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Success Story

The CSI Builds the Co-Working Space of the Future

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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.

SolarShare creates investment opportunity for all Ontarian’s to participate in Renewable Energy

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Solar energy is an industry growing in both scale and opportunity. In 2010, Mike Brigham founded and became president of SolarShare with the philosophy that we not only need to transition to renewable sources of energy, but that energy should be owned and operated by communities.

To achieve this bold vision, SolarShare introduced Solar Bonds – 5- or 15-year bonds that allow Ontarians to invest directly to support solar energy, while allowing them to share in the profits of the co-op.

Now, SolarShare has become the largest renewable energy co-op in Canada, growing from three initial projects to 48, and raising over $36 million in financing from bonds with over 1,500 investors across Ontario. The support of their investors has allowed SolarShare to thrive and has allowed hundreds of people to direct their investments towards energy projects that benefit their savings, the environment, and SolarShare.

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