The Jeffrey Van Dyk Show | Episode 14

From impoverished hippie childhood to leader of social innovation in Canada, with Jeffrey Van Dyk & Tonya Surman

Tonya Surman is a master gardener of social innovation. Tonya’s journey began when she was four years-old. Her mother left, and her father became the sole parent. Tonya, her Father and younger sister struggled with poverty. She says, “My father raised us on love, not food.” She points to this experience as the source of her resilience, strength and a need to create an impact.

At the age of 19, Tonya left university life behind and traveled the world. While she was living in a small hut on the Andaman Sea in Thailand, news arrived that a nearby village had been devastated by a mudslide. The primary contributing factor was deforestation. This helped her to draw a direct correlation between the environment and social economic issues.

The Jeffrey Van Dyk Show

by Tonya Surman | From impoverished hippie childhood to leader of social innovation in Canada

Show Notes

Tonya Surman is one of Canada’s leading social entrepreneurs and a pioneer in the coworking and social enterprise movements. She has a passion for bringing life to world-changing projects. Highlights from her 20-year career include co-founding and leading the Centre for Social Innovation which is a collaborative workspace, a community, and a launchpad for over 1000 social enterprises

She also developed the Constellation Model – a multi-stakeholder partnership framework that was used for a number of projects, including banning toxic chemicals in baby bottles, organizing 40,000+ Ontario nonprofits into a network with policy-making clout, launching the Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund with government, corporate and nonprofit partners, and creating the Community Bond, a social finance tool that raised $6.3 million to purchase two buildings in downtown Toronto for social innovation.

Tonya is the recipient of numerous awards: the Ashoka Foundation, Canadian Urban Institute, Toronto Community Foundation, New Media Awards, the Trillium Foundation, and Entrepreneur of the Year for Socialight Canada are among the many organizations that have recognized her leadership and contributions.

Links to Tonya’s work: