Our Founding Story

SI Canada was founded as an initiative of six nodes across the country including: the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), which led, housed and incubated this effort with national node partners Inspiring Communities, La Maison de l’innovation sociale, Social Enterprise Centre, ABSI Connect and Radius at Simon Fraser University. 

These six nodes were later joined by Winnipeg Boldness. The partners invested in and nurtured SI Canada following the sunsetting of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) in 2017, and worked with SiG’s team on the transfer of their knowledge and networks into this nascent and exciting endeavour. 

Networks emerge from the passion and drive of practitioners and we would be remiss in not honouring the leadership of the many practitioners who committed their insight, time, passion and dedication to this work. Tonya Surman, CEO of CSI, the Chair of the Stewardship Group of SI Canada and the CEO of the charity which nurtured SI Canada into reality. Her partners in crime included Darcy Riddell from her perch at The McConnell Foundation and many others including: Melanie Goodchild (founder of Turtle Island Institute) who brought an indigenous perspective, Ben Weinlick, Annika Voltan, Saralyn Hodgkin, Kiri Bird, Patrick Dube, Heather Laird, Kelsey Spitz, Geraldine Cahill, Dianne Roussin, Allyson Hewitt and Alex Ryan to name a few. Chi Nguyen and Seana Irvine also played key roles in SI Canada’s evolution and growth. These amazing humans were galvanized as a result of Spark! the first National Social Innovation Conference in 2017 –  all through the magic of connections.  

From 2017 to 2021, SI Canada continued to be incubated at the CSI Institute under Tonya Surman’s leadership. With the support of The McConnell Foundation, Suncor Energy Foundation and Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC), a small secretariat managed a number of ecosystem-building projects, convenings, communities of practice and the creation of a number of knowledge products. This included a national gathering on Social R&D, the creation of SI Unlocked and supporting a group of “weavers” working through our member nodes.  In the spring of 2021, as the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic rolled on, SI Canada was completing its third year of programming. We were receiving feedback from our community on how we, as an organization, and social innovation as a sector, could become more inclusive and equitable. We began a community-driven strategic clarity process to understand more. 

In 2022, SI Canada began its next chapter, when CSI and the Centre for Social Innovation Institute announced the consolidation of their programmatic work and the Institute’s adoption of the name of their flagship program, Social Innovation Canada.

Further Background

Check SI Canada’s first year review and learn more about how the work was structured, what we learned, and what came next.

Former Strategic Roadmap: Introducing Social Innovation Canada / Présentation d’innovation sociale Canada.

Findings from the Field.