Tonya created the Centre for Social Innovation in 2004, to bring a diverse group of COs together for collaborative opportunities. In Canada, CSI is pioneering the creation of shared space for socially minded organizations and adding value to them to enable higher social impact. It is deeply embedded in the community and actively creates the conditions for social innovations to emerge.
Tonya begins her work by building a platform for social entrepreneurs, in which tenants access shared, affordable and stable work space, as well as an array of services and project supports, and capacity-building programs. Tonya understands clearly that physical space creates a level of trust that cannot be replicated online. CSI acts as a community centre of change agents for the sector where they cultivate and animate network relationships. The organization hosts over 150 yearly workshops, seminars and events open to the broader citizen sector in Toronto. The services offered by CSI also include practical cost-sharing services such as access to fax machines, photocopiers, health insurance, as well as social activities such as shared meals and a community garden. It offers workshops on topics ranging from risk-assessment training to green business training.
To augment this effort she is bringing leadership and intention to the system through the incubation of values-fitting projects, convening around issues that matter such as social enterprise, social finance, open source platforms, networks and social technology. She is building networks and ecosystems for change, leading systems change, entrepreneurship and collaboration while suggesting innovative solutions to pressing challenges, and creating the conditions for others to lead and innovate.
CSI is responding to a major need identified by their tenants in a recent measuring effectiveness survey. They are using social media tools to build social capital by matching innovators’ needs with others’ resources and opportunities. CSI uses a web platform developed for the ‘matching’ service to be used by social innovators around the world. The Constellation Model was developed by Tonya to use self-organization as the driver for social change. This model harnesses the energy of a broad eco-system to identify self-interest and create self-organized action teams (constellations) to achieve a particular outcome.
This model has succeeded in forming new organizations, evidenced by the six organizations currently incubated by CSI, and has helped to bring them CAD$1.7M in funding. Two examples of collaboration emergence are Jane’s Walk and the Ontario Nonprofit Network.
Jane’s Walk, founded in 2006, has expanded to the U.S. and India. It is a global network of 263 neighborhood walks in 24 towns that enabled 10,000 citizens to engage in their local communities. The idea was generated at CSI, developed by one of its tenants and then implemented by yet another group of social entrepreneurs at the hub. This project shows how CSI did not take on a leadership role, instead focusing on the role of a professional natural connector—as an enabler. Jane’s Walk came to fruition by harnessing the human capital of innovative social entrepreneurs at CSI.
The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is a network of networks that utilizes Tonya’s constellation model. It creates the connective tissue to mobilize the nonprofit sector in Ontario. ONN came out of a consultation that was held at CSI with a small group of leaders and CSI tenants. When the government announced a major policy proposal to make changes to the legal framework for nonprofits in Ontario, CSI saw the opportunity to bring this network to life. CSI partnered with several other tenants and the broader community to create ONN, which now has 7,000 participants. CSI is responsible for incubating the ONN’s work and Tonya is playing a leadership role as co-chair of this group.
To scale her model of hubs for social innovation at national and global levels, Tonya’s work involves utilizing the power of networks and the principles of collaboration and entrepreneurship. To do this, Tonya plans to put all of CSI’s knowledge, tools and systems in an open source platform on Creative Commons in the fall of 2009. This information and license will be freely available to other shared space practitioners and planners, so they can take advantage of what CSI has achieved and thus contribute back to a global community of practice. CSI will not try to control the network; rather it will establish the framework through which this community will engage and co-develop. The result is the proliferation of shared space solutions that foster social innovation in locally appropriate contexts. This framework will not only connect practitioners of shared spaces, but also their members. In order to provide her expertise to hubs that seek it, Tonya will also take on the role of mentor or consultant for many of these organizations as they begin or continue to develop around the world. Tonya is developing an international, open source membership network that allows innovators to share ideas and opportunities—and to take action—on a global scale through an interconnected network of shared spaces.
In 2009 Tonya has begun a first phase of feasibility studies to implement shared spaces in Washington DC, Kentucky, Paris, Edinburgh, Montreal, and Vancouver to create a global network.