Inclusive innovation policy struggles to connect the dots

By Karen Gomez

Note: This article was originally published on the Re$earch Money on January 18, 2017.  It has been cross-posted with permission. 

Over the past 20 years, the Canadian public’s understanding of a successful innovation ecosystem has evolved enormously to include social, technology, science, engineering, mathematics, arts and business innovation. From peacekeeping and palliative care to lacrosse and basketball, settler and Indigenous Canadians innovate from our unique cultures and contexts to solve problems or seize opportunities across sectors. We need look no further than the Governor General’s Innovation Awards to see the changing mindset about what constitutes innovation. As His Excellency told the Globe and Mail (June 9, 2015), besides technology innovation and business innovation, we need social innovation.

Read the summary report here.

Yet the 2016 public policy consultations on Canada’s Innovation Agenda struggled to make the vital connection between our unique innovation strengths, the urgent complexity of contemporary challenges facing Canadians, and the opportunity to define innovation as the integration of STEM, business, arts and social innovation.

In the ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) summary report, Innovation for a Better Canada: What You Told Us, there is a terse and high-level evaluation of the innovation ecosystem. It hews to the old mindset, with the important exception of making a strong link between innovation and a greener economy.

Citing a competitive global race for tech and digital growth, the report signalled a doubling down on the mindset of trickle-down economics. From Thomas Piketty to Anthony Atkinson to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett to Robert J. Gordon, we are hearing that this laissez-faire approach to innovation economics and social well-being is failing us.

Innovating innovation

We need to innovate our understanding of innovation. The report fails to recognize that Canadians are transforming the innovation economy into a collaborative culture of cross-sector innovation oriented towards durable solutions to complex challenges and new triple-bottom line market opportunities; where economic value is created from the pursuit of social and environmental value. With this mindset, Canadians are expanding the innovation marketplace and aligning innovation to solve social and environmental challenges.

To read about the incredible work of JumpMath see the case study prepared by Queen’s University and the Trico Charitable Foundation.

Take JUMP Math. “Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies” is an evidence-based numeracy program that challenges both teaching and societal norms by overcoming the assumption that there are natural hierarchies of ability. In 2011, a randomized controlled study led by SickKids Hospital determined that the math knowledge of students taught using JUMP Math grew at twice the rate of students using the incumbent mathematics program. Incorporated as a charity in Canada, in 2015 JUMP Math used multiple revenue streams totalling $4.8 million to cover its $3.99 million in expenses, with most revenue coming from royalty advances and teaching tool sales.

In other words, a charity is leveraging diverse revenue streams to advance a transformational education innovation with a social return on investment (SROI) of $16 for every $1 spent and dramatically improving a cornerstone skillset for innovation and life.

JUMP Math shows how a combination of mindset shift, business model innovation, education innovation, and government cost saving can foster a generation with greater capacity to thrive in daily life and as innovators. JUMP is an example of a social innovation — a durable, scalable and impactful innovation that solves the root cause of a complex social and environmental problem and, in turn, produces economic value. It is also an example of successful entrepreneurship leading to global scale, with program expansion into the US and Europe.

All sectors innovate

Similar social innovations are prolific across Canada, coming from charities, non-profits, businesses and government. In particular, the social sector is leveraging new processes, tools and technologies to develop impact-focused and evidence-based innovations, such as the Insite Safe Injection Site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or Housing First in Medicine Hat, AB.

Even North America’s largest urban innovation hub, the MaRS Discovery District, runs as a social enterprise with an integrated social innovation stream. As MaRS CEO Ilse Treurnicht noted in a recent speech at University of Toronto: “In reality, innovation is too often narrowcast. It is not about shiny gadgets and cool self-driving cars, it touches every aspect of our lives and every person in our society. We are all innovators. It is also, humanity’s toolbox — humanity’s only toolbox — for tackling wicked challenges.”

With the OECD reporting that Canada’s social spend exceeded $300 billion in 2015, there is a direct economic case for social innovations that tackle root causes of social problems and hit on economic savings aligned to social or environmental well-being or redirect capital flows to create much higher SROI.

Social innovation is a Canadian strength

Read the Economist Intelligence Report on Social Innovation.

The Economist Intelligence Unit identified Canada in 2016 as the third best country in the world for social innovation. The temptation may be to interpret this ranking as evidence that all is well and stay the course. But in fact, it is intentional cross-sector partnership, community innovation and signalling from the public sector that fuelled this success — and will be critical to scaling it.

While we may be third in the world overall, the world itself is in the early adopter phase of systemically integrating social innovation as a powerful innovation pathway for dealing with the complexity of 21st Century challenges and needs. Canada’s unique opportunity and competitive advantage is to take up the mantle of leadership and advance our social innovation strengths as a cornerstone of Canada’s Innovation Agenda.

Embed social impact in innovation policy

Many of the ingredients to winning the innovation race are in our own homegrown appreciation that innovation is driven by, and can directly lead, to greater social inclusion. Yet we are looking to other jurisdictions as bad role models.

