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Collaboration Creates Social Capital: Social Change Speaker Tonya Surman
Social Change | April 17, 2013

Collaboration Creates Social Capital: Social Change Speaker Tonya Surman

"I'm normally the positive, go-getter entrepreneur, [who believes] everyone should the change the world," social change speaker Tonya Surman told the audience at the Changemaker Showcase conference. "But I just want to say, yeah, some days are fantastic—and some days are really difficult." As the Co-Founder of The Centre for Social Innovation, Surman brings vastly different but like-minded social entrepreneurs together under one roof. Driven by the belief that collaboration is imperative to making a difference, Surman told the crowd that social innovation doesn't take place through the work of a single agent working independently. Change isn't easy, and neither is growth.

Working in the field of social innovation isn't always glamorous, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing. "This work, the reason I do this, is that it's fundamentally changing the world," she says in the keynote. "It's the work that needs to happen so that we as a community, as a people, as a country, will actually be able to build a sustainable future." She says that one of the most taxing components of her work stems from the inability of people to collaborate and meld their interests to achieve their goals. It's crucial that like-minded people with similar passions can come together to collaborate with, and learn from, those in different areas of the social sphere. "The power of collaboration becomes the power of social capital," she told the crowd. And that collaborative power, and the relationships you form when working with others, can help make the hard parts of your job a little bit easier.

She also told the audience not to wait for permission to create innovative solutions to social problems. As citizens, she says, we hold the power to take matters into our own hands and collaboratively craft the resolutions to social problems. For her work, Surman was recently honored as a Global Ashoka Fellow (considered by many to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for social entrepreneurs). In her talks, she shares the challenges—and the many successes—that her organization has encountered over the years. She shows how any organization, from a small non-profit to a giant corporation, can benefit from a community-based and collaborative approach to innovation. And, how they can leverage these collaborative relationships to achieve their goals and improve conditions around the world.
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