Social Innovation in Southern Georgian Bay: What is it and why now?
Nov. 23, 2019 the Institute of Southern Georgian Bay hosted an event as part of its collaborative Speaker Series. The Institute’s work focuses on harnessing the power of people and place in Southern Georgian Bay (Grey and Simcoe Counties) to grow social and economic prosperity and be the smartest, greenest, healthiest and most caring region in Ontario. Over 50 people gathered in the Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood to hear from leaders in a panel moderated by Gillian Fairley (Centre For Business and Economic Development), which highlighted the benefits and challenges of the growing movement of Social Innovation.
25 participants then workshopped ideas and potential next steps for our region.
WIN Thinking Productions @ WINTHINKING.ORG
We acknowledge with gratitude, Lead Partner: Greenland Group of Companies; Community Partners: Community Connection, New Path Foundation, and United Way Simcoe Muskoka; and Municipal Partners: South Georgian Bay Business Development Centre, Meaford, The Blue Mountains, and Clearview.
Keynote speaker, Tonya Surman is founding Executive Director and CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) which creates shared space for social innovators with four locations engaging more than 1,000 organizations. She is also Chair of Social Innovation Canada, designed to connect social innovators and the CEO of the Social Innovation Institute which is building the capacity of the sector.
How we make social change, changes
Social innovation (SI) is a growing field of community organizing that focuses on systems change to solve social problems. Unlike traditional practices of seeking donations and grants, SI also embraces ideas about mobilizing private capital for public good. CSI’s tenants are Social enterprises, nonprofit or for profit ventures that redirect earned revenue to public benefit objectives. Social Innovation sits at the cross roads of invention, justice and social change.
So how do we change the world?
Tonya suggests social change takes place across three locations: culture, policy and the markets. Traditionally social change organizations engage in policy and culture change but, these are slow-moving systems. Markets move faster. Bringing market structures and thinking to the work of social systems change brings more opportunity for transformation.
Create, Transform, and Connect to amplify change is CSI’s secret sauce. Founded in 2004, it has seen remarkable growth in activity and financial value. Tonya shares some of the lessons of generating innovation for planet and people from within a shared space operation.
8 Big Ideas
1. Share the space, animate the community and innovation will emerge. A key assumption for co-location projects is that sharing reduces costs but, the big win is the opportunity to curate a community, where innovation emerges in the interconnections between people and projects.
2. New financing models that engage with capital markets and business organizations disrupt the scarcity of capital for social good. Most organizations with great people and planet ideas find they cannot rely on traditional sources of funding. Social finance structures such as community bonds create new revenue sources, while giving ordinary people opportunities to participate in social investment. CSI used community bonds to leverage traditional mortgages to purchase two downtown Toronto buildings.
3. Own the means of production of your good work. CSI’s initial move from a tenant arrangement in their first Spadina Avenue location to ownership of the second and a subsequent downtown site has leveraged $42M in real estate value into the social sector. And now, recognizing the potential of social finance instruments, to create value in the social sector, they have built Tapestry Capital, a social investment organization.
4. Municipalities are the new partners of choice for local projects with people and planet objectives. This level of government is close to the ground and has a mandate to support community. Most importantly they can help leverage financing and integrate innovation into their planning. The City of Toronto provided loan guarantees behind CSI’s first community bonds.
5. Create measures that mark collective impact. Generally now, social space accelerators generate 30% more jobs than business incubators and we can measure the collective impact of tenants. For example CSI tenants create more than 270 jobs/year. Those engaged in climate issues generate $2.3M in follow-on funding for climate ventures and 495 TCO2E in greenhouse gas reductions.
6. Scale and networked approaches buffer financial failure, sheltering riskier or experimental projects. CSI’s Regent Park location, in one of Toronto’s priority communities, has yet to break even. Yet the work there is some of the most experimental and has the most direct community impact. For difficult social issue projects, being part of a network makes them more resilient than stand-alone ventures.
7. Connectivity and support for acceleration are key to social innovators’ success and so to social impact. Check out CSI’s program SOSHENT, a platform that now connects innovators to the programs and supports they need to accelerate success and amplify impact.
8. Social Innovation is a movement that is building the next economy, one that puts people and planet first, over profit. This is the Big Dream; scaling social innovation beyond what is good for community to what serves the world. Canada is a unique place to aspire to this: we put caring first, have one of the largest per capita social sectors in the world, and we were recently named the best country in the world to be an entrepreneur.
So, what is happening in Southern Georgian Bay? Four panelists: four great stories
James Thomson, President & CEO New Path Foundation and the Common Roof
Located in Barrie, New Path is a public foundation created in 1996 to support the needs of children, youth and families. Early activities focused on fundraising and community awareness. By 2004, they could see that organizations serving families were struggling with high commercial rental costs to the detriment of their work. This problem created a “mind shift”. By working collaboratively, the Foundation structured a financial model that redirected some facility costs to investment in service.
The first Common Roof is a shared space tenanted by 5 agencies. Each agency put up $100K to demonstrate commitment to the bank to enable a mortgage on a large empty industrial building in Barrie. The social service co-tenancy opportunity led previously siloed organizations to experiment with sharing more than space. Now refined as a replicable social enterprise model, a second Common Roof is located in Orillia and a third is planned in 2020 for Collingwood in collaboration with Community Connection and the Rotary Club of Collingwood.
