Order of Canada honours Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack

For immediate release
May 8, 2015
Order of Canada honours social innovators Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack for dedication to fostering communities of care and belonging across Canada

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Announced by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, today British Columbians, Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack will be appointed to the Order of Canada at a ceremony in Ottawa.

Al and Vickie founded the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) in 1989 as a family-led organization to secure a better future for people living with disabilities. Since that time, they have been instrumental in numerous social innovations, both locally and nationally. Perhaps most notable among their achievements is the development of the Registered Disability Savings Plan, which was championed into being by the late Canadian Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty. Now an internationally replicated financial instrument, it follows their work with PLAN, working to secure financial independence for people living with a disability well into older age.

“There is perhaps nothing more important than to feel as though our lives matter, that we belong in our community and can contribute to its vitality,” said Tim Draimin, Executive Director of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National. “Al and Vickie have made it their life’s work to create that sense of belonging for all Canadians. They have set a national agenda we can all rally behind.”

Etmanski and Cammack’s work on the RDSP was followed by the development of Tyze Personal Networks: an online tool that brings people together around someone receiving care. Tyze was a response to the other question that nagged them as parents – how do we create communities of belonging so that everyone feels they are cared for? Other work includes the Representation Agreement, the Family Support Institute, as well as valuable resources including Safe and Secure and A Good Life.

“Al and Vickie’s thoughtfulness and quiet determination to make this country a nation of inclusion will have ripple effects for generations. We are hugely fortunate to work so closely with them to foster a culture of social innovation in Canada,” said Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Al Etmanski released a new book in April, Impact: 6 Patterns to Spread your Social Innovation, in which he champions our country’s unique, grassroots methods of achieving social change. Drawing on stories from more than 50 Canadian trailblazers – including Me to We, Greenpeace and Idle No More – Al Etmanski explores essential steps required to change the status quo. Al will be speaking about this new resource in Toronto on the evening of Tuesday, May 12 at the MaRS Discovery District.

The Order of Canada is one of Canada’s highest civilian honours. It recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

For comments or interview opportunities, please contact:

TORONTO                                                                   

Geraldine Cahill

Manager, Programs and Partnerships

Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National

w: 647.260.7844

m: 416.566.5313

t: @sigeneration

MONTREAL

Laurence Miall

Director, Strategic Communications

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

w: 514.288.1221 

m: 438-878-1703

t: @jwmcconnell

ABOUT: SOCIAL INNOVATION GENERATION                                 

SiG is a collaborative partnership founded by The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the University of Waterloo, the MaRS Discovery District, and the PLAN Institute. Our ultimate goal is to support whole system change through changing the broader economic, cultural and policy context in Canada to allow social innovations to flourish. www.sigeneration.ca

ABOUT: THE J. W. MCCONNELL FAMILY FOUNDATION

Established in 1937, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation engages Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient society. The Foundation’s purpose is to enhance Canada’s ability to address complex social, environmental and economic challenges. We accomplish this by developing, testing, and applying innovative approaches and solutions; by strengthening the community sector; and by collaborating with partners in the community, private, and public sectors. 

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Doing Good Better: Upping Canada’s Game with an R&D Engine

Canadians take great pride in our history of innovating for the public good. Today there are a wide range of people, projects, networks, and organizations working in the social impact space across diverse sectors – ranging from enterprises and social service agencies to schools and community foundations.

Innovations such as The Women’s Institute (1897), the Palliative Care Movement, Insite - North America’s only supervised injection site, Roots of Empathy, the Desjardins and Credit Union Movement, and the Registered Disability Savings Plan are Canadian social innovations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors that have and are significantly improving outcomes around the world.

forhomeandcountryInsite_(logo)Exported ROE2

Yet, it’s an uncomfortable fact that Canada’s many billions spent in social outcomes can produce better outcomes. Our contention is that while the social impact sector has always conducted research & development (R&D) and innovation to some degree, the scale and complexity of the challenges we face today mean we need to dramatically up our game.

What if Canadians embraced the value of R&D for

generating outstanding outcomes in social impact?

R&D for social impact could be far more intentional, connected, and supported. In that way, it would be much more accessible, widespread, celebrated, and most importantly, impactful.

What if we had a virtually accessible, distributed R&D function for the sector that everybody could share in and benefit from? This would an audacious opportunity for Canada as we near our country’s 150th birthday in 2017: we can create a breakthrough in the way that R&D is conceptualized, catalyzed, shared, incentivized, and made accessible for the world.

The functions of an R&D engine might be a range of possibilities, including catalyzing and incentivizing — as well as amplifying and sharing — new impactful processes, approaches, knowledge and models for the benefit of all. This might include:

  • helping to catalyze a national network of social innovation labs in communities;
  • designing a pro-active obsolescence management system for social programs and services; or, 
  • developing a financial incentive for NGOs to conduct R&D, similar to the Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SRED) tax credit available for the private sector.

