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Centre for Jewish Innovation

Social innovation refers to new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that strengthen civil society and meet social needs of all kinds - from working conditions and education to community development and health. The Centre for Jewish Innovation (CJI) will serve as Toronto's first incubator for Jewish social entrepreneurs who have initiated their own start up organizations focused upon services and programs for the Jewish community of Toronto. The CJI will share space with Hillel Toronto in the Wolfond Centre for Jewish Student Life at the University of Toronto. With a small retrofit of a suitable space in the building, the CJI will provide a package of support tools to competitively selected, innovative start up organizations that focus upon social action, Jewish education, spirituality, and/or social engagement . Start-up organizations selected for the incubator will have access to a staff person trained in not for profit management, and receive free office space, a technology and admin package, training workshops, a mentor, a peer community and a stipend.
By leveraging the opportunity to use this prime community space, students will be engaged with a network of Jewish innovators locally, in Israel and around the globe. In addition, the CJI will provide a platform for experienced and successful community and business leaders to impart knowledge and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.


The community needs to be addressed are: finding ways to identify and nurture new leaders, engage the next generation of young Jews, and stimulate and support ongoing innovation to ensure that our community institutions continue to be vital and relevant. Until now there has not been a culture of doing so, nor has there been a place within the organized Jewish community to allow this to happen.
Based upon three years of experience in the field including a one year pilot project with a group of young Jewish innovators in the GTA, there is a clear need for organized support of this group- particulary those initiatives who are at the 'mezzanine level' having some record of success but ready to move to the next level. This is likely true of many of the projects applying for funding through the Six Points fund. Feedback received from participants in the pilot confirmed that without the supports received during the pilot phase of the project, they would not have been able to move their projects to the next level. Survey results indicated that apart from funding, office space and a peer community, the most common needs identified were support as leaders of emerging organizations as well as supports for the development of the for organizations themselves. Projects in the pilot phase of the CJI focused upon Jewish spirituality, special needs children, Jewish education, environmentalism, service learning and social action. (See: shoresh.ca; makomto.org;campaim.ca- all projects that received support during the pilot phase of this project.) While it is clearly recognized that some incubated projects will succeed and some may fail, the risk is mitigated by the understanding that the process itself is of tremendous value: cultivation of leadership, exploration, relationship building, experimentation- all beneficial for a progressive and dynamic community.

Goals, Objectives & Measurement: 

The impact upon community will be the emergence of strong and vibrant organizations and initiatives and new leadership for the Jewish community of the 21st century.
1. Identify and incubate nine 'mezzanine level' projects that enrich Jewish life over three years.
2. Develop a workplan focusing upon organizational strength and leadership development for each project with measureable goals and monitor progress of each project against goals.
3. Match mentors, 'consultant team' and advisory board members for each project.
4. Over three years , financially stabilized projects or developed exit strategy for non-viable projects.
5. Develop training and or orientation program for all volunteers (surveys to ensure effectiveness).
6. Create a community of Jewish innovators that engage the local student and university community measured by continued growth in participation.
7. Establish the CJI as a key space for Jewish innovation in Toronto and a space that has a reputation within North America, Israel and the Jewish world (measured by numbers of placements, fellowships and international exchanges).

Opportunity for Involvement: 

Incubated projects housed within the Centre for Jewish Innovation will require a range of supports including mentorship, guidance, assistance with the development of business plans, human resource advice, legal advice, opportunities to connect to the larger communal organizations and institutions, board development, and wise counsel. Six Points fund members would be matched to projects based upon their specific skills and interests. Six Points fund members would also be available to share their expertise in larger group settings for programs and workshops and serve on CJI committees.

Time Frame: 

The project is ready to launch January, 2012. The monies requested are the final dollars required to launch on a three year basis.There is an Advisory Committee in place (see below) who are funders and fundraisers for the project. Hillel Toronto is eagerly awaiting this project as it sees potential to drive energy and excitement to the site and to engage the student and downtown community. A manager of the project has been selected and is available to begin work on the project Jan 1, 12. She would be supervised by a senior Jewish communal professional. The space is available for use immediately.


The sponsoring organization is Jewish Community Campuses of Greater Toronto.
Robin Gofine, Vice President, Strategic Community Planning and Engagement is the current staff.
Advisory Committee: Cheryl Reicin, Michael Buckstein, Sam Ifergan, Sandy Freiberg, Barry Bank, Sheldon Hellin, Bram Granovsky, Marc Lipton

Organizational Structure and Expertise: 

The Centre for Jewish Innovation was initiated to stimulate new and innovative thinking within the Jewish community and initiate projects that engage donors and that align with the strategic plan of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Senior staff overseeing the project to date has eleven years of experience with UJA Federation, and is trained as a lawyer and social worker.The project has been recognized for its innovative approach and has been presented at General Assemblies in Jerusalem (2008) and New Orleans (2010) as well as at JFNA Planners Conferences in Montreal, Dallas and New York. The proposed manager received is from Toronto, a social entrepreneur and has experience managing an innovative Jewish non profit. She is a graduate of the Wagner-Skirball Dual Masters Program in Non Profit Management and Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. She has moved back to Toronto and is committed to applying her knowledge and passion to support innovative initiatives in the Jewish community.

Criteria that Enhance Competitiveness: 

1. Innovative: The Centre for Jewish Innovation is the first project of its kind within any Jewish community in North America that responds to the needs of Jewish innovators by providing them not only funding, technical assistance and workspace but also with connections to the established community through a Federation.
2. Sustainable: The project has an Advisory Board comprised of funders and credible community leaders who are committed to the task of ongoing fundraising for the project. Significant in-kind services and resources are being contributed by Hillel and UJA Federation (see attached budget).
3. Scalable: Plans are in place to situate branches of the CJI on the Sherman and Lebovic Campuses.
4. Replicable: The project is being looked at as a model for other Federations in Montreal, Ottawa and San Diego.
5. Leverage: 2/3 of funding has been committed to date for the project. The Six Points fund will be used to leverage these commitments (in addition to the inkind contributions) and last dollars in to allow the launch of the project.