The Munk School has a great newsletter on Innovation Policy in Ontario, register here. Image from the University of Toronto

As Munk Centre for Global Affairs professors Daniel Breznitz and Amos Zehavi note, successful innovation policy in Israel led the country to leap from one of the lowest levels of R&D intensity among developed countries in 1970s to a world leader in R&D intensity. Yet, “in parallel to this success, Israel changed from being the second-most-egalitarian Western society to the second most unequal.” In response, Breznitz and Zehavi call for innovation policies to intentionally address social impact as well as economic growth and competitiveness. This is the opportunity facing Canada now as we design our innovation agenda.

Seize the moment

Integrated innovation is the leading edge of a market disruption that is creating more than economic value. Inclusive innovation is necessary for communities to thrive in the 21st century.

Canada and Canadians will succeed when we clearly align our innovation policies with the range of economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges we face and embrace all expressions of innovation leading on that challenge. We can take advantage of Canadians’ cultural affinities for collaborative working arrangements to bring very diverse innovators together to amplify their impact.

2017 is the moment to seize the assets and capabilities of all sectors, including Canada’s 160,000-strong charity and non-profit sector, as well as the power of passionate amateurs, to ensure innovation is a projet de société.

2016 – Looking back, Looking Forward

2016 was resource rich for SiG. As we approach a new year, we thought we’d compile a short list for you to ease the burden on your digital bookmarks. 

– In 2016, we published three reports!

– We orchestrated a Canadian tour for Carolyn Curtis and Ingrid Burkett of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI). Along with SiG colleague, Geraldine Cahill they visited Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto. You can read about the tour and download some TACSI resources here

– As part of the TACSI Tour, we co-hosted a public event with MaRS Solutions Lab and the Centre for Social Innovation titled: The culture, passion and how of social innovation.

The Culture, Passion and How of Social Innovation from Social Innovation Generation on Vimeo.

– Vinod Rajasekaran came on board as a SiG Fellow to work on Social R&D. He has since authored “Getting to Moonshot” and co-authored “How Can Integrated Innovation Advance Well-being and Inclusive Growth?”

Earlier this year Vinod lead a learning tour for a Canadian Delegation to Silicon Valley with Community Foundations Canada (CFC). Participants visited Singularity University, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Y Combinator, IDEO, and more!

– ABSI Connect celebrated its first anniversary! SiG acts as administrator, champion and advisor for the ABSI Connect program in Alberta. We are honoured to play a small role in this inspiring program. Read their report: The Future of Social Innovation Alberta 2016.

– As the Federal Government extended invitations to submit ideas on innovation and creativity in various ministries, SiG was ready with some policy recommendations. See the full submissions on our policy page and review SiG’s take on policy’s role in social innovation.

– In the waning summer days, we began to map the Social Innovation Ecosystem in Canada (last updated on November 2016). We heard from many of you about more and different organizations to include, so we are currently working on an open redesign model for this map. If you would like to be included, get in touch.

What was on our bookshelves this year?

The Silo Effect“, “Building the Future“, “Sharing Cities“, “The Rainforest“, “Linked“, “LEAP Dialogues, Networks“, “The Art of Leading Collectively“, “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene“, “Don’t Think of an Elephant!“, “Public Good by Private Means“, “The Practices of Global Ethics“, and “Uberworked and Underpaid“.

And what was on our desks?

 “Canada Next: Learning for Youth Leadership and Innovation”, “Push & Pull”, “Licence to Innovate: How government can reward risk”, “The Future of Social Innovation in Alberta”, “Shifting Perspective: Redesigning Regulations for the Sharing Economy”, “Where to Begin: How Social Innovation is emerging across Canadian Campuses”, “Discussion Paper – Charities, Sustainable Funding, and Smart Growth”, “Pilot Lessons: How to design a basic income pilot project for Ontario”, “Unpacking Impact: Exploring impact Measurement for Social Enterprises in Ontario”, “From Here to There in Five Bento Boxes”, “The Architecture of Innovation: Institutionalizing Innovation in Federal Policy Making”, and “Insights & Observations at the Intersection of Higher Education, Indigenous Communities and Local Economic Development”.

Who we’ll be watching in 2017?

ABSI Connect – this emerging fellowship we have been super proud to support continues to evolve. Read their latest blog.

Allyson Hewitt – this year Allyson has dedicated her time to exploring the creation of a pro bono marketplace in Canada. We are excited about where that will go. Want to get involved? Feel free to reach out to Allyson!

Canada – 2017 is a big year for the nation and an opportunity to think boldly about our future. Many efforts are underway to pursue the possibilities, and we are excited to see these projects come to life. In particular the 4Rs Youth Movement will be hosting regional and national gatherings from coast to coast to coast, engaging approximately 5,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in face-to-face dialogue that highlights the contributions of Indigenous peoples over the last 150 years and allows for authentic relationship building that furthers reconciliation.

Indigenous Innovation Summit  2017 will host the 3rd Indigenous Innovation Summit. As we celebrate our sesquicentennial we will also take the time to recognize and celebrate indigenous innovation.

Happy Holidays,

SiG Team

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Is our playbook out of date?

A photo by Greg Rakozy. unsplash.com/photos/oMpAz-DN-9I

Canada spends over $300 billion annually on social outcomes, according to the OECD. Our fast-evolving societal challenges — ranging from mental health, Indigenous communities’ access to quality education, and a lack of affordable housing — demand equally fast-paced and nimble research, learning, experimental and replicating approaches so people can access the best possible services, supports and solutions, no matter where they live in Canada. This is where R&D comes in.

Canada’s not-for-profit, charitable, B Corp, and social enterprise organizations have built strong capabilities in volunteer management, donor stewardship, and program delivery, among other things. Along with an appreciation and celebration of these competencies, there is increasing consensus that social change in the 21st century requires an additional strong capacity and capability in research and development, or R&D.  

Just as R&D in the business world drives new and improved products and services, R&D can also help social mission organizations generate significant and rapid advancements in services and solutions that change lives. However, currently only a small proportion of social mission organizations repeatedly incorporate a wide range of new knowledge (like insights into how the brain works and how positive behaviours can be encouraged) or new technologies (like machine learning) or new processes (like human centred design).  

R&D is not yet well understood, funded or widely practiced by the social impact sector and thus is not yet adopted as a core organizational practice. It is a new field with a small body of codified knowledge and practice.

The “Social R&D” exploration aims to catalyze a change. The exploration is incubated by SiG, seeded by The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and is championed by a growing movement of organizations including: Open North, Community Foundations of Canada, MaRS, Engineers Without Borders Canada, among many others.

The new report, Getting to Moonshot: Inspiring R&D practices in Canada’s social impact sector authored by SiG Fellow Vinod Rajasekaran, with a Foreword by Nesta’s Chief Executive Geoff Mulgan, highlights 50 compelling R&D practices from 14 organizations across Canada, including: Saint Elizabeth’s field visits with frontline staff, GrantBook’s digital simulations, Skills Society’s neighbourhood prototyping and The MATCH International Women’s Fund’s 15% staff time for experimentation. The report illustrates that pursuing R&D helps organizations minimize costs in program growth, track improvements and learning more effectively, and ultimately deliver better outcomes for and with the people they serve. The intention in the future is to move beyond the report and host an online collection of practices with open access.

There are wonderful elements of R&D in Canada’s social impact sector and this report is an attempt to make a small portion of them visible to demonstrate that investment in R&D is a critical success factor in seeing measurable gains in social wellbeing. Against a backdrop of increasingly complex social, ecological and economic challenges, together we can transform how social mission organizations enhance lives for the 21st century.

SiG invites grantmakers, philanthropists, governments, and practitioners to join the movement to boost Social R&D capacity, capability, infrastructure and capital in communities across Canada.

LabWISE on Trust and why it matters in a Social Innovation Lab Process

 SiG Note: This article was originally published on the RECODE Blog.  It has been cross-posted with permission. 

LabWISE is priming collaborative groups to create big changes to major challenges across the country. Launched in mid October, the LabWISE program is a partnership with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Waterloo Institute of Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR), and is designed to train community-based teams in the WISIR social innovation lab process. It provides ongoing coaching to support Canadian organizations in leading a social innovation lab to tackle intractable social and/or environmental challenges.

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (March 2014)

C/O VBG

C/O VBG

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed our desks over the month of March 2014. In no particular order:

1. Booklet by Innovation Unit, “10 Ideas for 21 Century Healthcare,” describes an exciting possible future where services are delivered in radically different (empowering!) ways. The booklet provides compelling examples from around the world of how the ideas are being brought to life and explores some of the vital principles underpinning 21st century healthcare.

2. Great simple ideas for bringing more wellbeing and happiness into our everyday lives: 100 days of happy, a pledge to acknowledge and share one thing per day that makes us happy, and 24 hours of happy, a seemingly never-ending dance video of people dancing in the streets, in buildings, in gardens, with friends, to an addictively upbeat tune.

3. Excellent report,Systemic Innovation” by The Social Innovation Europe Initiative (SIE), explains what systemic innovation is, explores strategies for transforming systems, highlights European examples of initiatives driving towards systems change, and makes recommendations on how to support systemic social innovation.

4. Blog post with a rich collection of resources,45 Design Thinking Resources for Educators,” that are useful to anyone wanting to understand more about the design thinking movement and how strategic design may be relevant and helpful in your own setting (education-related or not).

5. Interesting read, “Systems, Messes and Interactive Planning” essay by Russell Ackoff, about the System around us, how we got into some of the mega messes (a.k.a. wicked problems), and why they are so tough to navigate and address (h/t John Maeda).

6. Huffington Post article, “What does public innovation mean?,” answers this question by pointing out that public innovation isn’t necessarily about something shiny, new or complex, but it is about something that works better, leads to better results, and creates a better pathway forward.