R&D has shifted the paradigm of how new and relevant solutions get unleashed in sectors such as: automobile, life sciences, construction, and technology. Now imagine the benefits of robust national R&D resources and support systems for the immigrant settlement, or child & youth development, or senior care sectors.

Canada has yet to marshall required resources to develop a comprehensive networked R&D engine (our metaphor for Canada’s high octane social impact R&D function for the 21st century) that all sectors working to better the world can use. Not-for-profit leaders, passionate amateurs, social purpose entrepreneurs, public policy professionals, philanthropists, think tanks, front-line social service professionals, corporates, private and community foundations, and academic partners are often unable to access the appropriate resources to conduct R&D and innovate on an ongoing basis.

An R&D engine could help share knowledge, tools, platforms, innovation systems and supports to:
  • rigorously define problems;
  • generate hypotheses and conduct better experiments;
  • leverage big data in new ways being pioneered for the social sector by organizations like Data For Good and others;
  • access models and approaches from across the sector and beyond;
  • build and test prototypes;
  • assess which initiatives to scale or pivot;
  • share failures;
  • simulate solutions and scenarios;
  • design feedback loops for pro-active obsolescence management; and,
  • surface and share what works widely and accessibly.

Platforms like MaRS Solutions Lab, Alberta’s CoLab, Canada’s funding bodies’ knowledge mobilization networks (jointly funded by SSHRC, CIHR and NSERC), Ashoka Canada, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Social Innovation Fund and Innoweave, Tamarack’s Vibrant Communities, the global Impact Hub network (and home-grown domestic analogues like the Centre for Social Innovation and HiVE), BC Partners for Social Impact, CIFAR, Grand Challenges Canada, and the UK’s Nesta and What Works Network serve as helpful launch points.

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A sector-wide R&D engine would learn from, expand upon and complement existing platforms, and offer Canada the ability to actively foster process, product and systems innovation in a cohesive and networked way by better generating the right questions, challenging existing orthodoxies, launching grand challenge competitions, and catalyzing moonshots – practices, systems, tools or products that have the potential to become mainstream in 10 years.

Such an engine could:
  • catalyze, conduct, apply and evaluate R&D;
  • incentivize R&D;
  • build accessible R&D capacity, available to organizations and passionate amateurs;
  • strengthen purposeful cross-disciplinary and cross-generational collaboration;
  • scout, harvest and share R&D from across the sector and beyond; and,
  • celebrate and nurture a culture of inquiry.

More broadly, it could expand our collective understanding of how social and systems innovation takes place in Canada and how it can be accelerated. The engine could become a proof point demonstrating the power of R&D unleashed to do good better.

Why does R&D matter?

Canada is fortunate to have some remarkable social service systems. Unfortunately, many of them, conceived and deployed many decades ago, are struggling to renew themselves.  They aspire to evolve through continuous refinement to ensure they stay relevant for the growing complexity of Canadians’ needs in the 21st century. Think of challenges like fetal alcohol syndrome, increasingly unequal levels of educational attainment for different populations, child and youth mental health, an aging population, or retooling a curative health system into a preventative one. New R&D support tools like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and the Social Progress Index can be used in local or national contexts to help orient public policy.

spi

While Canadian social impact organizations in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors have deep knowledge about the vulnerable populations they serve, they are often trapped in highly restrictive funding models that don’t value their strategic work as social impact innovators. They lack access to financial, knowledge, process and systems innovation resources — resources that would enable experimentation, innovation, cross-sector collaboration and multi-organization consortia to respond to new needs and to improve outcomes on longstanding social problems.

New insights and new tools are emerging. The last decade has produced an enormous suite of applicable new knowledge and tools. Think of the new methodologies and approaches, like social innovation labs, for designing enhanced social outcomes that derive from…

  • the application (and combination) of new hard and soft technologies (e.g. smart phones and apps);
  • new “nudge” insights or “social stickiness” (informed by the rapidly growing knowledge about human psychology and brain science); and, 
  • the range of ways that social innovation researchers (an academic field only several decades old) are beginning to crack the innovation code.

Many social service delivery systems, originally established and funded only to ameliorate symptoms, are itching to repurpose themselves and solve problems at their roots by using their accumulated experiential wisdom plus new innovation tools and insights to reinvent pathways to sustainable wellbeing.

Think of a microcosm of social delivery, the immigrant settlement community. Currently, it is a billion dollar industry on its own. Doesn’t it make sense to have a national centre of excellence supporting immigrant settlement service innovation?

Do we have an innovation system commensurate

with our public spend for social outcomes?