Check out: Common Roof Case Study
Pam Hillier, Executive Director, Community Connection (211) https://www.communityconnection.ca Rotary Club of Collingwood and the Campbell Street Development
Pam makes two strong points about community: we already know what the top issues are and charities and nonprofits are the hidden assets in the search for solutions. More than 50% of the households in Collingwood who call 211 ask about housing and shelter, transportation, utilities, food and a need for basic goods. Using data shows the gaps and names the issues that matter most. Then, it is about making connections among the more than 200 community organizations in the region to build on the potential for solution-focused partnerships.
Community Connection already engages in dozens of partnerships across many different sectors, with deep working relationships with the United Way of Bruce Grey and the United Way Simcoe Muskoka. They operate a multi-tenant nonprofit center. To grow this work, Community Connection is partnering with the Rotary Club of Collingwood and the New Path Foundation to transform 197/199 Campbell Street into a four-acre community hub. The dreaming is all about increasing connectivity. What about a regional Hub Network? Can we connect Hub facilitators online and share space rentals, service and resources? Could we establish a public benefit company to support new regional Hubs? Like CSI, they know that increasing connectivity increases the potential for solution.
Check out: Media release Campbell St. development
Mark Palmer, President & CEO of Greenland Group of Companies and Hume Innovation Hub
Mark thinks about social innovation in the context of his work in engineering. His companies work on a range of projects related to municipal infrastructure, water resources and sustainable urban development within a conservationist ethic. A long proponent of climate mitigation, Mark and his sons use evidence-based science, open-source code and internet support systems in their work, along with clear focus on community. Water was a repeating theme in Mark’s presentation.
Mark also mentors coaches and supports young entrepreneurs with innovative solutions. Using his experience with Communitech, a tech business accelerator in Kitchener Waterloo, Mark plans for the development of 121 Hume St. to serve as office space and a new Hume Innovation Hub. The Hub will support young inventors and entrepreneurs such as a local teen who recently developed a product to monitor the risk of basement flooding.
Check out: Safe Sumps
Elly Green, Program Manager, Social Enterprise Network of Central Ontario (SENCO) at the Centre for Changemaking & Social Innovation , Georgian College
Students at Georgian, Canada’s first Ashoka Changemaker College, have the opportunity to combine their studies with project-based learning and connections to community through the Centre for Changemaking and Innovation. At Georgian’s Orillia Campus, students work on solving “wicked problems” that face communities. With a philosophy of solving with rather than for those affected by a problem, the Centre has a strong bent toward inclusion. This is one of the ways Georgian meets its aim of supporting flourishing economies and communities.
SENCO is a program of the Centre that aims to inspire, connect and equip those wanting to build social enterprises to address social challenges in central Ontario. It supports the SE sector through connection and support for social entrepreneurs creating new economic approaches in communities. SE sector development groups (SESDGs) meet quarterly in Georgian’s seven campus communities across Central Ontario. Success for SENCO is measured in partnerships established, individuals engaged and social enterprises accelerated, and they are well exceeding year one goals. Elly suggests that building awareness of social enterprise and social procurement are key strategies. SENCO has partnered with the Community Foundation Grey Bruce to support the roll out of the new federal Social Finance Fund.
Check out: SENCO stories of SEs
Discussion: So What Next?
Southern Georgian Bay has some natural advantages
- In smaller communities connections are made easily; we are nimble and when we connect we can leverage efforts.
- We have a strong post-career group of people with great community spirit willing to contribute, volunteer and mentor.
- We care for and about residents and visitors and have a high degree of trust.
- Water and the environment are our ‘calling cards’ and an attractor for innovation.
- We have a large number of nonprofits. A lot is happening; we can amplify by connecting the dots.
What if …..
We tear up the turf, think regionally and….
- Build a regional taskforce on labour that makes it possible to act as an economic region.
- Improve transportation with a single, coordinated & accessible system between municipalities in the region.
- Create a place of worship to support multiple faith practices to increase immigrant workforce retention.
- Understand housing, work and affordability in regional settlement patterns.
- Enable tech sharing across platforms to build credible regional data on issues such as poverty, violence, homelessness to get at the root causes of social issues.
We make more strategic use of community assets to leverage capital for community investment by…
- Building a regional community investment strategy that engages and leverages municipalities and corporate support to finance capacity in the social sector.
- Creating ways to think about public/private/charitable partnerships to create a community benefit fund.
- Building awareness of social procurement strategies.
- Accessing new funding streams for social innovation, collective impact and social finance.
- Mapping the social assets of our region to better connect the dots and engage with asset-based community development.
We create community infrastructure and leadership at the grass roots for an innovation strategy to…
- Focus the question: What is the social innovation that needs to happen in this community?
- Build a clearly stated vision that builds connectivity. What is this region known for: Anti-poverty? Greening? Water? A good place to be alive?
- Build regional continuity across conversations on the environment, transportation and poverty.
- Create a nongovernmental organization like Civic Action or build out the Institute, already a trusted convener and provocateur on community issue conversations.