Social Innovation Spotlight

May 16

Entrepreneur and Socially Responsible Investment advisor, Johnny Fansher and social finance market builder and event host, Andre Vashist both have experienced working in shared workspaces like Innovation Works, at the Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation (CSI). CSI is a social enterprise that specializes in the creation of shared workspaces for people or organizations with a social mission.

Johnny and Andre seized the opportunity to work alongside likeminded people who thrived on making a difference, as they integrated themselves into the culture of CSI, essentially leading them to contribute to the creation of Innovation Works.

Samantha Billson, a PR student, interviewed Johnny and Andre to discuss their initial connection to CSI, some of their experiences while working in the space, and their thoughts on what Innovation Works will have to offer.

Q. When did you first “hook up” with Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation?

J: The first time I hooked up with CSI was when I attended an event in November 2006. I joined the community in May 2007.

A: It was a few years ago, in 2011, through the Agent of Change mentorship program. ​

Q. What initially attracted you to a co-working space like CSI?

J: I was attracted to the community itself and the other social innovators. It felt like finding birds of a feather – lots of likeminded people. The camaraderie and the kinship make CSI a wonderful place to go to escape the loneliness of working from home.

A: It was the only co-working space that showed interest in non-profit organizations and valued social missions. The diverse culture and people really influenced my initial attraction to CSI. The location was great too – right in the heart of the city! ​

Q. What was it like to work in the space? Could you describe a typical day at CSI?

J: It would be difficult to explain a day at CSI because every day is different. There are people at permanent desks and people who are there more infrequently. Things are always changing and I love that. I have met so many incredible people throughout my time there.

A: It was great! There were tons of opportunities to collaborate with so many different people and personalities. I couldn’t quite describe a typical day at CSI – the flexibility and dynamics in the space really made every day different.

Q. Were there any unexpected outcomes as a result of being there?

J: One thing’s for sure – I didn’t expect this would become a catalyst for Innovation Works! I also would never have expected the amount of warmth and appreciation the community showed me while working there. Both outcomes exceeded my expectations.

A: I never expected to meet so many great and inspirational people. I learned so much about other organizations and their missions to make a difference. I also never expected all the great and useful advice given from the friends and relationships I built while being at CSI.

Q. What advice would you give tenant's moving into Innovation Works here in London?

J: Be open minded and prepared! It might sound cheesy but… Ask yourself not what Innovation Works can do for you, but what you can do for Innovation Works.

A: Some advice I’d give to new tenants would be to participate in the culture of the space and to find moments to learn, and contribute. It will enhance any tenants experience.

Q. What are three words to describe your experience at CSI and your expectations for Innovation Works.

J: Three words to describe CSI – Energetic, inspiring and engaging. I don’t have any words to describe my expectations for Innovation Works, but I’m thrilled to take part in co-creating the culture and mood of the space.

A: Three words to describe my experience at CSI would be vibrant, experiential, and down-to-earth. If I could use three words to describe my expectations of Innovation Works, they would be unique, successful, and risk-taking.