7. For the last half of March, three members of InWithForward were in Toronto, ON to work with St. Christopher House. The team were there to capture stories and start to re-imagine, with Drop-in Centre members and staff, what could be different for the Meeting Place and other Toronto Drop-in Centres at a system-level, service-level, neighbourhood-level, and relationship-level. The team is now onto their next Canadian starter project in Burnaby, BC. Make sure to check out InWithForward’s business model and hunches, which offer a super interesting and innovative approach to running a lab.

8. Pretty neat! “Design Action Research With Government” is a guide (with examples) for designing and implementing civic innovations with Government.

9. Super interesting blog post, “Social Sciences in Action,” by Jakob Christiansen of MindLab, where he shares the exploration, debate and “a-has!” from a meeting between social scientists Sarah Schulman (InWithForward), Anna Lochard (La 27e Region) and Jakob. Take a peek into their minds as they dive into questions like: How do we put social sciences into action and not just design thinking? What is the role of everyday people in our work? How do we spread and scale processes, not just products? “Of course, what we came up with was not definitive or polished. But it did open up some new arguments and ways of conceptualizing issues we each face in our day-to-day practice.”

10. Blog post, “How Social Innovation Labs Design and Scale Impact” by the Rockefeller Foundation, about the social innovation labs they support (including MaRS Solutions Lab!) and their thinking around the global labs movement.

11. We are always on the look-out for social innovation resources in French and we came across a bunch this month. We learned about the following french terms for “wicked problems:” problèmes complexes, problèmes irréductibles, problèmes indécidables, problèmes malins, problèmes épineux, and problèmes vicieux (h/t to Stéphane Vial and François Gougeon). Also, the National Collaboration Centre for Healthy Public Policy and the Quebec Government published this excellent french information page on wicked problems, “Les problèmes vicieux et les politiques publiques,” which explains and describes what wicked problems are and applies the concept to the realm of public health. There is also a new social innovation blog, “CRÉATIVITÉ 33” by Andre Fortin (formerly with  l’Institut du Nouveau Monde LABIS), with tools and advice for innovating. And finally, here is a round-up of what French Lab La 27e Région has in store for 2014 (they have English resources too – check them out, they are excellent communicators!).

12. Excellent report, “Innovation in 360 Degrees: Promoting Social Innovation in South Australia,” from Geoff Mulgan’s term as Adelaide’s Thinker In Residence. The report is from 2008, but there are tons of great insights for government innovators and systempreneurs. Geoff highlights key elements of public sector innovation, examples from around the world, South Australia’s biggest challenge areas (that are not dissimilar to Canada’s), and recommendations for becoming future-ready.

13. Provocative read: Guardian article challenges us to rethink the idea of the state as a catalyst for big bold ideas. Author Mariana Mazzucato argues that a program of forward-thinking public spending is crucial for a creative, prosperous society and that we must stop seeing the state as a malign influence or a waste of taxpayers’ money: “…the point of public policy is to make big things happen that would not have happened anyway. To do this, big budgets are not enough: big thinking and big brains are key.”

14. The Young Foundation announced that they’ve added top innovators to the team to spearhead its mission to disrupt inequality. You will gasp “wow” when you see the list, which includes Indy Johar (check out the SiG webinar with Indy, “From One to Many: Building Movements For Change,” from a couple months ago to get a taste of his thinking).

15. Great book lists this month: A team of editors at The Die Line, a platform and blog for package design, curated a selection of their favourite design strategy books (h/t Alexander Dirksen). The Guardian, with help from readers, came up with a list of the best books on policy leadership and innovation. And for a sure-fire way to get lost down the rabbit hole, Designers & Books is a website where 50 famous designers share the books — 678 in total — that inspire them (h/t John Pavlus via Andrea Hamilton).

16. Blog post from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The Ugly Truth About Scale,” offers three tips to those in the social sector tackling complex challenges: 1. Stop trying to feel so good; 2. Push to use technology much more strategically; and 3. Philanthropy must take risks (h/t Cameron Norman).

17. Blog post, “The Network Navigator,” explores how the power of a networked world is shifting the emphasis of work from expertise to navigation; includes the 8 skills of a Network Navigator, which are pretty interesting.

18. Last, but certainly not least, very exciting news from Alberta: the Government of Alberta announced the launch of a 1 billion dollar Social Innovation Endowment Fund – the first Canadian province to do so. The fund will support innovation via three streams, one of which is prototyping tools and methods, i.e. Labs. Here is the news release and the speech from the throne.

What have we missed? What lab-related links have you been following this past month?

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (Dec 2013 & Jan 2014)

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed our desks over the months of December 2013 and January 2014. In no particular order:

  1. Article by Zaid Hassan exploring “what are social laboratories?” — Zaid explains that social labs are social, experimental and systemic. For a quick glance, check out Zaid’s webinar and slides via the ALIA Institute. For a deeper dive, check out his website and newly launched (this past monday!) book: the social lab revolution.

  1. Article about the UK Government’s design lab pilot: a Policy Lab to apply design principles to policy-making and public service.  Additional links in the article about the benefits of applying design in policy making.

  1. Awesome map of the global government lab landscape and website acting as a hub of information on the public innovation spaces — prepared by Daniela Selloni (Polimi DESIS Lab) and Eduardo Staszowski (Parsons DESIS Lab), Christian Bason (MindLab) and Andrea Schneider (Public By Design).

  1. Operating much like a think tank within the Singapore Government, the Centre for Strategic Futures acts on what will be the important challenges of the tomorrow — aiming to create an agile public sector in Singapore.

  1. Nesta’s Geoff Mulgan writes an excellent paper about design in government and social innovation and blog post with smart suggestions for making the case for social innovation to elected officials.

  1. Media update and project summary about the European Design Innovation Platform (EDIP) – a project to increase the use of design for innovation and growth across Europe, financed by the European Commission and in collaboration with Design Council, MindLab and others.

  1. Online mentoring and training program about Gov 3.0 offered by The Governance Lab (GovLab) out of NYU. The website also provides thinking and exploration into the notion of Gov3.0 (different from gov 2.0).

  1. ReportRestarting Britain 2” by Design Council explores the impact of design on public, private and design sectors and shows that the best of design thinking can help to make (public) services more relevant to current needs and reduce cost.

  1. PaperThe Journey to the Interface: how public sector design can connect user to reform” by UK-based think tank Demos explores public service design and it’s relationship with citizen engagement and co-production.

  1. Upcoming book (September 2014 release) “Design for Policy” by MindLab’s Christian Bason provides a detailed analysis of design as a tool for addressing public problems and capturing opportunities for achieving better and more efficient societal outcomes for citizens and governments (ie. co-design, co-creation, co-production). Also see Christian’s latest blog post: 2014 will be the year of Experimentation talking about the shifting narrative in the public sector around learning from failure (and along the experimentation vein, don’t miss the upcoming Fail Forward Festival coming to Toronto in July).

  1. Great blog and master’s program on service innovation and design offered by the Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Espoo, Finland. Also, there is a PhD in design for public services out of the AHO university in Oslo, Norway.

  1. Excellent articulation of empathy — this video by RSA Shorts to the soothing voice of Brene Brown (of the Tedtalk on vulnerability) and this bookRealizing Empathy” by Slim (thanks to Andrea Hamilton for letting me know about this great talk at Rotman as part of Rotman’s ongoing speaker series… last night was David Kelley of IDEO and coming up is Geoff Mulgan).

  1. Explanation of a powerful convening technique called “Peer Input Process” via the Tamarack Institute. Peer Input Process is a technique was designed to assist people obtain input from peers in a relatively quick and structured way.

  1. Blog post about embracing difference and how cultivating our ability to collaborate among diverse stakeholders will allow us to create truly transformative change. Written by the wonderfully articulate art of hosting steward Tuesday Ryan-Hart.

  1. Blog post on the Good website “From Pools to School Lunches: Why public interest design is changing the way we do things” overflowing with exciting projects at the intersect of design x public (and societal) good.

  1. Blog post by Amanda Mundy of The Moment about the journey and lessons learned from designing and setting up their innovation studio.

  1. The audio from a Metro Morning (radio) interview with John Brodhead exploring the future of public transportation and engaging in cross-sector collaborations. In this article, John also talks about his upcoming initiative “100 in 1 Day” where 100 urban ‘interventions’ will spring up across to Toronto in June (inspired by Montreal, Copenhagen and Bagota).

  2. The bookHappy City: Transforming our lives through urban design” by Charles Montgomery from the Museum of Vancouver (and MOV’s CityLab) gets rave reviews in the New York Times (glad I got this book for my BFF’s birthday!).

  3. Great concept: Pop Up Parks! The idea was part of Design Council’s Knee High Design Challenge (more info about the challenge and the other awesome projects ideas here). Also interesting on the topic of parks is Nesta paperRethinking Parks”, which highlights the need for new business models to run parks, given cuts in government funding, and discusses 20 international examples of how parks innovators are doing just that. (check out the Nesta’s Rethinking Parks contest to submit your ideas)

– Satsuko

We’re Hiring! Social Innovation Generation (SiG) Communications Intern

Organization: MaRS Discovery District
Industry: Not-for-profit
# of Positions: 1
Position: Communications Intern

Posted: Dec 12, 2013
Application Deadline: Jan 03, 2014
Start Date: Feb 03, 2014
Term of Internship: 9 months

Address: 101 College Street, Suite 100,
Toronto, ON, M5G 1L7

Job Description:

Social Innovation Generation (SiG) is a collaborative partnership comprised of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the University of Waterloo, the MaRS Centre in Toronto, and the PLAN Institute. SiG believes that complex, persistent, and “wicked” social and ecological problems can be solved. Our focus is enhancing Canada’s resilience by engaging the creativity and resources of all sectors to collaborate on social innovations that have impact, durability, and scale. Visit our website for more information.

SiG National is looking for an Intern to contribute to its team. To allow social innovations to flourish, the SiG intern will contribute to our goal to support whole systems change through changing the broader economic, cultural, and policy context in Canada.