Looking down from 70,000 feet, Canada’s public spending on social outcomes (health, education and social policy) represents a whopping 17% of Canada’s GDP, or $338 billion (2014 estimate). Canada’s not-for-profit sector (including hospitals and universities) is calculated to be about 7% of GDP or $100.7 billion (2007). While there is some very sophisticated R&D in parts of the social impact sector, like health, there is a real thirst for R&D by leaders in others, like frontline community services.

Now imagine…

What if social impact organizations had access to an R&D function in the same way they have access to a finance or communications function? What if funders, donors, and grantmakers support, incentivize and even reward R&D? What if an R&D engine could help organizations with pro-active obsolescence management, so social services and programs are constantly renewed? What if we could invest in growing R&D capacity within organizations?

What if Canada led the world in achieving breakthroughs in homelessness, child and youth mental illness, community care, and other complex challenges as a result of a robust and integrated R&D function shared by social impact organizations across the country?

Author’s note: The authors would like to thank outside readers, listed below, for making important comments on earlier drafts of this blog. Of course, any errors or affirmations remain the responsibility of the authors. Thanks to: Maureen Fair, Zoe Fleming, Tatiana Fraser, Allyson Hewitt, Stephen Huddart, Indy Johar, Luc Lalande and Geraldine Cahill.

About the authors

Tim Draimin Photo smallTim Draimin, Executive Director of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), partners on collaborative cross-sector initiatives strengthening Canada’s social innovation ecosystem. He is a member of the scientific advisory board of Grand Challenges Canada and a senior adviser to MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

unnamedVinod Rajasekaran is an engineer and cross-sector leader helping to enhance Canada’s impact infrastructure so we can do good better for the next 100 years. He works with The HUB, the world’s fastest-growing professional community and innovation platform for people working to better the world. Vinod is also involved in HUB’s incubation of Rideau Hall Foundation, which aims to catalyze and align ideas, people and resources to move the Canadian spirit forward.

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ENTERPRISING PRIZES

Apply Now to Trico Foundation’s 2015 Social EnterPrize!

Note: This article was originally published on May 4, 2015 on socialfinance.ca. It has been cross-posted with permission from socialfinance.ca and the Trico Charitable Foundation.

The Social EnterPrize Awards were created by the Trico Charitable Foundation in 2011 to recognize and celebrate leadership and excellence in social entrepreneurship across Canada.

Social-EnterPrize-Jubulation-crop-10-1080x675The awards look for the best practices, social impact and innovation of organizations and their social entrepreneurial strategies. Presented biennially, the awards provide organizations with funds and support that can be used to take their social enterprise to the next level. Awardees have included: Potluck Catering, Mission Possible, Caroline Arcand of Groupe Convex, Embers Staffing Solutions, YWCA Downtown Vancouver, TurnAround Couriers, and JUMP Math, and applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Social EnterPrize.

Over the past four years, we’ve been privileged to learn about and from these Canadian social enterprises. Trico’s goal for these awards has always been the chance to shine the light on the best examples in Canada, as well as provide resources for their continuation. However, it has not been just a journey for the awardees, but the awards themselves. In 2013, our jury had just met to decide the Social EnterPrize winners when Kevin Starr published Dump the Prizes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Starr wrote: “Too many of these things are winner-or-very-few-take-all, and too many focus on the usual suspects. In any case, the notion that even a smart selection jury can somehow discern which is best from a dozen stellar organizations is kind of silly.” While we winced at his commentary, his call was the first that perked our ears. Rather than simply disagreeing with his premise, we took a look at where our awards were not living up to their potential.

YWCA-CoverOur first insight was that a biennial awards process leaves the entire “off” year with little opportunity to learn from our winners and better understand their journeys. A video segment had always been part of the production of the awards, but with our 2013 winners, we went a step further. Coordinating with four post-secondary institutions across the country, we developed case studies on each of the organizations. The collaboration between academic institutions meant that professors and students were involved with the social enterprises themselves – providing an academically rigorous, yet practioner-based case study. Our goal was to develop a case study that would give the reader key takeaways to implement in their own social enterprise. We are pleased to be releasing these case studies, along with our own analysis, throughout April and May 2015 at Trico Foundation.

Our second insight came from the case study process as it enlivened our own understanding of what it takes to successfully implement a social enterprise – the internal operations, the organizational readiness, and the team behind-the-scenes. To that end, we enhanced our ‘prize pack’ by adding consulting services from the Business Development Bank of Canada and bringing the recipients to the wealth of expertise at the 2015 Social Finance Forum.

At the same time, we were involved in dialogues that asked questions around “How can we attract talent to social enterprises?”, “How do we find COOs?”, and “How do I have a career in social enterprise?” that started us thinking that somehow we’d left behind the teams of the social enterprises, by focusing solely on the founder. We are in good company in this mistake, as many Awards processes do. However, we started to take inspiration from Mass Challenge and Hult Awards in how they celebrate the diversity of the team. In addition, we heard the strong calls to move beyond ‘superhero syndrome’ by social entrepreneurs such as Liam Black.

