SIWT #2 Spotlight on Toronto

Dernière mise à jour le 4 décembre 2013.

SIWT #2 Spotlight on Toronto

Social innovation is not tied to any one city. The social innovation projects that emerge may be unique to a certain region, but many themes are prevalent across different continents. We decided to look at how social innovation is emerging around the world and profile some of the great projects we found.  Our first stop was Ecuador and now we are turning our attention to somewhere a little colder. 


Toronto is Canada’s most populous city and the 5th largest in North America. It is also one of the world’s most multicultural cities. While recent media coverage of the city has focused on its mayor’s antics, Toronto is home to some amazing (and much more news-worthy) social innovation projects and organizations. We have compiled a list of 10 projects and 11 networks/organizations that are helping social innovation in this great city.




Mentor Nation, started by Change It Up, is based out of Toronto. It seeks to support First Nations entrepreneurship in Canada by matching aspiring First Nations entrepreneurs with successful business mentors around the country, who will use Skype and similar tools to offer advice and support.


ArtScape is a not-for-profit organization that fosters creativity in communities by connecting creative people with the interests of communities and neighbourhoods to form cultural hubs.


Design with Dialogue was designed to facilitate change through discussion and creativity. Hosted at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Design with Dialogue facilitates meaningful action in organizations, communities, collaborative projects and individuals through participatory design.


Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental center that helps inspire Torontonians to work, live and play more sustainably. The site uses workshops, activities and festivals to engage the community and educate people about ecology and sustainability.


Another great project is the Silver Brush. This organization employs people who are at risk of homelessness or who suffer from mental health issues. The project has been successfully employing men and women from various backgrounds and economic circumstances since its beginning in 2010.


STEPS/PATCH are two projects that help people connect with their communities through art. One difference with Design With Dialogue is that STEPS turns community space into an art project or stage to help people re-think how they interact with their environment.


Sprout Guerrilla is a project that is transforming Toronto’s urban landscape with moss. Participants plant moss in heart shapes all around the city as a form of environmentally friendly graffiti to create a synthesis of art and nature.


SVX is a project that is raising private capital to fund programs that have a positive environmental or social impact. The platform connects ventures, funders and investors to help facilitate change. The program is a sort of one-stop financing area for projects and investors to meet.


Toronto Urban Growers is a project in Toronto that is promoting urban agriculture. The organization seeks to shape policy related to urban agriculture, share ideas about growing food in a city and develop plans for urban gardens.


Gateway is a shelter and drop in center for adults experiencing homelessness in Toronto. The center really acts as a gateway towards community, belonging, respect and recovery. They are actively seeking to reduce homelessness in the city.


Networks, Non-Profits & Organizations:


Collaborative Consumption is a network of people that began in Sydney Australia but has quickly spread elsewhere. Based on the principle that a new philosophy is required for our consumption habits, collaborative consumption promotes a economy based on renting, bartering, swapping, lending and gifting. The Toronto group meets at the Centre for Social Innovation in downtown Toronto.


Taking IT Global is a network of young people in Canada working toward tackling global challenges. Based in Toronto, the network seeks to connect youth all around the world and to engage them in shaping a more inclusive, sustainable world.


s Lab, or Strategic Innovation Lab, is a centre for researched and development in design that is based out of OCAD University. It is a community of practitioners, designers, business people, policy professionals, teachers and students who are passionate about envisioning possible futures.


The Centre for Social Innovation is a co-working space in Toronto that also acts as an incubator for social innovation projects. They currently have three locations in Toronto and one in New York. Drawing on their experience, CSI helps social entrepreneurs grow their projects and realize their goals.


Social Innovation Generation is a group that believes in solving serious social problems. Their focus is on fostering social innovation to this end by creating a culture of continuous innovation. They are partners with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the University of Waterloo, the MaRS Discovery District, and the PLAN Institute.


Knowledge Mobilization at York University is a program that matches researchers with an organization to help them make a real impact with their work. The philosophy is co-creation of knowledge for social innovation. Knowledge Mobilization encompasses several activities that enhance the connection between researchers and those using the research.


Ashoka Canada is a subset of the global Ashoka foundation. They are an association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and are redefining the global citizen sector by creating a system of collaborative entrepreneurship. The Toronto branch is working on helping social entrepreneurs in.


The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing is a social finance hub and project incubator. The centre is a neutral collaboration space that brings together people from all sectors – government, community and the private sector to strengthen the collaborative ability of all and mobilize private capital for the public good. The centre houses several sub-initiatives as well such as the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance.


Solutions Lab is another MaRS initiative that is building Canada’s next generation of Growth Companies. The solutions lab helps social entrepreneurs find the correct balance between passion and process. It helps people find viable solutions to the problems they face as social entrepreneurs.


Studio Y is another MaRS initiative that targets young people specifically. The program brings 25 people between the ages of 18 and 29 together each year for an 8-month transformative journey. The program seeks to help these young social entrepreneurs realize their full potential.


The Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund is a fund based in Toronto that helps connect young innovators with impact investors. The program is driving the creation of sustainable social and environmental projects and is helping young people to realize the potential of their ideas. The program operates on a microloan basis and offers investors an opportunity to make a ‘triple bottom line’ investment. 


I hope this blog post has helped shed some light on the great initiatives that are going on in Toronto though it by no means covers all the fantastic things that people are doing. If you know of any other projects, networks, organizations or changemakers in the city let us know in the comments below. Follow the tour on Twitter using #SIWT.... and be sure to check in for the next stop on our Social Innovation World Tour as we head to South America to take a look at what is going on in Colombia! 

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  1. Mike Usnod

    Mike Usnod activé 2 déc. 2013 15:03:07 #

    Hey Laura. That's a huge list, didn't know that there's so much of social foundations and incentives going on in Toronto. Thanks!



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