Reporting to the Communications Manager, the Intern will have a broad portfolio of responsibilities, engaging across program related activities, with a strong focus on communications, educational materials development, promotional activities and social media. With a small team around you, this is a terrific opportunity for you to build a portfolio of communications assets as you begin your career.

At a time when “the need and desire for change is profound,” this is an exciting opportunity to work in a dynamic professional context to experiment with a different way of telling a story, learning new practices for tipping systems, and helping to create new possibilities for building resilience.

Responsibilities:

  • Support the Communications Manager in the execution of a broad strategy to foster cross-sector understanding of social innovation processes;
  • Inspire and inform our organization and emerging communities through editorial coordination of the blog;
  • Support the development and marketing of our knowledge mobilization strategy;
  • Drive engagement with SiG online platforms – website, Knowledge Hub, social media communities;
  • Assist the Communications Manager in the marketing strategy, publication and dissemination of SiG knowledge products;
  • Actively engage online networks in the development of social innovation understanding and applicability to Canada
  • Provide logistical support to development activities related to the Inspiring Action for Social Impact series including meeting coordination and research support;
  • Support lab development lead in research
  • Pursue self-directed projects as inspired that result in outstanding written, visual, or audio content; and
  • Other duties as assigned.

Minimum Education:

Diploma

Mandatory Qualifications:

The successful candidate will demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Demonstrated experience and/or ability in the development of communications products – audio and/or videoand/or written;
  • Excellent written and verbal communications skills;
  • Understanding of online community development and animation;
  • Interest in the fields of social innovation, public policy and finance;
  • Proven research capabilities;
  • Detail-oriented and self-motivated;
  • An openness to evolving responsibilities;
  • Strong organizational skills;
  • Ability to work independently and in teams; and
  • Proficiency at multitasking and prioritizing time and workload.

Additional Qualifications:

The following qualifications are considered an asset:

  • Demonstrable understanding of website processes, basic HTML, WordPress and other content platforms
  • Demonstrable understanding of design applications, particularly Adobe CS suite

Other Information:

Social Innovation Generation (National) is based at the MaRS Centre in downtown Toronto.

Employer Question #1:

Why does working for SiG appeal to you?

Employer Question #2:

What experiences in your past qualify you for this opportunity?

Employer Question #3:

What examples of social innovation in Canada or around the world inspire you?

To apply, please register on Career Edge and submit your application through Career Edge’s job posting “Social Innovation Generation(SiG)/ Communications Intern.”

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (November 2013)

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed the desks of Hyun-Duck Chung (MaRS Solutions Lab) and Satsuko VanAntwerp (SiG) over the month of November 2013. In no particular order:

1. The UK Cabinet Office announces that they will be launching a policy lab in Dec 2014. This lab will work with government departments to tackle their toughest problems drawing on service design and human centred design methods. Rather than the focus being on greater internal efficiency, the lab will focus on creating better outcomes for end users (citizens).

2. Awesome manifestos by Brute Labs (design and tech studio with all-volunteer team that has launched 11 social change projects around the world) and InWithForward (the latest project by Sarah Schulman + Jonas, Dan, Yani).

3. Article by Beth Kanter “Seven Truths about Change to Lead By and Live By” expanding on great quotes including: “Change is a threat when done to me, but an opportunity when done by me”, “Change is a campaign, not a decision”, and “Everything can look like a failure in the middle”.

4. Report by nef’s Lucie Stephens and Julia Slay: Co-production in Mental Health: a literature review. The report looks at how co-production is being used in the mental health field, i.e. what evidence there is of the impact of co-production on mental health support, and which aspects of co-production are being developed in the sector.

5. Blog post by MindLab’s Christian Bason: Is the public sector more innovative than we think? Christian hypothesizes that the public sector is better at innovation than the private sector.

6. Super interesting talk by Indy Johar “Do it for (y)ourself” bursting with ideas for community-led social change, reflections on the challenge of scale, and the tension of ‘the craft’ and ‘the knowledge economy’, all in less than 20mins.

7. Reminded of these great method cards by IDEO: a 51 card deck to inspire design.

8. Another great article in the guardian about public service design. This one looks at asking quesitons, embracing risk and user-centred design. ‘Get creative: eight tips for designing better public services

9. Blog post by Nesta’s Laura Bunt exploring whether we need to find a better definition for social innovation.

10. Report exploring the relationship between Art and Resilience and how fortifying a city’s social and cultural fabric is just as (or more?) important as upgrading a city’s emergency response, planners, policy makers, social innovators, etc.

11. Metcalf report by reknowned ecological economists Tim Jackson and Peter Victor about work-life balance, wellbeing and the green economy at the community scale.

12. Recent blog posts by Assaf Weis on the sharing economy (Sharing Can Truly Disrupt Business) and Kaitlin Almack on building partnerships (Increasing the Impact of CSR Through Multi-Stakeholder Collaborations)

13. Infographic comparing ‘old design thinking’ with human centered design and co-design

14. Issue No. 2 of The Alpine Review includes articles by Bryan Boyer (about cultures of decision making) and Dan Hill (about Fabrica).