The combination of all these factors came to us while watching the Skoll Awards in Oxford. We realized that we had the opportunity to improve the 2015 Social EnterPrize awards and kick-start the conversation on teams and to shine the light more broadly across the organization.

We’ve added the team feature for 2015 because two things became crystal clear:

  1. We wanted to get away from the lone entrepreneur myth and have conversations about the value of multi-faceted teams;
  2. We think the winning organizations will benefit from having more than one team member soak in all the wisdom and expertise available through the Social EnterPrize.

We share these insights with you because they mean that in 2015 your favorite Canadian social enterprise benefits even more from the Social EnterPrize. Our hope is that our learnings benefit not just social enterprises, but also the organizations that support them. We welcome you to support your favorite social enterprise by sharing this opportunity with them.

The deadline to apply is May 29 at 4pm MST. Applicants can learn more at tricofoundation.ca and can apply directly at: https://trico.fluidreview.com.

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The Id of Collective Impact

As the first speaker in our Canadian Social Impact Spotlight series, Tonya Surman, founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), shared her insights on the role self-interest plays in the journey for solutions to complex social challenges.

As a business graduate, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by her question:

How do we use the power of markets to change the world?

-Tonya Surman

Tonya elaborated on how she has pursued the answer to that question. At a time when we are all looking for new ideas, and how to think differently about systems change, Tonya breaks it down to need, shape and impact, using the Centre for Social Innovation as example:

Need

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) is a response to an identified need: the need for social entrepreneurs to have a space and common place to connect with one another, revealing possible projects and identifying resources or supports to leverage toward impact.

Shape

The CSI platform is also a shape, a model that meets this need. Serving 800 social innovation organizations, CSI facilitates and provides services through one single platform. The model – the shape of doing things was created; a platform that addresses the clear need. Shape is about rules and tools, parallel to that of the gaming industry. A culture and platform is created and players are enabled with the same objective, guidelines and accessories to achieve their mission statement – a clear game, a clear shape.

Impact

CSI’s impact is realized through supporting a culture of change. CSI has become a learning organization, continuing to work towards creating conditions that best foster social innovation. Their theory of change is communicated through a unique pyramid shape where the foundation is space, the next layer is community and the peak is the emergence of innovation.

Attraction

Tonya also spoke of a newer endeavour; one that she says reflects her self-interest in building out the CSI platform. CSI’s community bond is an example of another shape. An investment vehicle for unaccredited investors to generate a ~4% return by investing in the purchase of a new building – 192 Spadina. She first offered a bond for CSI Annex.

The bond projects are about leveraging community. What brings community together can be seen as the magnetic attractor, which could be a common threat or an mutual opportunity. It can be seen as a call to action for individuals to work together. When you consider the magnetic attractor, who you work with is no longer determined by you; instead, it is about who sees themselves in the same ecosystem looking to address the same social problem or opportunity.

An example Tonya shared is one that resulted in the banning of BPA in baby bottles in 2007. A group of 11 organizations from childcare, environment and health care found themselves competing for funding from the same foundation. They did not expect the foundation to propose they all work together. This presented profound challenges. Childcare was focused on direct service delivery, environmental organizations were focused on advocacy and health care was obsessed with ensuring the peer review process was on at all times.

They had 6 months to figure it out. At the beginning they discussed all the things that were broken about the partnership. It was about power and ego, futility and frustration.

Why do we want to work together, and what’s in it for us?

Collective impact was only achievable if everyone’s self interest was put on the table leading to transparency within the ecosystem.

The governance model they developed, the constellation, became a new shape. Chaos was put in the top half and order in the bottom, self interest in the top and collective interest in the bottom.

 

Constellation Governance Model

Constellation Governance Model

Self-interest embodies drive and drive creates movement. So how do we create order around the chaos of collaboration without losing that energy and drive? How can we harness it for social impact?

If you understand the magnetic attractor, you understand where the energy comes from, and you can harness it for impact.

Different shapes designed to aggregate self interest will help us see things differently and enable the engagement of individuals and organizations that would otherwise be unlikely to work together.

There’s so much I could write from the presentation. Better to watch it for yourself. Tonya’s inspirational words are powerful enough to encourage individuals and organizations alike.

Nothing risked and nothing gained is the motto of many entrepreneurs and is the big learning takeaway from Tonya Surman, who has an extensive number of trials and successes. She says that even when she fails, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and often redirects her to a new possibility. What risk teaches us is to be more or differently prepared and to do more work up front. At the end of the day, maintaining great relationships can turn any unsuccessful endeavour around at a later time.

