Part 3: Building the Next Economy

The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay > 2021 Events > Part 3: Building the Next Economy

7-Part Online Discussion Series, February – November, 2021

We believe that Southern Georgian Bay can meet today’s needs of the planet,
its people, and economic vitality…without compromising the needs of future generations.

Part 3: Building the Next Economy
April 14, 2021

Get positive returns on innovative investments

Toby Heaps,
CEO and Co-Founder, Corporate Knights, and
Tonya Surman, Founding CEO, Centre for Social Innovation


The third presentation of the Our Sustainable Future series focussed on Building the Next Economy. Toby Heaps of Corporate Knights offered insights into the growing efforts toward a green economy, offering examples and referencing various opportunities to build back better now underway across Canada. Tonya Surman of the Centre for Social Innovation provided practical examples, processes, and tools toward creative solutions and the value of hyper-local implementation. Participants had the opportunity to provide their own insights in 10 breakout rooms. The chat was lively with comments and resource-sharing.


In this event, participants imagined a regional economic framework inspired by leaders in the field, case studies, tools, and strategies, which will help Southern Georgian Bay build healthier, regenerative, more sustainable, and resilient communities.

With a view to offering action items to support people, planet and profit, the Institute welcomed these visionary speakers to offer their real-world experiences and insights into best practices guiding the way forward.

In breakout sessions following the presentations, participants were invited to identify more local opportunities to design our next economy, offer up resources, and delve into emerging economies, variously described as new, next, green, knowledge-based, creative, innovative and rooted in entrepreneurship.


  1. Sustainable economies reflect residents’ values, support social enterprise, and encourage social procurement. Working collectively in partnerships is key.
  2. A collaborative community offers new ways to do things together, opportunities to co-design circular economics and shifts the paradigm toward sustainability.
  3. The Next Economy is innovative, entrepreneurial, and seeks creative solutions. Tonya encouraged us to “just get started” and use the many green tech ideas which may apply here towards vibrant health and well-being models.


Toby Heaps is the CEO and co-founder of Corporate Knights Inc. and Editor-In-Chief of Corporate Knights Magazine. He spearheaded the first global ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations in 2005. In 2007, he coined the term “clean capitalism.”

Familiar to Southern Georgian Bay, Heaps spent summers on Christian Island, which he remembers as a place of refuge, solace and nourishment. Then later he did basic training at the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre in Meaford, which was a different experience, but all in all a good one. He also acknowledged his fellow-speaker Tonya Surman as a mentor.

Speaking to participants as people who want to become “shapers not takers”, Heaps offered a view for Canada to build back better in this time of pandemic. He offered this as a “once in a generation opportunity to make public investments for major public goals to put us on a much healthier, prosperous, more caring, and more aligned with the planet, track.”

Illustration by Tallulah Fontaine – From Toby Heaps shared-screen presentation

See more information at –

At the beginning of the pandemic, his company convened round-tables of cabinet ministers, environmentalists and captains of industry to look at what could be done to “maximize the decarbonization of homes and workplaces” along with accelerating electric car uptake for green mobility, building back our forests as natural capital, and looking at farms as carbon-positive opportunities not sinks for fertilizers to bankrupt and put farmers into debt. They also looked at ways of innovation in the resource and battery sector.

Note for chart: Investment is Millions of $ total to 2030, and Person-years of employment is total to 2030. Source: Toby Heaps presentation. To see more details:

According to Heaps, this chart shows the red slices as public investment needed on the front end to catalyze the blue investment from the private sector. If costs and rules around innovative thinking level the playing field, the green economy could lead the way.

“We’re at a bit of tipping point in many of the technologies we need in the green economy,” he explained, adding over the last 20 years costs have come down and availability has gone up.  “The gravity of economics is working in favour of the planet.”

He suggested, with improved zoning rules and access to the grid and energy storage, public investment could catalyze significant private sector inputs to bring about dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and save money on business and individual costs of fuel.

This is not necessarily a complex process as it involves the top economic drivers of shelter, transportation and food. To make the future more sustainable, he offered suggestions in support of more efficient homes, electric cars, diets with less meat more plant protein and a greener power grid.

“Canada has one of the greenest grids in the world,” Heaps said, adding a switch from dirty to clean power sources will require us to get past the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) issues around wind power – for both landowners and line of sight residents. “We really encourage communities to look at the opportunities of being part of wind.”

