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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On seeking, sharing and systems change

If there’s one sentiment I have expressed a number of times over the past 2 weeks, it is gratitude. SiG and our partners have been metaphorically swimming in inspiring stories told by Canadian indigenous leaders and stories told of social lab interventions that are positively transforming lives in different parts of the world, while building relationships with a host of change-makers that are in equal measure genius and humble. The only hard thing about all this goodness is choosing where to begin to make sense of all of the learning, translate the stories of successful change-making to a Canadian context, and offer some resources to adapt the best pieces of  work.

Thanks to the kickoff event of Social Innovation Canada 2014 featuring Dana Shen, Director of Family by Family from South Australia, I feel confident in offering a place to start. SiG has taken a look at Family by Family before — as early as 2011 — courtesy of the co-designer of the model, Sarah Schulman of InWithForward. Hearing about it again from Dana meant a deeper dive into the model and hearing about its impact and adaptation over time.

Here is a quick summary of what Family by Family does (I’ll leave it to Dana herself to explain it in full on video):

In 2010, The Australia Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) asked the South Australian government what they wanted to focus on in terms of better social service outcomes. The government asked for an intervention to bring down the high numbers of children in the formal protection system. TACSI, working with Sarah Schulman and Chris Vanstone, developed a peer-to-peer solution that looks astonishingly simple on the surface: families who have come through tough times mentor families experiencing tough times. Or in the words of Family by Family, sharing families mentor seeking families.

Watch Dana explain how getting to this solution was a learning experience in collaboration between unusual partners, in trust-building and in adaptation:

Family by Family: Australian social innovation in action – MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Following this MaRS Global Leadership presentation, Dana joined SiG and 160+ participants at SIX Vancouver, May 27-29, where we were privileged to hear an opening discussion between Dr. Frances Westley and Tyze Founder, Vickie Cammack. The conversation focused on the effects of culture on our spirits, our organizations and our society. In many ways I feel the key to Family by Family’s success was in taking the time to understand the culture it was entering – that of families experiencing difficult times and why change was so difficult to achieve.

The result of TACSI engaging with community in the design and prototyping of Family by Family was an equally deep impact on the so-called experts charged with delivering the program. Dana spoke to the benefits of Family by Family for the culture inside the public sector in South Australia, those delivering the program at Family by Family and the broader TACSI design team. So profound has been the impact, that TACSI and the government are looking for ways to scale the model.

During Frances and Vickie’s discussion, the conversation turned to a desire to understand resilience and vulnerability more deeply. Being open to exploring our own vulnerability also opens up opportunities to see and understand others. As Frances reflected, if you can’t touch the vulnerability in yourself, you can’t touch it in others either. And the result is that our fear of the “other” increases. We don’t have to look far to see fear guiding many interactions across cultures in the world.

Six Day 1 Musqueam Welcome and Interview with Frances Westley 125

Photo Credit: Komal Minhas for KoMedia

Following the discussion, Dana reflected on our shared journey — on the fact that we are all in this world together; that we all want similar things. As Allyson Hewitt said at the end of Dana’s MaRS presentation, we are always sharing and seeking change. And it’s not a one-way street.

The Family by Family program has seen sharing families — those willing to volunteer time to support those experiencing tough times — become seeking families themselves. These times of vulnerability are to be expected and need not be permanent. As a community acting together and understanding each other more deeply, we can become more resilient. Vickie Cammack may refer to this as a recognition of our interdependence. The Family by Family model is supporting a strengthening in community resilience. As seeking families achieve their goals, they increase their ability to share their experience and learning with others. At scale, the impact is a sea-change — this increased resilience enables the flow of resources, both personal and community, towards systemic change. We all seek support and understanding at different times in our lives. Being awake to this is not to be stuck, but to be open to others. In a second post about Social Innovation Canada 2014, I will explore what it means to know our own fears and desires better, as well as those of others with whom we experience conflict, thanks to the wonderful contribution of David Diamond at SIX Vancouver. The ability to understand others through understanding ourselves is the result of a deepening empathy. SiG is so pleased to be co-presenting a conversation with Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka, on June 19th at MaRS. Bill has turned his extensive experience towards supporting and promoting entrepreneurs fostering empathy in our world. You can see details on that event here.