Editor’s Note: Our next Inspiring Action Spotlight features Al Etmanski at MaRS on May 12, 2015. See the details here.

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Microtainer: lab resources (April 2015)

SiG Note: This article was originally published on April 7, 2015 on the MaRS Solutions Lab Blog. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.
Launched August 2013, the Microtainer series was created and curated by Satsuko VanAntwerp of Social Innovation Generation. The MaRS Solutions Lab is excited to take on this legacy to spread information that will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. To access the whole archive of Microtainers, please visit the Microtainers series page.
Interesting resources that came across our desks in the past 4 weeks (in no particular order):
1. Danish Design Centre’s interview series on “When does design become a political act?”

Engaging interviews with:

Scott Brown, Research Associate, Parsons DESIS Lab, The New School

Christian Bason, CEO, Danish Design Centre

Rosan Bosch, artist and founder of Rosan Bosch Studio

Kit Lykketoft, General Manager, MindLab

2. Jon Turney’s aeon article “How to design the future”

As technological choices become ever more complex, design fiction, not science, hints at the future we actually want.

How to design the future

C/O Dunne and Raby via aeon

3. Eric Schnurer’s article in The Atlantic “When Government Competes Against the Private Sector, Everybody Wins”

If civil servants are pitted against businesses, they become more innovative and secure most of the contracts put out for bid.

4. Simon O’Rafferty’s slides “Service Design: Tactics + Pitfalls”

Great slidedeck by Simon O’Rafferty on the methods of Service Design and its pitfalls.

5. Google Cultural Institute

Take a look at the work of The Lab at the Google Cultural Institute, merging ideas with art and technology.

Google Cultural Institute

C/O Google

6. News: The new Arts Impact Fund in UK

The Arts Impact Fund is a new £7million initiative set up to demonstrate the potential for social investment in arts. Note: Restrictions on funding from some partners mean the Arts Impact Fund can only lend to organisations registered in, and operating primarily in, England.

7. Dr. Andrea Siodmok’s blog “Design in Policy Making”

Can we create public services that are valuable to the public, so that they are delighted, even proud of their existence – whilst simultaneously saving money?

8. Laura Bolt’s blog on AIGA “A Genius Lesson from Franklyn in How to Rebrand a Branding Agency”

Great design example of rebranding an innovation firm.

Redesign innovation firm

C/I AIGA

For more speedy PSILabs updates, follow MaRS Solutions Lab @solutions_lab and Terrie at @terriehyichan.

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Microtainer: lab resources (March 2015)

SiG Note: This article was originally published on March 17, 2015 on the MaRS Solutions Lab Blog. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

Launched August 2013, the Microtainer series was created and curated by Satsuko VanAntwerp of Social Innovation Generation. The MaRS Solutions Lab is excited to take on this legacy to spread information that will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. To access the whole archive of Microtainers, please visit the Microtainers series page.

Interesting resources that came across our desks in the past 6 weeks (in no particular order):

 

1. Practical illustrated summary of Lab Matters: Challenging the practice of Social Innovation Laboratories

Written by Marlieke Kieboom (Kennisland) in a more illustrated format.

2. Civic Quarterly’s articleCollaboratively Designing Public Services“ by Chelsea Mauldin

“Citizens often bear the burden of public services that weren’t designed with their experience in mind. If civic designers are ever going to improve these services, we’ll need to engage both citizens and civil servants alike in their creation.”

Civic Quarterly

c/o Civic Quarterly, Issue 2, Winter 2014

3. The New Yorker’s article ”The Shape of Things to Come

A rare in-depth look at Jonathan Ive and his team and “how an industrial designer became Apple’s greatest product”.

4. Devex’s article ”Putting evidence into policymaking: RCTs as a tool for decision-making

“In India, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a network of researchers who run randomized control trials based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working with the Tamil Nadu government to integrate findings from RCTs into the policymaking design phase — a collaborative approach which evolved from J-PAL’s existing evaluation programs there.”

5. News: ”Government’s new innovation ‘Hub’ open to new thinking

“The federal government has opened its long-awaited ‘hub’ of thinkers and policy wonks whose brainstorming could reshape the way policy is made and services are delivered in Canada.”

6. Wired Magazine’s “15 Predictions for Tech and Design in 2015

15 projections from experts in the advancement of design and tech, including edible technology, adaptive education, and health diagnosis with nano particles.

c/o Wired Magazine

c/o Wired Magazine

7. Civic Quarterly’s article ”Untangling Complexity: Designing for Shared Understanding“ by Jacqueline Wallace

“The next phase of the digital revolution will be defined by products and services that facilitate shared understanding, allowing concerted participation around complex issues. In working to show the way, civic designers will need to call upon the powers of systems research, design research, social science, and open data.”