From its inception on February 1, 2005, to December 31, 2020, the Global 100 index has generated a total return of 263% versus the 220% increase of its benchmark, the MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index). For the calendar year 2020, the Global 100 was up 26% compared with a rise of 16% for the MSCI ACWI. Source: Toby Heaps presentation. For more see:

Heaps closed his remarks with a call to action. Corporate Knights has been tracking the Top 100 sustainable companies for 16 years and has found they outperform others. This trend is only set to increase. He suggested we have resources, so now it is time to get serious. “As communities get onside there’s great upside for the planet,” he added. “This is not about losing money anymore. This is about having better prosperity.”

Tonya Surman is the founding CEO of Centre for Social Innovation. She is known as a social entrepreneur. Surman 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.

Surman presented at the Institute’s 2019 Social Innovation Day – Her insights and enthusiasm informed discussions in the formation of the 2020 Mapping the Road to Recovery series. Learn more about her work here:

As a cheerleader for change who has been working to get social innovation in the mainstream for years, Surman opened her talk by saying the Next Economy is regenerative, equitable and prosperous for all.

Noting the intersectionality of the challenges during the global pandemic, she sees the chance to redesign for the economy we want. Whatever you want to call the new economy, she issued an “invitation to imagine, co-create, to shape and to participate in building the economic system that we want. The system is global, but ultimately its implementation is hyper-local.”

Surman believes intentional economies are the way of the future, where it’s not just about the planet, but people and planet – communities designing their own economies by turning entrepreneurial spirit into solutions. Even large cities are collections of small neighbourhoods where community involvement and support can create inclusive circular economies that create the jobs and quality of life while respecting nature and the planet.

“This is the core of what we are trying to do,” she said. “It’s not just letting it happen to us, but it’s about actually stepping up and being able to bring promising and transformative models and solutions into reality.”

Slide from Tonya Surman’s presentation showing the theory behind her work. The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) is always looking for more partners in building the Next Economy. Learn more at

The CSI is learning more about the need to understand the challenges of issues — like the financialization of housing and homelessness and hygiene — through exploring ways to bring entrepreneurial spirit to seek out solutions. This social enterprise or social venture method allows communities to define problems and develop their own solutions together. This will be especially important in post-pandemic recovery.

She suggested social ventures are up 30 per cent over regular job growth and are driving community wealth as people work toward finding ways to create jobs in community-supported ways. She offered examples of successful social enterprises and how they build community.

Slide from Surman’s presentation. For more examples of social enterprise see:

Going a little deeper into community wealth as guidance for the work TISGB is doing, Surman discussed the collaborative, inclusive and community-driven way people can seek to co-create their local economies and co-design their neighbourhoods to make them more wonderful. She commended the regional work underway in Southern Georgian Bay and encouraged the idea of bringing more people, organizations and institutions to the table.

“I think we’ve spent most of our lives feeling disempowered, where we didn’t know and just kind of let the economy happen to us,” she explained. “We’re seeing a fundamental shift. We’re watching as giant industries and financial markets are coming on and demanding a transformation.”

Surman wondered about the enabling environment and infrastructure we will need to build these intentional economies. She offered some initial thoughts from her experience for consideration. To create wealth, communities will need cohesion, enterprise, finance, local buying and partners to build circular economies.

Some definitions and indications for intentional circular economy building within community. For more ideas see:

Ultimately, community wealth supports green, sustainable, regenerative businesses to serve community, support marginal segments of society and bring in vibrancy and joy through arts and culture. Through the pandemic, Surman has seen what she called a “fundamental shift in our values as humans” toward a reconsideration of what success actually looks like. It is no longer about our belongings but about the relationships we hold, the joy we are able to gain when we are in connections with each other.

“I hope that we are shifting the paradigm about the economy and us being in service to it,” Surman said, adding we are “flipping it to understand the economic system was always here to support us, to support people and planet and to be able to nourish our relationship with the earth and not be based on exploitation and extraction.”

Q & A with Adam Thackeray of the Our Sustainable Future design team.

Q. How do we move this forward? Is there a playbook to ensure success?

A. Tonya Surman suggested the magic is already happening here with the collaboration of people with deep experience at the table. She encouraged the TISGB to “just try some things” by creating a container lab at the small town level where people are allowed to take risks without feeling like being judged.

“The best way to start

is to start where

you’re standing.”

Tonya Surman,

Center for Social Innovation

People can collaborate around some constraints on risk-taking faced by municipalities. She suggested the community find what has emotional resonance and follow the energy, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because there will be mistakes, but it will be fun.

A. Toby Heaps suggested this is a collective problem that requires a collective solution. Start at the community, municipal or regional level to get in sync with nature across major sectors of the economy. It’s as simple as making a plan for how you want to get there.

