Policy Innovation

Policy co-creation and innovation is a key step to fostering a culture of continuous social innovation in Canada. While innovation can be realized in any sector of society, the role of government is very often vital in seeing potential social innovation scale.

While we respond to various calls for input by federal and provincial governments, we don’t often make the submissions public. The government submission process may be old news to some, but we recognize that it is completely foreign to others. We want to change that.

Below you can read through various responses and recommendations SiG has made over the past several months. Our focus is most often on how government ministries can work together and with external community stakeholders to foster a generative culture of inclusive innovation. We continue to recognize the innovative potential and desire of the public service and believe that the assets inside government can be partnered with external ingenuity to create much greater impact. Also view our legacy policy work here.

An Integrated Inclusive Innovation Agenda

The following recommendations were submitted to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada:

Successfully evolving Canada’s innovation system to generate inclusive growth and advance Canadians prosperity requires a concerted and comprehensive strategy integrating STEM, business and social innovation with coherent supports and platforms for co-creative innovation, incubation, market access, procurement, talent development, social financing and partnership building.

Combining STEM, business, and social innovation leverages our national innovation assets in achieving inclusive innovation, reaping the benefits of inclusion as both a process and outcome of Canada’s innovation agenda.

Deploying an integrative strategy will mean federal funding and policy bodies accelerate:

  • The integration of STEM, business and social innovation as the cornerstone of Canada’s Agenda, focusing innovation policy on achieving linked economic and social goals (shared value).
  • A targeted plan to leverage social innovation as a mainstream practice of innovation and further develop the ecosystem of social innovators in response to core Government goals around reconciliation, youth leadership, the next economy, climate change etc.

Read the full text of our 10 recommendations for an inclusive innovation agenda.

Driving inclusive growth by strengthening R&D in Canada’s social sector

Digging further into Recommendation 4 of the first submission, SiG also offered a policy brief on the opportunity to champion and bolster Research and Development (R&D) in the social impact sector to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada:

As Canada’s innovation ecosystem becomes increasingly inclusive, we must not forget a function integral to driving innovation and prosperity – R&D. The 2011 Federal Innovation Policy Review (Jenkins Report) cites 60 programs delivered by 17 federal entities including agencies and councils such as: Canada Foundation for Innovation, National Science and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The report points out that the 60 programs have an estimated expenditure of approximately $4.96 billion.

Canada spends close to $300 billion on social outcomes and Canadians wellbeing, according to the OECD. While Canada’s social sector, consisting of approximately 180,000 organizations, represents 8.1 per cent of the GDP, it remains one of the least supported sectors in terms of access to R&D infrastructure, capacity and capital.

Simply put, despite its ongoing demonstrated value to Canadians, the social sector has been locked out of Canada’s R&D system. Federal government support for social sector R&D can achieve two goals:

1. Help social mission organizations modernize existing services, capabilities and infrastructure in order to achieve significant advancements in inclusive growth and long-term quality of life for Canadians, and;

2. Contribute to new ways that the STEM, business and social innovation communities can combine their complementary attributes in ways that fast-track a world-leading and impactful inclusive innovation ecosystem.

Read the full brief and recommendations.

Canada’s opportunity to advance Inclusive Growth

The following was written in partnership with The J.W. McConnell Foundation and was submitted to the Advisory Committee on Economic Growth:

Canada has a unique opportunity to grow its economy while bringing a burgeoning capacity for social innovation to bear on our own and humanity’s greatest challenges in effect recasting our problems as opportunities for inclusive growth.

With aligned investments in STEM, infrastructure, business, financial and social innovation, we can simultaneously address pressing social challenges, while strengthening the middle class, and accelerating social and economic progress today and at a generational scale.

Government recognizes that more should be done. Several Ministerial mandate letters contain directives to develop social innovation and social finance strategies. However, efforts to date appear uncoordinated, and disconnected from the broader innovation agenda. Canada is missing out on an opportunity to integrate its inherent strengths.

Thus, with a nod to P3s (public private partnerships), we are recommending that Canada develop a P4 strategy (adding philanthropic to represent the community or social sector) organized around a P4 finance agency.

This brief and its appendices outline ways that a P4 strategy would:

  • help government(s) generate stronger outcomes from social spending (without offloading responsibility for services or their costs);
  • raise the innovation capacity of the public and social sectors;
  • decrease reliance on public sector funding;
  • position Canada as a global leader in the meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Canada’s social innovation and social finance sector is growing rapidly, and could accomplish much more if its capacities were integrated with the broader innovation agenda.

Read the full brief here.

Modernize the rules and relationship between government and Canadian charities

The following is a response to the Canada Revenue Agency’s online consultation on charities:

Canadian charities today shape and scale solutions to Canada’s most complex and pressing challenges. Moving far beyond an Elizabethan notion of complementary service providers to stop-gap government social welfare, contemporary charities are increasingly innovative and experienced partners in Canadians wellbeing and many are targeting the roots causes of stuck problems affecting Canadians.

Unfortunately, our contemporary regulatory environment is out of step with this updated role and value of charities, limiting charities opportunities to help lead and partner in the necessary cross-sectoral efforts to solve our complex problems in Canada.

Canadians across sectors are seeking broad and inclusive public benefit through the improvement, adaptation and transformation of systems. To catalyze these efforts, charities participation must be unhampered and valued equally with nonprofits, for profits and public agencies for their role in advancing social enterprise, corporate social innovation, public innovation, collective impact and community economic development.

This requires creating space for charities to participate in policy dialogue that not only reinforces charitable purposes but also helps shape the broader systems serving Canadians, for which charities are central and knowledgeable collaborators.

Read the full submission to the CRA here.

A strong legacy of innovation with impact

Tacking in a slightly different direction, the following was a submission to the International Assistance Review of Global Affairs Canada:

Canada has a storied legacy of innovating and disseminating impactful solutions to complex social, economic and environmental challenges locally and globally.

These solutions range from developing a radical new option for international diplomacy in the form of multinational UN peacekeeping forces to the 119 year-old legacy of Women’s Institutes, now in 70-plus countries, to more recent innovations such as the Lucky Iron Fish, a B-Corp with a scaleable solution to iron deficiency, or Global Affairs exploration of blended finance models to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Linking these examples are Canada’s unique strengths in supporting international development: a deep understanding of the complexity and scale of the issues, decades of experience working within that complexity, an appreciation that people- and community-centred solutions scale, and a track record of deep partnership across sectors and countries to drive impact. Our partnership track record in particular speaks volumes to Canada’s diverse international development NGOs, who have been leaders in collaboration and consortia approaches going back decades.

The International Assistance Review Discussion Paper speaks to these strengths, while asking the important question of how we continue to be more intentional and more impactful.

SiG National, with a decade of experience supporting social innovators and social innovation in Canada, recommends developing an intentional social innovation strategy to lead Canada’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Read our full response to this call for papers.

Read on for a fairly comprehensive list of policy work conducted throughout our partnership engagement.


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