8. CBC’s news articleHarper government examines game-playing to motivate bureaucrats

“Federal memo says computer games have potential to train public-sector workers, engage citizens. The Privy Council Office, the central organ of government and the prime minister’s own department, now is looking at adopting gamification as it renews the entire federal workforce over the next five years.” ‘Harnessing the Power of Gamification’ was written by Coleen Volk, deputy secretary to the federal cabinet. Volk proposes that game-playing be promoted by a policy think-tank established by the government in mid-February, called the central innovation hub.”

9. News: “Financial Solutions Lab Announces $3 Million Competition to Tackle Consumer Financial Security

“The Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co. today announced a $3 million competition for technology innovators working to address consumer financial challenges.”

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Patterns, platforms and time for play

We’ve all seen the headlines.

The world is rapidly changing. Technology is iterating at great speed, pushing our minds and our bodies in ways we don’t fully comprehend.  The economy, which by definition is equal to the wealth and resources of a country or region, is under serious stress – and will be for some time.

Our natural climate is throwing us huge curve balls, thanks in no small part to the hits we keep sending her way.

And yet we know all is not lost.
c/o socialfinance.ca

c/o socialinnovation.ca

At MaRS, it is believed that entrepreneurship is key to leading the way through all of this change. Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka — and credited with coining ‘social entrepreneurship’ — would agree and add that the skill of pattern recognition is equally imperative.

Understanding how and identifying where particular stresses exist focuses the entrepreneurial mind.

Tonya Surman has been paying attention to patterns for a long time. Most recently, she has been considering what motivates the work of an entrepreneur – more specifically – her work as a social entrepreneur.

Tonya is no stranger to success. She was the founding director of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment, whose work catalyzed a new legislative framework to manage chemicals and ban bisphenol A in baby bottles.

She co-founded and chaired the Ontario Nonprofit Network, an organization that serves 55,000 non-profits. She was also a founding trustee of the Toronto Awesome Foundation, an organization that distributes monthly $1,000 grants to fund local projects.

However, it’s Tonya’s work as Founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) that has garnered her the most public attention. Not content to seed and grow one thriving co-working space in downtown Toronto, Tonya and her team successfully pioneered the use of Community Bonds – an innovative model for grassroots, sustainable capital campaigns. CSI used this financial product to purchase a second co-working space in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood and have now offered a second bond to purchase a building on Spadina Ave – opposite their inaugural home base.

c/o socialinnovation.ca

c/o socialinnovation.ca

In addition to all of this moving and shaking, CSI has a space in the Daniels Spectrum building at Regent Park and a whole other co-working space in New York City!

With all of this success, she might be content to sit back and smell the roses she’s been growing in her roof-top garden, but Tonya continues to push herself. As an Ashoka Fellow, she would likely agree with Bill Drayton that entrepreneurship is a life-long process. The work is never done. Just like the world of social innovation, once one peak is reached, another mountain reveals itself and one must keep climbing!

Talking through what she has learned on her journey and the secret to her impressive energy, Tonya joins the MaRS Global Leadership Series & SiG Inspiring Action for Social Impact for the first time on March 31.

Register for Tonya’s talk here.

A conversation and Q&A with the Toronto Star’s Catherine Porter will follow Tonya’s presentation. Catherine writes about everything from climate change, women’s rights, poverty, mental illness, international development and community activism. She has won two National Newspaper Awards for her work. Their discussion and your questions will be a great way to end an inspiring presentation.

Whet your appetite with this recent video interview below
where Tonya discusses her current motivations:

 

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Becoming a Wise Traveller

Are you like me? Do you feel frustrated by the limited impact you and others have had? Do you feel that despite your best efforts, and indeed successes, you have hit a brick wall?

You may have mounted a fierce advocacy campaign, pioneered a social program, mobilized new funds or even changed a law, but the status quo has barely altered. Social and economic justice hasn’t increased. Power hasn’t shifted. The old paradigm survives. And the sharp, distinctive edges of your social innovation are in danger of being eroded, isolated or forgotten.

Credit: Jim Lawrence www.kootenayreflections.com/

Credit: Jim Lawrence

In my experience, lasting impact requires more than coming up with a new idea and proving that it works. It’s more than replicating an innovation in several places.

Novelty isn’t enough. Neither are dedication, hard work, or loyal supporters. Nor is a sophisticated strategy, money, or the most robust application of the latest technology, for that matter.

Are these things essential? Yes.
A good start? Certainly.
But they are not enough to tip a system.

Just because you have a shiny new solution, the world will not beat a path to your door. Enduring social innovation doesn’t spread by accident. We need to deliberately nurture the conditions in which it can flourish.

One of these conditions is to become a wise traveller.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid.  Photo: Bill McLennan.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid. Photo: Bill McLennan.

