Tonya Surman is one of Co-founders of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), a social enterprise in Toronto, Canada, that specializes in the creation of shared workspaces for people and organizations with a social mission.
Founded in 2004, the CSI quickly became a hotbed of social innovation. By 2009, they were operating 28,000 sq ft of leased space and had a dynamic membership of over 175 people and projects committed to social change. They had a waiting list so long that they knew it was time to grow their physical space. Tonya had a bold idea – let’s buy a building.
As a successful non-profit organization, they had built a strong reputation and cultivated deep network but they had no assets to leverage and practically no money, with only $50,000 in accumulated surplus. The building they hoped to buy was $6.8 million to purchase and renovate.
So, they decided to leverage the best asset they had – their community. The result was the CSI community bond, which allowed them to offer an RRSP-eligible investment opportunity to their network of supporters. Within four months, they had raised $1.4 million (and eventually $2 million), took ownership of their newest building and prepared to welcome over 300 new socially driven organizations.