“Rally the community around it.

A community-wide approach

would be hard to turn down.”

Toby Heaps,

Corporate Knights

He suggested this is a people power resource question and advised creating a living plan with a living budget. Heaps said to use the capital investment perspective to seek where the money comes from, because what gets funded, gets done.

Q: What are some examples of success or failures to avoid?

A. Toby Heaps suggested he has seen communities band together in cooperative financing models to bring in low cost solar panels to rooftops. Businesses like Solar Share people can invest in t support solar installation for returns on solar energy ( Also community financing will be important, so he noted the VanCity as a good example of a member-driven cooperative. It started a Community Investment Bank to support local sustainable initiatives (


The meeting proceeded to sort 80 participants into ten Zoom breakout rooms with volunteer facilitators to spend 15 minutes considering the question posed at the beginning of the session: “If we were ten times bolder, what would we do to design our economy to sustain our communities. What would we be doing differently?

Facilitators captured the range of ideas and reported to the whole Zoom room upon their completion.

  1. Municipalities can reduce red tape and incentivize new ideas toward sustainability in every department. Subdivisions with designs including green roofs and a framework of bylaws where sustainability comes first. Ideas came forth such as the Collingwood terminals becoming a food production centre and Talisman partnering with the Centre for Social Innovation to create a model for the world around regenerative agriculture, arts, culture, natural heritage Indigenous training centre working with University of Guelph.
  2. People called for a bias toward action to engage as a community. Changes in planning policies on land use to be sustainable, to get off gas and the grid. Think green as we are past a tipping point so must lead by example. Local entrepreneurship is building around arts and culture. Government policies offering credits for good work, community bonds and the opportunity for each municipality to take on something to just get started.
  3. Emphasis on being bold. Older home retrofits toward small scale efficiencies. Towns to simply tell developers they can’t have a gas line. Harmonize inconsistency around municipal rules on electrical car charger installation – some require it in new developments while others do not. Begin a shift in community engagement on wind turbines – if they were a community investment to benefit local sustainability there might be a change in minds and hearts about wind energy. It was also noted the idea of “agrominiums” where farmers may age in place in rural areas could be a catalyst for sustainable action.
  4. More engagement and partnerships. Some things are already underway through engagement for an arts and culture centre. Partnerships are important between people with ideas and creativity and social enterprises to help learn on how the region becomes more sustainable. What would happen if there was grant money to support initiatives. And, with the ecotourism evolution underway there will be increased pressures on communities.
  5. Tourism has been a backbone for the area but should not be the entire focus moving forward. Opportunity to encourage manufacturing businesses to locate here as part of the regional supply chain. The future workforce was a consideration as the discussion turned to millennials. How do we continue to develop a local economy to attract youth into trades or transition people to second careers here.
  6. Retain a better than 50% tree canopy to keep our economy green and net zero. Collectively the region will need an immense focus on community to leave no one behind to be inclusive. To get control of carbon footprints, recycling and reusing for less impact is important. People locally and globally need to evangelize and drive the change so it goes from ideation to action, execution and delivery.
  7. Attainable housing, including tiny homes and cohousing options, is a priority. A pilot project for alternative solutions for farming in tiny home communities could drive an affordable housing strategy. Emphasis placed on Toby Heaps’ top three – zero carbon, circular economy and community enhancement. Additionally, it was thought food security innovation to drive a regional lens with green roof strategy as a great start.
  8. Recognize the rights of nature. Trails maintained with clean-ups and community action. They looked at the benefit of efficient homes and encouraged the use of geothermal. They supported respect for farmers and the opportunity for large regional grocers to source locally as well as the potential to develop an app for roadside farm stands. As well, a regional hospital made their priorities as an alternate to what is currently available.
  9. Community energy needs to be explored. Example provided by Chris Turner in his book The Leap: How to Survive & Thrive in the Sustainable Economy. That book offers the story of a town in Denmark which installed solar power by adding the cost to home-owners tax bills, but three years later began to pay out dividends. The group also talked about how some people crave engagement from their municipalities while others said municipalities are challenged to get any civic engagement. From a land development and housing perspective, the region needs to look at galvanizing around this issue for a key to collaboration.
  10. Depoliticize ideas – wind turbines and the politics of much of the sustainability debate – to reduce the risk of losing gains if there is a change in political leadership. Non-governmental organizations are needed to anchor change initiatives. Carbon budgeting and seeking the value economically of reductions to show the social and environmental returns. We must value nature.

