Inspiring Action for Social Impact Series

About the Series

Conceived and created by SiG, Inspiring Action for Social Impact is a national speakers’ series comprised of a mix of in-person and online public talks by international thought leaders, applied learning workshops and dialogue on practical strategies for social innovation in Canada. Led by the world’s leading social innovation thinkers and practitioners, the Inspiring Action for Social Impact Series will guide us through proven collaboration and co-creation approaches and strategies that are capable of generating practical solutions to Canada’s most pressing and complex social problems.

  Upcoming2014 Events  –  2012-13 Events  -  2011 Events 

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2015: Canadian Inspiring Action Spotlight Series

It’s time to celebrate and learn from our homegrown innovators. This year, SiG is exclusively concentrating on showcasing Canadian change-makers. The road to positive social change may a little easier if you can learn from someone who blazed a trail within the local legislative and legal environment…or changed the one we live with today!


Featuring Tim Jones, CEO of Artscape at 5.30pm at MaRS Discovery District

Register here!

In a few generations, culture has helped elevate Toronto’s reputation from “Hogtown” to a global city of culture. It has helped West Queen West earn Vogue Magazine’s distinction as the second coolest neighbourhood in the world and Regent Park construct a new narrative from the shadows of stigmatization. These transformations have had profound impacts not just on reputations but in delivering a myriad of positive social outcomes and unlocking billions in development and other forms of economic activity. Despite these incredible wins, many still think of culture as a low-priority amenity.

Sometimes for determinate problems it is necessary to ‘stick some needles’ of good local action that can create new energy, which is the principle of acupuncture
– Jaime Learner, Urbanist and Author Urban Acupuncture

Artscape is a Toronto not-for-profit urban development organization that makes space for creativity and transforms communities. 10 years ago they coined the term, creative placemaking, a practice that leverages the power of art, culture and creativity to catalyze change, growth and transformation of communities.  For decades, public policy has framed arts and culture as a need somebody has to take responsibility for. Urban planners and developers have viewed cultural transformation as a mysterious phenomenon driven by nebulous factors in some kind of organic process.  Artscape CEO Tim Jones believes these perspectives are holding us back in engaging culture as a powerful resource in city-building.

Artscape has gained unique knowledge on the front lines of some of Toronto’s most ambitious and successful urban revitalization projects. Tim Jones and his team have worked to understand how cultural projects can: empower artists as agents of change, contribute to dynamic patterns of neighbourhood evolution and be intentionally leveraged as trigger points in urban growth and development.

Imagine a future where we used culture as a resource to tackle some of Toronto’s toughest problems. Join us as Tim re-frames the conversation about culture and asks us to step into a creative future tomorrow. Register here!

About the Speaker

Tim Jones_Artscape CEO_highres_by Joanna FosterUnder Tim Jones’ direction since 1998, Artscape has grown from a provider of artist studios in Toronto to an internationally recognized leader in “creative placemaking”: leveraging the power of arts and culture to act as a catalyst of change, growth and transformation of place. Tim coined this term in 2006; today, city builders around the world employ creative placemaking strategies to make cities more vibrant, prosperous, sustainable and liveable. With Artscape, Tim has built an impressive portfolio of unique facilities that serve hundreds of thousands of people annually, and which play an important role in advancing the arts and culture, public policy agendas, private development interests, community and neighbourhood aspirations and philanthropic missions.

After acting as mentor and coach to organizations and governments in Canada and abroad for many years, Tim now plays an active development role in markets outside Toronto. Tim has received many awards for his pioneering work. In 2014, he was recognized by the Geneva-based Schwab Foundation as Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

Sept | Greening Cities, Healthy Planet: Strategies that work, Opportunities for change - feat. Geoff Cape

Greening Cities, Healthy Planet with Geoff Cape – MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Evergreen has evolved dramatically over the past 25 years with a series of projects and programs that have enabled strategic leaps — more often than not — forward. It has been a wild ride, growing from a simple idea into an institutional leader on subjects ranging from restoration ecology and the design of children’s learning environments, to transit planning and lane way housing. We have focused on innovations related to sustainability and cities and a series of complex problems that involve multiple stakeholders. We don’t look for the hardest problems to solve, we look for ideas that are stuck — but ready to move. Over the years Evergreen has defined itself a convenor and a change agent.

