing to share, sign, donate, vote, amplify, unlearn, organize, empower, build and fund. And we are choosing community.

We are choosing to listen, to hear the rising voices in our communities, learn what is being asked of us, unlearn ingrained bias, and to embody allyship. We are taking the time to actively engage in constructive conversation with you, our community, to share ideas and centre diverse voices.

We are committed to use our platform to support and amplify the work of those who are actively working to end systemic discrimination.

We are also committed to tackling the flawed economic system which concentrates wealth and excludes too many. We are committed to shifting capital, shifting power and addressing the systemic barriers that exacerbate wealth inequality, such as shareholder primacy and racialized investment practices. We are committed to building new economic solutions that include everyone.

CSI Community Discussion

We believe in the strength of communities, ours and the communities we all intersect with, and in times of trouble we come together; we hold space, we listen and then we get down to the work of making change. And so we would like to invite you to join together in a community conversation to talk about the systems that support and propagate racism and how we can work together to dismantle them.

We will be holding a moderated conversation the week of June 15th – 19th and invite you to join us to hear from our community and to discuss how our community can be part of the call for change in the world today. We particularly invite the voices of Black and Indigenous folx and people of colour to take space in these conversations. Details to follow shortly.

Resource List

Because we believe that education and action go together, please see a small list of resources below that we have found useful ourselves. We will be continuing to share resources and links like this on our media channels going forward. And please share the resources you have found useful with us.

Petitions & Funds

Black Businesses

Unlearning

Yours in solidarity,

The CSI Team

Crafting Your Personal Narrative

When Peggy Sue Deaven started teaching SE101, CSI’s eight-week introductory course to social entrepreneurship, in 2018, she noticed that most participants loved one segment in particular: Crafting Your Personal Narrative.

With this in mind, Peggy Sue created a dedicated course designed to help CSI members and the public improve their professional storytelling. CSI had its first taste of the program and it’s taken off since, recently opening to the public with plans for more sessions in the near future.

For Peggy Sue, the beginning and end of these sessions are perfect bookends: “When participants first sign on, there is trepidation and a bit of low-level anxiety co-mingled with hopeful excitement. Who is in here? What stories are we going to share? I love the looks on everyone’s faces and the ease that begins to crest over the crowd with each introduction: this is who I am, why I am here, and what I am hoping to talk more about. 

And I love the closing. Again – everyone has a look of peace and excitement. Like, they just peeked into a portion of themselves and have opened up a new space of exploration and opportunity.” 

Feedback on these workshops has been positive: people leave the sessions feeling seen and heard, that they have a story worth sharing, ideas worth delving into, and the means with which to begin. Breakout rooms are especially popular because they get to have curated feedback and a safe space to share their work. In the midst of physical distancing participants say that this kind of connection has been incredibly valuable and uplifting.

Peggy Sue notes that the most challenging part of this course is finding places and spaces for these stories to go further. Right now, so many events, gatherings, professional forums, and shows have taken a pause or are adapting into meaningful digital offerings while sorting through huge amounts of digital fatigue and added stressors people are facing. 

As Peggy Sue says, “I want to find spaces and places to share our stories – the invisible portions of ourselves that are in need of place and community.”

CSI’s Crafting Your Personal Narrative workshop looks to bridge the gap created by the loss of physical story sharing spaces. If you’re interested in learning more about professional storytelling and how it can help you, join one of our workshops or peer circles! 

A Haircut for Human Rights

Gonzalo Duarte is many things: CSI Annex’s Community Manager, the Executive Director of Compañeros Partners, an avid father, dog-walker, and aspiring designer. He is also a man with dark, thick, luscious hair. Don’t be jealous, he’s about to cut it all off.

In early May when Gonzalo heard about Jose*, a 26 year old from Esteli, Nicaragua, who was shot and consequently paralysed during a peaceful protest for human rights in Nicaragua, he knew he wanted to do something. 

The answer quickly, right came off the top of his head: in the midst of quarantine, without a proper haircut in 13 weeks and left to its own devices, Gonzalo’s big hair has only grown puffy, puffier, outrageously puffy (his words!). So now he is fundraising to cover Jose’s on-going health-related expenses for a six month period. If Gonzalo reaches his $1000 goal, he will cut his locks into a fauxhawk. A stark contrast to his usual short, cropped cut.

Gonzalo says, “Jose is bouncing back with an amazing amount of resiliency common to the people of Nicaragua. Faced with a sudden life-changing event, Jose is eager to demonstrate some ability to look after himself and relieve pressure on his family. His  determination in the face of adversity is the reason I want to get a haircut for human rights.” 

But that’s not all: if his fundraiser reaches $2000 Gonzalo will add colour to the ‘do and donate to CSI’s Community Resilience Fund which is helping people deal with Covid-19 and reimagining a planet-friendly economy. 

We’re proud of our teammate’s dedication to these two causes — one local, one global — and can’t wait to see his wild new hair on our next Zoom call. Donate now to make sure it happens!

 

*We have withheld Jose’s last name to protect his privacy.

CSI Supports: Our CEO explains why we are launching a community rent pool

A lot of people might think a pandemic would be the end of a non-profit social enterprise space. And it’s a fair concern; COVID-19 hit us hard. One day we were sailing along all scrappy and hunky dory, and the next — just like so many of you — we’d lost a huge chunk of our revenue but still had the expense of mortgage payments and staff salaries.

Disaster, right? Well, maybe not.

CSI has always been much more than a physical space. We’re a community. So when the realities of COVID-19 sunk in, our first thoughts were of our members and how we could help them get through it.

