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Civic Impact

Centre for Social Innovation now looking for new crop of Community Animators

For budding social entrepreneurs, finding workspace can be a major stumbling block. How best to connect with a community of like-minded people without dipping into precious start-up capital? Fortunately, the Centre for Social Innovation has an answer.

Their Desk Exchange Community Animator program, which is now accepting applications for all three of its current locations, asks for one eight-hour shift each week. In exchange, the DECAs, as they’re known around CSI, have unlimited access to the CSI workspace—including meeting rooms, hotdesks, and printing and scanning facilities—and its community. “Our model is to rent space, but we wanted to make sure it was available for folks who maybe weren’t able to afford that, or who wanted to contribute to the community in a different way,” explains Brittney Drysdale, a community animator with CSI Annex. By taking on logistical responsibilities like directing guests and booking meeting rooms, DECAs form a major part of the CSI operational team. “We wouldn’t be able to run without our DECAs,” says Drysdale.

They’re also a fundamental part of the CSI community. They help organize social events and welcome both members and guests into the space. “We call our DECAs super-users because they’re so familiar with the space and the community, and they know how to leverage that. They act as connection points, and that’s where the animation point comes in. They’re the ties between members,” says Drysdale.

Former DECAs are sometimes hired into the CSI permanent staff, while others use their time behind the desk at CSI to springboard their own social and entrepreneurial ventures. Former DECAs include Ilana Ben-Ari, who went on to launch the award-winning 21 Toys, and Brian Chang, who began singing with the CSI Annex-based Toronto Mendelssohn choir during his time as a DECA.

For those who are interested in becoming a DECA, the application deadline is February 1. In addition to a six-month commitment, Drysdale says they’re looking for people who are passionate about social change. “We’re looking for folks who want to be here, who are looking for community and workspace, and who are interested in a learning opportunity.”
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