15. Awesome graphic recorders and facilitators: ThinkLink Graphics, Ripple Think Inc, PlaythinkDScribe. Also, see this monthly meet-up for visual thinkers.

What have we missed? We invite you to share in the comment section the resources that you’ve come across recently that you think would be interesting to this community!

– Hyun-Duck and Satsuko

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (October 2013)

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed our desks over the month of October 2013. In no particular order:

1. Excellent list of resources about public sector innovation following a conference in Switzerland: REDESIGN:GOV. Event tagline: “Is there hope to make government more innovative?”

2. Reflective blog posts following a Toronto lab practitioners gathering in September. Julie Sommerfreund, via theToronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) blog, explores the nature of complex problems in her post: Wicked problems need wicked cool solutions. Kaitlin Almack blogs about Leading Boldly Network’s theory of change in her post: Exploring Collaborative Social Innovation; and Courtney Lawrence reflects on the well being and the human element in her post: Emotions In Innovation.

3. Video interviews, panel discussions and talks from ‘CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges”, an event that brought together 300 global city leaders for a series of conversations about urban ideas that are shaping the world’s metro centers.

4. Zaid Hassan of Reos Partners launched a new book: The Social Labs Revolution. During  April 21-29, Zaid will be touring Canada to offer training workshops drawing on his experience in addressing complex challenges. Also see his excellent summary of the Change Lab approach, his recent post on the NESTA blog, and this facebook group.

5. The bookPublic and Collaborative: Exploring The Intersection of Design, Social Innovation and Public Policy” includes 11 articles that presents labs’ projects and activities during 2012-2013. The book has four themes: 1) Designing New Relationships Between People and the State, 2) Design Schools as Agents of Change, 3) Experimental Places for Social and Public Innovation, 4) Collaborative Design Methods and Tools: The Teen Art Park Project. The book was edited and coordinated by Ezio Manzini and Eduardo Staszowski of the DESIS Labs network with 23 authors — including Toronto’s Luigi Ferrara of Institute without Boundaries.

7. Slides and videos from MindLab’s “How Public Design” gathering in September, including a short video interview with MaRS Solutions Lab Director Joeri van den Steenhoven talking about “Institutionalizing Design Practice” and Kennisland Director Chris Sigaloff talking about “How To Use Design” in the public sector.

8. ReportWhen Bees Meet Trees” explores how large social sector organisations can help to scale social innovation (with support from NESTA)

9. Excellent website about using human centred design to improve campus mental health: Mental Health x Design. Developed through a joint project between OCAD University and Ryerson University in Toronto (curated by Andrea Yip) asking “How do we design systems and structures that will lead to more creative and mentally healthy campus communities?”.

10. Awesome blog by MaRS Solutions Lab’s latest addition, Terrie Chan, exploring the intersection of design x social innovation, ie. human-centered design, service design, systems design, and the methodology of design-thinking.

11. Reos Partners, with support from the J.W. McConnell foundation, produced this great paper on Change Labs that we recently re-discovered.

12. Short video explaining Berkana’s Two-Loops theory of systems change. I find this diagram really helpful to see where we are in systems and our role in changing them. We all have a role.

13. Website and platform ‘Learn Do Share’ is a book series, a set of collaborative experiments and methods, and a resource and r&d collective for open collaboration, design fiction & social innovation. It is closely tied to a Toronto-based gathering called diy days.

14. Article of an interview with Adam Kahane. Adam shares his thinking, reflections and valuable lessons from over two decades working in systems change, conflict brokering, and collaborating with unlikely allies.

15. Inspiring Tedx Talk by Ashoka Fellow, Founder of Time Bank USA and pioneer of poverty law, Dr. Edgar Cahn. In this talk he explains the concept of Time banking and Co-Production. The Time Banking UK website further explores the links and relationship between time banking and co-production, which is valuable to think about when developing solutions to complex challenges.

What have we missed? We invite you to share in the comment section the resources that you’ve come across recently that you think would be interesting to this community!

– Satsuko

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (September 2013)

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed the desks of Hyun-Duck Chung (MaRS Solutions Lab) and Satsuko VanAntwerp (SiG) over the month of September 2013. In no particular order:

1. List of books, articles, and other readings related to simulations for social innovation labs put together by Mark Tovey of SiG@Waterloo. Topics include: social innovation, policy, modelling social and political systems, tools for groups, toolkits, information design, and interaction design.

2. Report about ‘Design for Public Good’ that includes tools for enhancing government innovation and public service design and twelve case studies. Cases include MindLab’s ‘Young Taxpayers’ project and a profile about Helsinki Design Lab. The report’s authors are Design for Public Good and SEE (Sharing Experiences Europe) Platform.

3. New book about citizen-focused government: Putting Citizens First. Academics and practitioners from around the globe share stories about putting the citizen in the center of public development. MindLab’s Christian Bason talks about user involvement in Chapter 5 ‘Engaging Citizens in Policy Innovation’.