In my new book, Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation, I suggest three types of social innovators disruptive, bridging and receptive are required to achieve long-term impact. While each group has its own set of skills, strengths and limitations, they all have one thing in common: they understand the boundaries of their expertise and experience and welcome fellow travellers from organizations and institutions that have complementary skills.

Disruptive innovators are inspired by love and motivated by necessity. They challenge the prevailing way of doing things and shake the lethargy off the status quo. They wrestle a big idea to the ground. And yet, even when they prove that the idea works, it does not easily become the new standard. It can be ignored or misunderstood and may even be perceived as a threat to the system.

It is not easy to move from the margins to the mainstream. That’s why we need bridging innovators. Bridging innovators spot the big ideas surfaced by disruptive innovators. They leverage their connections, reputations and resources to make sure the potential is realized. They translate and interpret the value of a disruptive innovation to the system. Bridging innovators are the necessary link between disruptive innovators and receptive innovators.

Receptive innovators are key to implementing big ideas and spreading solutions far and wide. They have an insider’s knowledge of the key levers to advance an issue within a system. They know the formal and informal channels inside bureaucracy and who the key players are. They are navigators, steering the innovation so that
 it may flourish and become the new standard.

Credit: Komal Minhas for Komedia

The three types of social innovators. Credit: Komal Minhas for Komedia

Wise travellers know they can only go so far on their own. They respect the roles and functions of each type of innovator. They know that social innovations not only emerge from relationships, but also thrive and endure in relationships.

COMING UP

Join Social Innovation Generation, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Innoweave on March 12 at 1pm EST for a webinar and in-depth discussion with Al Etmanski on his new book Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

Register here

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SNEAK PEAK

Download the Introduction to IMPACT: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

Register here to be notified when you can purchase, IMPACT: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

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Continue the #impact6 conversation with @aletmanski
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Leaning in to Social Innovation

As the newest member of the SiG team, I am looking at how I can contribute to this space and empower others to do the same. This is my Why time. The Why for social innovation and the people involved can be seen through the rest of the W’s below:

What is social innovation?

In accordance with Frances Westley’s definition, a social innovation profoundly changes the defining routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of a broader social system.

Essentially, a social innovation addresses a complex social problem with an idea focused on getting to the root of the problem, as opposed to temporary relief that only remedies the surface issues. In order to truly disrupt a system, a social innovation must cross social boundaries and reach different people and organizations at different levels.

A traditional approach…

The World Wildlife Foundation, founded in 1961, is dedicated to conserving and restoring the environment. It has over 5 million supporters worldwide and, in 2014, it generated over a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue (WWF-US Annual Report 2014). The WWF brings attention to important issues regarding our planet, and it does so by capturing the attention of individuals and institutions alike. But even with all this activity, environmental conditions continue to decline and the number of endangered species continues to rise.

Transforms to…

C/O The Finance Innovation Lab

C/O The Finance Innovation Lab

Determined to tackle one of the root causes of this continued decline, the WWF-UK joined forces with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) as of 2008, leading to the creation of the Finance Innovation Lab. The unusual collaboration of these two organizations was brought on by their shared desire for a financial system that sustains people and the planet.

This call to action is derived from the shared challenges that every individual, organization or government is faced with — resource constraints, a current economic model that assumes perpetual growth, growing disparity between rich and poor — as well as from the outcomes both organizations strive towards: a system that enables people and the planet to flourish and one that builds resiliency.

At WWF-UK, we perceive finance as a key lever to influence business strategy and corporate supply chains to reduce their threats to the natural world, and to provide financial mechanisms which protect and encourage sustainable ecosystems – WWF-UK

Their big picture is to repurpose finance to have a positive impact in the world. Their work encourages and accepts open discussion about the root causes of issues, and they strive to take a bird’s-eye view across the financial system to identify where they can best make a difference.

Who is involved?

There are different types of social innovators, according to Frances Westley:

Social Entrepreneurs: create innovations and bring them to market through team building.

System Entrepreneurs: find and connect the opportunities to leverage innovative ideas for much greater impact.

Institutional Entrepreneurs: individuals or networks that actively seek to change the broader social system through changing institutions.

The inclusion of the people social innovations are designed to serve is important. A successful ongoing project is Family by Family in South Australia. Families going through a hard time are paired with families who have come through a hard time. Families learn from one another and help each other. It is not a one-stop solution for every family; Family By Family takes into consideration the uniqueness of each case and continues to learn from every participating family how to improve their methodology.

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C/O Family By Family

What conditions are needed for social innovation to take place?

Market demand, cultural and social demand, and political demand are complex factors, but can open the way for new ideas for change.

An example of demand-led change is smoking: in the past, smoking in a public place was tolerable, but now if you light up a cigarette you are more likely to receive looks of disapproval.

It is a culture shift and transformation that took decades and may be attributed to the culmination of grassroots initiatives, public service advertising , evidence-based policy, and publicizing the effects of smoking on health.

