social entrepreneurs | May 29, 2012

Collaboration Economy: Tonya Surman's Centre for Social Innovation

"The new economy is all about collaboration," says Tonya Surman. And she should know. Surman is the co-founder of The Centre for Social Innovation, a 5,000 square foot shared workspace in downtown Toronto—the first of its kind in the world—that contains an ecosystem of nearly 200 not-for-profits and social purpose businesses. The CSI has been designed, from the ground up, to remove logistical barriers like overhead costs in order to create a flourishing environment of cross-pollinating ideas and boundless innovation. Having worked with dozens of social start-ups in her work at CSI, Surman speaks about the emerging economy, and how creative business models and collaborative strategies are engaging stakeholders (employees, customers, the public) and making the world a better place.

Surman envisions collaboration as the catalyst for a new economic revolution that will turn capitalism on its head. As corporate social responsibility moves from a fringe advantage to a must-have principle, she encourages corporations to use their infrastructure, resources, and capital—both human and monetary—to share ideas rather than hoard them, and to collaborate with like-minded companies and consumers alike. Social innovation is the future of business, Surman says, and places like The Centre for Social Innovation are poised to become the new boardroom.