Overall breakout facilitator Marilyn Struthers offered that the input provided will be rolled up into a report for sharing later. The participants seemed enthusiastic about the process, offering thumbs up.


“Connecting social procurement to the buy local campaigns – it is not just about products it is also about building local services/infrastructure and using a “buy local” for that.”

“There’s also pilot projects that have been successful all over the globe. And the people that made those projects successful are very happy to share the information needed for replication.”

“I want to say how thrilled I am that The Institute has “pillars” that can work together to achieve a great future.  I am working on the regional arts network strategy which I think will play a big role (no pun intended) in a sustainable economy.”

“There are indigenous communities that turned to solar energy and invited youth to lead them so they will sustain for the next seven generations.”

“There is a huge amount of waste space on top of commercial buildings everywhere. Green house roofs with gardens are a good retrofit.”

“In our breakout, (someone) made 2 references to Indigenous involvement. I have been meaning, in the previous monthly sessions, to ask if there has been outreach to Indigenous communities to participate in the Sustainable Future series.”

“Four of the Community Futures Development Corporations locally had a collaborative project a few years ago to identify and raise awareness of job opportunities in the green economy suitable for our communities. I was involved in leading the project and have materials if anyone is interested.”


Civic Capacity Index:


Value(s): Building a Better World for All, by Mark Carney

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, by Kate Raworth

Donut Economies: A Workbook for Cities, by Kate Raworth

An Army of Problem Solvers – Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy, by Shaun Loney

Project Drawdown

The Leap: How to Survive & Thrive in the Sustainable Economy, By Chris Turner


What could be done to improve the participant experience?

“I would find it useful to have part of each event focused on, say, a panel of local leaders, who could discuss the major points raised by the speakers and perhaps to respond to questions from the audience.”

“For this one, had more moderated question time with the speakers; so much knowledge, so much to learn”

“Love the idea of a shared resource « library or shoebox »”

“A follow-up segment for those willing to remain to dialogue with organizers and possibly a speaker. The greatest ideas come from sharing after others have shared.”

What topics or issues were most relevant?  Most valuable?  Why?

“…environmental sustainability of any development, rural agricultural preservation, retro-fitting houses for climate change benefit conserving natural and built heritage.”

“the shift to a values-based not value based economy – the support to collaborative community building – opportunity to explore innovative sustainable solutions: shows a range of shifting perspectives and points to economic opportunity outside the usual manufacturer or investment attraction to innovator pilots and venture by social enterprise – a sustainable PARADIGM SHIFT.”

“Economics, green technologies ideas, partnerships.”

“I like that both speakers talked about the importance of innovation and just trying new ideas out.”

“Out of the box thinking. But too short. Each speaker could have had their own session. They answer the what to Do but not HOW to Do it.”

“Basic, local hman values with concrete examples. Quality of health, food, water, air and nature.”

“Knowledge of new ways of doing things.”

What topics or issues were least relevant?  Least valuable?  Why?

“It was all relevant – perhaps if there were naysayers in the room they would be least valuable. The NIMBY of anti-wind turbines and rejection of alternative green power.”

“Aspects or profit, prosperous and wealth in an economy that totally miss the point of the process we are going through.”

What was the single most intriguing thing you heard which you would like to learn more?

“Ideas re: preserving the Beaver Valley as a recreational destination and a nature preserve.”

“CSI and social enterprise. I’d like to know how it could become more mainstream in the business life of Canada and especially as applied to the family farm.”

“Intentional economies – that social ventures create 30% more jobs than regular enterprise. (Tonya Surman) Cooperative communities check three boxes: zero carbon, circular economy and community enhancing. (Toby Heaps in a breakout room).”

“Economic benefits to a planned sustainable future.”

“De-politicizing the environment. I find that people are fixated on party line ideas.”

“Community Bonds.”

“More on how addressing housing issues could form the centrepiece of a next economy, multiple players, multiple benefits, and measurement framework.”

“Labs that CSI is conducting, and how we could use their methodology locally.”

What is the most impactful action we could take based on what you learned?

“It is most important to engage those that can effect change. Without them we are just talking heads.”

“Cutting down on municipal red tape. Instead of rules against environmentally beneficial actions, develop ways to make this more affordable, more possible and more attractive.”

“Do a pilot project in an amenable community and share it widely.”

“Need experts to create green building standards.”

“Convene community visioning of co-designing our region of neighbourhoods as made by neighbours towards creating a circular intentional economy in Southern Georgian Bay…”

“At some point, we need to take all the learning and ideas coming from these sessions and put together an action plan. It strikes me that forming something like a community foundation may be the right vehicle.”