4. Guidebook on hosting meaningful conversations: Gather: The Art and Science of Effective Convening’ from the Rockefeller Foundation by The Rockefeller Foundation and The Monitor Institute. The guidebook covers the essentials of planning and executing effective gatherings, including: deciding whether to convene, clarifying a “north star” purpose, and making design choices that flow from that purpose, design principles, key questions, and critical issues to be considered and customized per situation.

5. NoTosh is a UK company that applies design thinking to teach and learn anything, working with schools and corporations alike. One of their recent blog posts covers Hexagonal Thinking: an effective way to help learners synthesize ideas by allowing them to quickly model different ways of organizing their thoughts. As hexagonal syntheses are often unique to individual team members, it can be used to highlight areas of uncertainty, gaps in connecting existing material, and guide subsequent ideation and prototyping work.

6. Talk by MaRS Solutions Lab Director Joeri van den Steenhoven at the RQIS (Réseau québécois en innovation sociale) conference “L’innovation sociale, un enjeu mondial”. The introduction is in French but Joeri’s talk is in English.

7. Creative Confidence is the latest collaborative project of the Kelley brothers David (founder of IDEO and Stanford’s d.school) and Tom (partner at IDEO and executive fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business). Designed as a tool kit for developing creative confidence in everyone, the book includes ideas and activities that help readers to apply design thinking and processes into their personal and professional lives. The anecdotes illustrate examples of how others have done it, while providing an insider’s look into their respective organizations. David’s TedTalk (2012) provides a preview if you can’t wait for the book to come out in October 2013.

8. The Solution Revolution launched in Toronto this month. William D. Eggers & Paul Macmillan of Deloitte provides a highly readable synthesis on “how business, government, and social enterprises are teaming up to solve society’s toughest problems”. Chapter by chapter the book highlights the key players, technologies, scalable business models, new types of currencies and exchanges that are creating an exciting ecosystem of possibilities. A must-read for anyone tackling local and global challenges to create better solutions.

9. The Center for Urban Pedagogy’s (CUP) produces a “series of foldout posters that use graphic design to explore and explain public policy”. Produced four times a year, each poster is a collaborative output of a designer, an advocate, and CUP. Visit their Making Policy Public site for project schedules and submission guidelines.

10. Reflective blog posts about the state of Canada’s Lab practice by Chris Lee and Ben McCammon following a lab practitioners gathering. Chris explores human-centered design theory and complexity and asks “What is the cost of not building relationships?” in his post: Spinning Plates & Relationships. Ben guides us through a series of questions to start to unravel systems change concepts in his post: You Say You Want Systems Change.

11. Very clear and accessible definition of ‘wicked problems’ from a business and design lens. Also a useful link list to other resources. This gem was put together by the smart folks at The Austin Centre for Design.

12. A Problem Solving Primer, put together by the Australian government’s DesignGov team, is a collection of answers from decision makers, practitioners and all-around talented people around four questions: 1) What one thing would you recommend when dealing with limited resources and competing priorities? 2) What is the key thing to remember when you are confronted by complex problems? 3) When you’re confronted with a difficult issue, where do you start? 4) What is your favourite tool or technique to use in problem solving?

13. In the paperFriendly Hacking Into The Public Sector: Co-creating Public Policies Within Regional Governments’, Public Innovation Lab La 27e Region share their lessons learned and experiences with conducting fifteen experiments with nine regional administrations in France. The paper highlights the key components of friendly hacking, a framework for implementing radical innovation in the public administration context.

14. Three blog reflections from MindLab’s How Public Design seminar among lab practitioners and international innovation gurus. MaRS Solutions Lab’s Joeri van den Steenhoven explores the impact of labs and how design-led innovations can help government in his post: ‘Design Innovation and Government’. Kennisland’s Dr. Sarah Schulman explores the implications of lab solutions and of building the Lab practice in her post: ‘Means and Ends’. MindLab’s Jesper Christiansen explores what we mean by public design and take-aways from conversations at the session in his post: “How Public Design: exploring a new conversation #1” (keeping an eye out for a #2!).

15. Reflective blog posts about co-production in Canada following the Toronto Co-Production Meetup with nef’s Lucy Stephens. Lucy Gao explores the similarities, differences and overlaps between Co-Production and Collaborative Consumption in her post: ‘What Is Co-Production and How Does It Relate To Collaborative Consumption’. Melissa Tulio shares her perspective and application to the Ontario Public Service and the six elements of co-production in her post: ‘Co-Production: learnings from Lucie Stephens’. Terrie Chan explores wellbeing, public service design and the power of partnerships and collaboration in her post: ‘Putting The Public Back In Public Services And Policies: What Co-Production And Pop-Ups Can Teach Us’.

16. The bookDesign Forward: Creative Strategies for Sustainable Change’ explores how design can be used as a strategic and holistic way of finding and creating sustainable and successful solutions. Written by Frog Design founder Hartmut Esslinger.

What have we missed? We invite you to share in the comment section the resources that you’ve come across recently that you think would be interesting to this community!

Hyun-Duck and Satsuko