Mark Surman

The Shuttleworth Foundation

Mark Surman

Mark Surman is in the business of connecting things: people, ideas, everything. A community technology activist for almost 20 years, Mark is currently Director of, a $21 million program that invests in grassroots computing networks around the world. He is also an open philanthropy fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation and co-convenes conversations about open cities in his hometown of Toronto.

Previously, Mark was president of the Commons Group, a research and strategy firm focused on collaboration, community building and social technology. He also served as Director of Content and Community at Web Networks, Canada's first and largest non-profit Internet provider, and worked on the team that designed and managed the Government of Ontario's Volunteer @ction Online grants program. Before that, Mark trained social activists to make their own documentaries and worked for a good number of commercial television stations.

Mark's biggest fetishes are community, conversation and collaboration. He has facilitated over three dozen participatory workshops and unconferences, including Hollyhock's Web of Change, CopyCamp, and countless events. “Passionate conversation,” says Mark, “is an essential fuel for building successful networks and communities.”

In his years as an activist, consultant and funder, Mark has worked closely with some amazing people and organizations. His favourites include: Sarvodaya; Aspiration; the Association for Progressive Communications; the International Development Research Centre; Communicopia; Mary Helen Spence;; the Shuttleworth Foundation; Zhaba; the Centre for Social Innovation; and Microsoft (yes, really). "I wouldn't be me had I not worked with these folks," says Mark.

When he finds time, Mark likes to write about community, technology and changing the world. He's proud to have written things like From the Ground Up (a nice picture book about why telecentres matter), Commonspace ( book about web 2.0, written before there was web 2.0) and Appropriating Technology for Social Change (SSRC research paper about activism on the Internet). When he was still an idealistic student, he wrote From VTR to Cyberspace, an illustrated essay about Gramsci, community television and the Internet. Now his idealistic ramblings appear on his blog.

Sessions by Conference

Ubuntu Live Conference