As a first step, we conducted a survey to see how they were faring. Among other questions, we asked what their desired rent or membership arrangement would be to help them through these unprecedented times

The answers we got — collected in our CSI COVID-19 Impact Report — were grim but unsurprising. Fewer than half of our members felt they would be able to continue paying their full rent amounts.

So, what do you do? And how do you actually live your values when faced with a situation none of us had ever even imagined?

I actually believe that how all of us conduct ourselves during this pandemic will define how we are judged for years. And so we said to ourselves: This is our community. These are our constituents. These are the people we serve.

The idea that we would actually just evict them is unthinkable. Instead, we did what we’ve done from day one. We turned towards each other and we innovated.

This meant coming back to our core values. And we thought “Which of our values are most important for how we craft a solution to this problem?”

So the first one of course was community and collectivism. If we really are a community, how does the community respond? What does a good community do?

A good community doesn’t leave anyone behind.

At CSI, we have a profound desire to model the world we want. We didn’t want to come in with like “Here is a 20% cut across the board” or say “Well, you’re in or you’re out.” And so it was a really interesting process, because it pushed us back to what really matters. Which is people, and how we work together to solve problems.

I also had faith that our members would want to help out, too. To do what they could, and contribute what they could to the collective.

With this in mind, we offered a range of payment options and turned the idea into a Community Rent Pool – effectively a pay-what-you-can rent model – in an effort to provide maximum flexibility for our members as they grapple with so many challenges that COVID-19 has brought.

When we brought the idea of the Community Rent Pool to our Board of Directors, they were incredibly supportive. They actually gave me permission to be more bold. They told me “Take the Moon Shot, Tonya. Live your values. Step up.”

So we did. We essentially said to our members “You don’t have to pay, but we invite you to pay.” It was a real leap of faith. And so far, we’ve collected about 56% of our revenue. 56% of our dollars are coming in through the community rent pool.

In addition to these funds, we are also getting love letters from members about their fellow members. People are responding and telling us “I wish the rest of the world could be just like CSI?”

That’s the kind of stuff where you just think “Wow”.

And there is a real recognition from our community that the social connection is key. Our connection as people. People do need people and these connections are critical, and that’s who we are.

We are social creatures. And I’m feeling very very proud of our community.

 

CSI CEO joins other Clean50 Leaders in calling for a #CleanReset

Last autumn, our CEO Tonya Surman was named one of 50 outstanding contributors to Clean Capitalism. The “Clean50” are selected from 16 diverse categories including, academia, different levels of government, thought leaders and advocates, and are based on accomplishments delivered over the prior two years.

This week she is joining with 210 past and present recipients of the award in signing a letter asking governments for a clean reset for a healthy, just, and prosperous Canada.

An excerpt from the letter:

“We know rapid deployment of all forms of renewable energy is a dependable path to a cleaner future, creates far more jobs-per-dollar invested, and is already the cheapest way to generate electricity. As but one example, a $1 billion investment dedicated to solar in Canada’s Climate Action Investment Fund would unlock $3 billion in private investment, create 20,000 jobs, and deploy enough solar energy to power ~240,000 residences with 8 cents per kWh electricity for the next 20+ years. Similar results come from investments in energy storage, and wind, hydro and geothermal energy. We ask that the Federal Government provide the Canadian Infrastructure Bank greater flexibility to invest in district renewable-energy projects, and provide incentives for selecting low-carbon-footprint solar panels. We know that distributed renewable energy of all sorts also adds resilience to our homes, businesses, and communities, in preparation for the wilder weather that lies ahead.”

You can read the full letter here. Canadians are urged to support this message by forwarding this letter to each of their elected representatives via an email or a telephone call.

header photo by Merchi Rodriguez on Unsplash

 

CSI Supports: A toast to what comes next

On Friday, April 3rd, a few weeks after closing the space, members gathered for our traditional once a month toast to close out a week. The following is a slightly edited version a toast delivered by Stefan Hostetter, the Community Manager at CSI Spadina.

A toast to what comes next. 

If I can ask you for a second, to imagine yourself standing on the edge of a deep valley. The winding road disappears into the tree tops below and the other side barely visible, fading into the horizon.

We began our descent a few weeks ago as the pandemic began to impact every aspect of our lives, and today, we find ourselves halfway down. Each part of this journey will be perilous in its own way, but today, I’m particularly struck by the loss of the future.

To carry on the metaphor, the world is so uncertain that we can’t see beyond the next turn in the road, but we’ve also lost sight of other side obscured by the trees and angle as we look up. And I personally have found this incredibly disorienting, it feels impossible to imagine myself next week, or next month.

I am struck both by how much we do not know about the depths of this valley, the dangers and difficulties we will face as we continue this descent, but also by the fact that at some point likely months away, there we will be, standing on the other side of this. Looking back yes, acknowledging all that was lost, but looking forward too, looking forward to what comes next.

We as individuals but also as a society shall be irreparably changed by this path. This virus is highlighting the cracks in our society, breaking them open for all to see. And if we spend this time now, this time on the path without a future, deepening our roots, and working together, I am truly hopeful that we can make what comes next beautiful. A place where we prioritize the wellbeing of people, care for our communities, and protect our most vulnerable.

As we descend into the darkness, I see examples of light everywhere I look. People everywhere are carrying torches to brighten the way for those who cannot. We are living these values today, may we continue to do so tomorrow.

And so here is to the crest of the horizon that we cannot see, and what lies beyond. Our future is uncertain, but in all of you I have hope. So a toast, to what comes next.


CSI knows physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing, so we are here for you – now more than ever – with the support you need.