The WE Global Learning Center is a dream born on the wide savannah of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Walking together, Craig Kielburger and Canadian philanthropist Hartley T. Richardson envisioned a new building that would not only serve as WE’s headquarters, but also provide the capacity for WE to cost-effectively scale its programs globally.
The WE GLC would accomplish that by employing advanced technology to connect educators and youth anywhere in the world. The space would bring all of WE’s educational and service-learning programs together in one place; where schools, youth groups and families could take part in training and workshops. It would be a hub bringing together educators for professional development and budding social entrepreneurs to network and hone their skills and business plans.
An historic building was purchased in Toronto’s downtown Corktown district, and renovations began in the spring of 2016. The WE GLC opened its doors in September 2017, after significant renovations to make it a hub and a headquarters for global learning.
The WE GLC is much more than just office space. The entire the first floor of the WE GLC is an open community space, dedicated to providing access to resources and mentorship opportunities to youth, educators, and families.
Some of the features of the WE GLC include:
- The WE Connectivity Hub creates real-time opportunities for borderless communication, virtually connecting youth and educators across Canada and around the world. It features three global classrooms fitted with Skype technology, generously donated by Microsoft.
- The Social Incubation Hub is an arena where young social entrepreneurs can develop and launch their own action plans, where we provide support and mentorship through structured programming and one-to-one coaching with youth.
- The WE GLC also features a Legacy Room, in honor of Gord Downie’s legacy and commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous people. It is as a space dedicated to WE’s commitment to Canada’s journey as a country toward reconciliation.
- In the “Empatheatre” we offer an engaging area for interactive events such as speeches and educational workshops, professional learning sessions for educators and leadership programming for larger groups—all in service of facilitating service-learning programs with students from around the world.
- The second floor of the WE GLC is dedicated to our domestic programming, where teams that oversee local programs sit and collaborate on youth and educator engagement. On the third floor, our international teams focus on global program development and cultivating the partnerships that help bring our sustainable international development model to life.
The establishment of the WE GLC was made with an initial landmark gift from Canadian entrepreneurs and long-time supporters Hartley T. Richardson and David Aisenstat. Their generous actions were the spark that inspired a remarkable community of business leaders and philanthropists to come together as hopeful visionaries to bring this vision of the center to life.
How the WE GLC benefits our work
With advanced communications technology, like the Skype-enabled Hartley T. Richardson Empatheatre, WE can engage more people while driving down the cost per life impacted. We can provide leadership training to youth in the most remote Indigenous communities. Educators anywhere can participate in service-learning professional development without incurring travel costs to us or them. For those close enough to travel, the WE GLC draws in school groups who visit the site for workshops and guest speakers, including politicians, leading academics and motivational speakers.
We are working on our long-term dream is to make the WE GLC a community for change-makers, with space for social entrepreneurs and other charities to work alongside our team.
How the WE GLC was funded
The WE GLC was made possible with an initial landmark gift from long-time WE supporters Hartley T. Richardson and the Richardson Family, the Richardson Foundation and David Aisenstat. Their generosity sparked a remarkable community of business leaders and philanthropists to come together to bring Hartley and Craig’s vision to life. Among these founding hopeful visionaries were the Gilgan family, the Modesto and Filomena Romano family, and the Losani family; the Rumi Foundation; and Royal Bank of Canada executive Jennifer Tory. These supporters kindly paid for the entire project and we are very grateful for their incredible assistance.
The WE GLC and its unique capabilities are the result of significant in-kind donations of services and technology by partners such as Microsoft, TELUS, Cisco, SMART Technologies and Siemens Canada. The funds donated by our incredible supporters, coupled with the invaluably generous in-kind support from our partners, ensures that we did not take a penny from our programs to realize our dream.
No program funds or donated funds from youth or schools were used in the purchase, restoration or outfitting of the WE GLC.
WE’s real estate philosophy
Prior to the opening of the WE GLC, WE Charity worked from an assortment of buildings WE owned in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighborhood. While WE maintains a small “campus for good” in our old neighborhood, most of these buildings have now been sold.
Thanks to sound counsel and guidance from our advisors and our Board, WE Charity adopted an early philosophy of using targeted donations to acquire real estate as an organizational asset rather than an expense whenever possible. This strategy allows us to avoid substantial leasing costs. This model, and all past financial transactions relating to real estate, were independently reviewed by a former Supreme Court Justice who found good and reasonable judgment in this structure, proper source of funds for the purchases, and proper oversight by the Board of Directors throughout the process. As a matter of policy, WE does not use any project-designated funds or any funds raised by schools or children to acquire real estate.
Working in downtown Toronto neighborhoods provides several organizational benefits. It provides us financial security to do our work and helps increase productivity, as well as decreasing travel costs and providing a safe and secure working environment for our young staff.
It also allows WE to give back to the community, providing a significant economic boost to these downtown neighborhoods.
The WE Global Learning Center is fully compliant with Ontario’s Accessibility Act.