Tonya Surman

CEO, Centre for Social Innovation

Tonya is a social entrepreneur, community animator and mayhem choreographer. With a passion for bringing life to world-changing projects, Tonya is the founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) a coworking space, community and launchpad for people who are changing the world, with four locations in Toronto and one location in New York City. CSI provides its members with the tools they need to accelerate their success and amplify their social impact. Find out more at

Tonya is a Global Ashoka Fellow – the highest global recognition in social entrepreneurship for her innovative work building models of collaboration. She was recognized as a ‘Leader in Social Change’ from the Canadian New Media Awards in 2010. And in 2009, CSI was awarded the ‘City Innovation’ award from the Canadian Urban Institute.

Tonya’s work fundamentally embodies collaboration, entrepreneurship and systems change. The Centre for Social Innovation is the first of its kind in the world – a pioneer in the co-working movement, a driver behind the move toward social enterprise and most recently, an innovator in the creation of a citizen-based Community Bond – a practical social finance tool that was created to purchase CSI Annex – CSI’s second location. Since then, CSI has also launched - Catapult - a microloan program for social enterprise.

Tonya co-founded and chaired the Ontario Nonprofit Network for 5 years, was a founding trustee in the Toronto Awesome Foundation (a brown bag of $1000/mth for awesome) and has been a leader within the Ontario Social Economy Roundtable and the Social Enterprise Council of Canada. Tonya was instrumental in the replication of the Enterprising Nonprofits Program in Toronto and the roll out of TechSoup Canada, among other initiatives.

Previous to CSI, Tonya was the founding Partnership Director for the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment, whose work, in part, led to a new legislative framework to manage chemicals and the banning of BPA in baby bottles.

Tonya has been creating and leading social ventures since 1987 and has built her body of knowledge around multi-sectoral collaboration and entrepreneurship for social change.

In her spare time, she is building an urban farm on her roof and hosts outdoor movie nights and street parties in the hood with her husband and two boys in High Park.