Ashoka Fellow


This profile was prepared when Tonya Surman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Tonya believes that systems-change can only be achieved when community, space and innovation are linked together. Consequently, she has developed a model to address all three of these elements concurrently. She recognizes that an integrated solution requires each aspect to feed into the other, thereby creating the most powerful opportunities possible for the citizen sector.

Practically, Tonya is removing barriers, solving capacity problems, creating a platform for collaboration, animating social capital and fostering leadership for the citizen sector. As a result the citizen organizations (COs) that partner with her have achieve financial sustainability, increased their diversity, generated greater innovation and improved their employees’ happiness levels. Intentionality is an integral part of this value-added methodology, which has led to the creation of new organizations that currently express the voice of civil society movements.

Tonya is building communities of innovation inside and outside the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) - the pioneer of shared space in Canada—by catalyzing the generation and implementation of new ideas within a collaborative environment. By bringing competing or isolated ventures together among a diversity of COs she is creating the conditions required to build new initiatives and shared projects. Using a holistic model for service provision, community engagement, capacity building and social venture capital incubation, CSI has become the leading example in Canada for a new generation of social hubs.

To replicate and scale the idea, Tonya has systematized her methodology and will release the details of her model, experience and license into Creative Commons by the fall of 2009. She aims to leverage the power of open networks and viral marketing to engage new hubs to build interactive tools that foster collective action. Tonya is reinventing the concept of scale using network theory to build a global alliance of Shared Spaces for Social Innovation which will leverage the success of CSI at the global level.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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