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Tonya Surman's blog

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Tonya Surman is a social entrepreneur, community animator and network choreographer. With a passion for bringing life to world-changing projects, Tonya is the founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation -- a dynamic network of convergence spaces in Toronto and NYC whose mission is to catalyze, connect and support new ideas that are changing the world. CSI provides shared space to 1,000 social mission groups, acts as a community centre for social innovators and is an incubator for world-changing projects. www.socialinnovation.org

Social entrepreneurship: One part rage, one part opportunity

| July 28, 2013

Advancing social enterprise is not about a government policy or an incubator. It isn't about what kind of support you can find or the venture capitalists that you might be able to attract. It isn't about sexy new terms like "social finance" or "social entrepreneurship." We are going to see a dramatic increase in social enterprise when we are honest with ourselves about the world that we live in, and we recognize that we want to be a part of the solution.

The time of cubicles and hierarchy is over.

Everyday we are bombarded with images of the world, and despite our great instinct to compartmentalize those images into the category of things that you can't change, eventually one of these issues is going to enrage you.

This is the turning point -- you are now confronted with the choice.

Do you want to be part of the solution? Do you have the courage to change the way the world thinks? And acts? Are you creative enough to handle the complexity of multiple bottom lines? Have you stopped asking permission? Are you bold enough to act?

Social enterprise is a tactic. The endgame is a world where the market is transformed to serve people and the planet and not money itself. The endgame is not about growth and consumption but about meaning and happiness.

At recent count, I figured that I had been a part of over 15 social start-ups, every single one with other people. Whether a cooperative day care, an online progressive news magazine (ed note: she's talking about rabble.ca!), transforming toxics policy for kids or pioneering the concept of co-working in shared spaces, each and every one of these was about systems change, about fundamentally shifting the ground beneath us. It was about looking for the opportunity -- the thing that entrepreneurs do.

We see some exciting trends and opportunities to be leveraged. Concepts like collaborative consumption, crowd-everything, the move back to local, health innovation, aggregation and curation, green-everything, slow money, community wealth, and the list goes on. The opportunities are limited only by our imaginations.

But advancing the field of social enterprise will require us, the entrepreneurs of this country, to hold the tension between the reality of the challenge and the potential for its transformation. It is about seeing the opportunity, the connections and the potential for systems change. This is what we do best.

Canadian entrepreneurs are perfectly positioned to be the drivers of this movement. We come from all over the world. We are all shapes and sizes. We have connections globally and we have learned how to collaborate across differences. With this global perspective and with deep Canadian values that recognize that we are all connected and rely on each other for our collective success, Canadians embrace the concept of "shared values" as articulated by Michael Porter. We have the context, the values and the skills. Now all we need is to take the time to reflect and to ask ourselves if we are ready to be drivers of transformation? Are you ready to be a part of the solution?

1 part rage + 1 part opportunity + 1 entrepreneur = advancing social enterprise in Canada



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