With an focus on the future, Geoff Cape presents a reflection on the past 25 years of work led by Evergreen and a look to the future and where Evergreen may go in the years ahead.

June 25 | Adapt or Challenge: responding to Precarious Employment [online]

Adapt or Challenge: responding to Precarious Employment from Social Innovation Generation on Vimeo.

In The Precarity Penalty released early in 2015, it was revealed that 44% of GTHA residents are regarded as precariously employed. Households across the region are enduring all sorts of stresses as a result.

Currently, boundaries between precarious work and informal work are blurry. On the one hand we have the potential to create systems that shed light on this workforce and enable protections for those employed in this way. However, online tools that build unstable work schedules with little advance notice throws the lives of vulnerable workers into chaos and makes it difficult to make childcare and transportation arrangements, let alone find an alternative or second job.

Before designing systems to meet the precarious work conditions, what questions should we be asking? Are the days of full-time employment over? Are we racing too quickly to accept the changing reality rather than challenge it? If we do plan ways of addressing the challenges of precarious employment, what might that look like?

British government bodies have been working on answering the last question since 2005 and have designed CEDAH: a Central Database of Available Hours.

A CEDAH for Ontario would allow anyone to sell hours of their choosing, on their own terms, across all sorts of roles to as many employers as they want. It would provide personalized opportunity data, constant openings for progression to skills and higher paid bookings while fostering continuity. This technology is currently available to any city that has the right conditions for launch.

Do we want infrastructure like this in Ontario? How might we control such a market? What can we learn from the British experience?

Watch our webinar above featuring the Director of the UK’s Beyond Jobs project, Wingham Rowan who led CEDAH’s technology development. Joining Wingham will be Sean Geobey, who authored the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ report The Young and the Jobless: Youth Unemployment in Ontario as well as Dr. Wayne Lewchuk, Professor in the School of Labour Studies & Department of Economics, McMaster University and  Michelynn Laflèche, Director of Research, Public Policy & Evaluation, United Way Toronto who jointly authored “The Precarity Penalty

The situation is complex and will continue dialogue about this difficult and growing employment issue. This conversation will be of interest to anyone involved in city economic development, workforce development and technology driven social change.

May 12 | Impact: Six Patterns to Spread your Social Innovation

Celebrated campaigner and Order of Canada recipient Al Etmanski has worked to achieve long lasting social change for more than four decades. His successes include the launch of Registered Disability Savings Plans, which now contain more than $2 billion in savings. In his highly praised new book, Impact: Six Patterns To Spread Your Social Innovation, Etmanski provides an inspirational and practical roadmap for others wishing to transform our society.

Celebrate the release of this new resource.
Watch and hear Al speak with candour and warmth about his own journey of collaborations, doubts and setbacks before he reached success.

Lasting impact requires deeper patterns of change, only accessible when we look past quick wins and surface-level victories.

Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. He is an Ashoka fellow and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute. He is founding partner of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), BC Partners for Social Impact and co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN). He has received numerous awards for his work with people with disabilities, including the Order of Canada (2014), Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013), and Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal (2005). He lives with his wife Vickie Cammack – who also received the Order of Canada – just outside of Vancouver and delight in the creative pursuits of their five children.

March 31: Harnessing the power of self-interest for collective impact

Featuring, Tonya Surman, Founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation

Harnessing the power of self-interest for collective impact — MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

What role does self-interest play in our quest for solutions to complex social challenges? The word “self-interest” is virtually taboo in the social change community. However, understanding self-interest, as well as what motivates us as people and what leads others to act, is the key to shifting culture and systems.

Tonya Surman, the founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), has been thinking about the force of self-interest for some time. In this presentation she speaks about the role that self-interest plays and how we can harness its power for collective impact.

Moderating a Q&A following Tonya’s presentation is Catherine Porter. Catherine is a social justice columnist at the Toronto Star.


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Events held at MaRS are hosted in partnership with the

MaRS Global Leadership Series.

To view our growing event archive, visit our 2014 page here, our 2012-13 page here, and our 2011 page here.

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