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The third session at the 2011 Social Finance Forum ‘Investing in Good Deals,’ taking place alongside the ‘Idea Jam: a networking and problem-solving session with leaders in pact investing,’ was ‘Beans and Bonds: Case study of Planet Bean Coffee and the CSI Community Bond.’
Executive Director Tonya Surman spoke to the crowd about the Centre for Social Innovation’s (CSI) Community Bond, which was created in order for the Centre of Social Innovation to buy and renovate their Annex location in downtown Toronto. CSI is a not-for-profit revenue-generating social enterprise that rents out space in an attempt to accelerate social change. The Community Bond is a refreshing innovation that harnesses RRSP investors and the relationships of the collective to create change on a local and substantial level. Charged by a do-it-yourself ethos, Surman repeatedly urged the crowd at the Social Finance Forum to act, and not just wait for the right policy or institutional tool for a particular project.
Here’s how it works. When CSI was looking for a new space, Tonya Surman saw the building on 720 Bathurst Street and immediately knew it was the perfect fit for their needs and future needs. The question then became: How does a small non-profit like CSI raise the funds necessary—about 6 and a half million dollars—to move in? CSI’s Community Bond is mortgage-backed and comprises a $10,000 minimum investment, 5-year term, and a 4% return. “Community bonds create community wealth” was a quote that Surman presented that resonated with the mixed-bag crowd of investors, social entrepreneurs and other folks interested in the field.
“Community bonds are loans that offer both a social and financial return on investment, and enable communities to leverage their constituents’ financial resources to create the spaces and programs that will enable them to thrive,” writes Tonya Surman in SEE Change Magazine.
Today, the Annex location is 36,000 square feet of shared space where over 400 people work on social projects that contribute to the good of the whole.
Tonya Surman closed her presentation with discussing how much vibrancy exists in the nonprofit world. The sector accounts for 7 percent of Canadian GDP and currently employs about 1 million people in Ontario. Indeed, even though we live in a culture that claims “non-profit means no money,” the diverse community shows that this is not the case.
“Community bonds are a tool with tremendous potential for what we call the ‘citizen sector’—the people and organizations who take action to serve others—because they empower communities to create their own solutions,” says Surman.