Antismoking

C/O Lucas Zoltowski

How is THE question…

How do you identify what you can do?

I have been encouraged to discover and build upon my strengths. Asset-based thinking works to develop strengths as opposed to focusing on weaknesses. Depending on who you are, you may find your strengths pulling you in one direction, connecting with others, and supporting or creating an idea.

How do you socially innovate?

Collaborate with others. Change Labs create a physical and intellectual space designed to encourage and facilitate collaboration and the co-creation of meaningful and innovative solutions to complex problems.

Continue learning.

It is a truth ever-increasingly acknowledged: by engaging with the knowledge of others, you better your own understanding. If you are an organization, becoming a learning organization has benefited the most successful institutions in the world.

When a social innovation is successful, it becomes part of the norm, which may lead to the emergence of new problems. As Frances Westley says, social innovation is not a fixed address. Once a social innovation is put in place, it becomes the new system. It is a cyclical process – a never-ending infinity loop – a continuous who, what, when, where and why to ask.

I have come to learn there is no step-by-step approach to creating, implementing and following through with socially innovative ideas, because that is the nature of these problems and solutions – they are embedded in institutions, complex, chaotic, and ever-changing. I look forward to learning so much more this year, deepening my understanding, satiating my curiosity and exploring what’s possible. As with social innovation, I too am not fixed, but constantly growing and evolving. What an adventure!

Puzzle Pieces

C/O Ken Teegardin

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What’s the creation story behind every social innovation?

SiG Note: This article was originally published on The Melting Pot Website.  It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

Disruption AheadSocial innovators are often the disrupters, the ones who swim against the tide and question the status quo.  We may find them uncomfortable and challenging, but these people are also inspiring, determined and resilient.

Take the ‘Social Innovator personality test.’ How many of these needed core skills and qualities do you have?

Making connections * causing disruptions * having persistence and a critical mindset * clarity of vision * courage of your convictions * an ability to learn and reflect * to take risks and experiment * question results * have focus, but also openness * and, of course – the ability to “sell.”

During 2014, The Melting Pot initiated a collaborative enquiry process into social innovation and how it might flourish in Scotland.

Gatherings took place from Inverness to Edinburgh. Using ‘The Art of Hosting’ participatory processes, we dived into understanding the cultural conditions that help or hinder people, communities and organisations of all sizes who have a passion for creating solutions to our pressing eco-social challenges.

You can read more about our findings here. For fun, here are the recommendations turned on their head.  

How to kill social innovation in 5 easy steps!

First – spot those disrupters and put them down – go on, tell them their mad ideas won’t work.  These non-conformers who wish to do something different are a nuisance with their radical notions. Their dreams are too big, too complex.  They don’t know what they’re doing and it will certainly never make any money!

Second – don’t assist those disruptors, or offer them a chance to collaborate. Keep yourself to yourself.  Don’t move out of your comfort zone, talk to, or help anyone!  Don’t go out of your way to make connections or introductions, you might catch something – like a scary new proposition…

Third – seek out the answers to our societal problems from another place, somewhere like London, New York or Shanghai. Those disruptive ideas under your nose, on your doorstep, the ones that take account of the cultural fit can’t be any good, can they? And anyway, it’s more fun to go on international jollies (sorry, I mean learning journeys).

Forth – never accept anyone else’s wisdom, or seek to learn form them. What do they know anyway? There’s no point taking time out of your busy schedule to reflect on your learning – you’ve just got to keep doing – at all costs.

Fifth – work from your bedroom, alone – you can’t afford anywhere nice and professional to work anyway, not on what is invested into the social innovation pipeline. Yes we need jobs, but they can only be produced from companies that focus on economic growth, not social capital.

Now forget all that. For social innovation to thrive in Scotland, we must create a culture to:

  1. Encourage – literally lend courage and support to – those seeking to address inequality, those who are questioning the status quo, creating disruption and taking risks.
  2. Foster connections, creativity and the generation of ideas amongst innovators in all sectors.  Enabling genuine participation and collaboration across sectors releases socially innovative ideas.
  3. Cultivate local solutions where social innovators can work with communities to define and co-design solutions within their community context.
  4. Create safe places and spaces for learning, reflection and sharing all the stories: the successes, the tricky moments, the failures, the highs and the lows of experience.
  5. Invest in social innovation – provide the physical resources to enable social innovators to work with focus, purpose, determination and persistence. 

Melting PotThe Melting Pot would like to thank the Scottish Government for commissioning this work, so that our policy makers can better harness our people’s talents, energy and ideas to make Scotland flourish.

Find out more about The Melting Pot, Scotland’s Centre for Social Innovation, and our Social Innovation Incubation Award programme (all disrupters please apply!).

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