Lessons From Being At the Cutting Edge – TACSI

Next week, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) is Toronto-bound for Social Innovation Canada 2014 (#socinncan) – an event series that is bringing together leading social innovators, social entrepreneurs, and social financiers to exchange learnings and continue to foster a global culture of social innovation.

TACSI will be bringing unique stories and questions to the table. With a co-design approach that is transforming family-services, a knack for unusual partnerships, and first-hand experience of the risks and hurdles in solution seeking, TACSI will share their lens on social innovation in action during #socinncan (on May 22nd at MaRS) — a process that is always learning in action.

C/O TACSI: Our Co-Design Process

C/O TACSI: Our Co-Design Process

Unusual Partners

What does it look like to bring government, designers, service-providers, and families into the same design process? TACSI calls it Radical Redesign: “…an approach that operates bottom-up and top-down in, with and for communities to generate, test, and improve ideas at an interaction and system level” (Radical Redesign/ Family by Family Report, 2011).

Seeing a big gap between government approaches to social problem solving (top-down), community approaches (bottom-up), and “solutions'” end-users, TACSI brings together a range of unusual partners to foster positive social impacts, with the end goal of closing that gap and affecting systems change.

Social impact work is the only work we do at TACSI. Since 2010 we’ve been developing a methodology for building solutions that create change, are financially sustainable and are grounded in what the community wants and needs. We call it co-design, we use it every day and we’ve used it to create award-winning and money saving solutions like Family by Family — TACSI, Innovation Support (Our Offers)

What does successful social innovation look like? TACSI’s flagship solution, Family by Family, is a celebrated program that “was co-designed with families and is delivered by families” with unprecedented results:

After One Year: 90% of the families in the program achieved their goals.

After Three Years: Cost benefit analysis showed “that the program saves $7 for every $1 invested by keeping kids out of state care.”

But measurable (quantitative) results rarely tell the whole story or reflect the ongoing shifts and transformations within communities. TACSI’s own reflection on success focuses on people’s view of a good life:

We don’t think success should be measured in terms of services or systems, but in terms of more people living the lives they want – Radical Redesign/ Family by Family Report, 2011 

This form of measurement— a lot messier to ‘measure’ and to understand — demands a constant process of learning, listening, and making connections to what is ‘good.’ 

TACSI: The Seven Questions
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C/O TACSI Radical Redesign/ Family by Family Report

1 GET READY
What team fits the problem?
2 LOOK & LISTEN
What are good outcomes?

3 CREATE
What ideas could improve outcomes?
4 PROTOTYPE INTERACTIONS
What interactions shift outcomes?
5 PROTOTYPE SYSTEMS
What supports new interactions?
6 VALUE
What value does the solution create?
7 GROW
How can we spread the solution?

Are we doing good?

Being at the cutting edge, being innovative, having impact, and ‘doing good’ are not necessarily, or inherently, synonymous. How do we keep track of what is good (and for whom) during solution-design, when other metrics and terms (impact/change/transformation/efficiency/systems) often end up dominating our discourse?

Last summer, sociologist Sarah Schulman (In With Forward) reflected on the social solutions she helped develop with TACSI in 2011-2012, during a webinar for our Inspiring Action for Social Impact series.

Sarah Schulman asks, Are we doing good? from Social Innovation Generation on Vimeo.
 

Risks, Failures, Hurdles

Social innovators can’t wear rose coloured glasses if they are committed to rosy results for their clients and end-users. 

As a sociologist myself, the question “Are we doing good?” invokes an ethic that process and results cannot be evaluated in isolation — the means need to be as just as the ends. Putting results in context — both quantitative and qualitative results — demands digging into the risks, recognizing and analyzing hurdles, and identifying and learning from failure quickly. It’s an emergent and imperfect process that requires facing and preparing for fallibility head on, without the glamorization of ‘good intentions.’

As one TACSI/Family by Family team member put it:

There is nowhere to hide in the social innovation world. You have to stand behind your ideas, be prepared for them to sometimes fail and be able to admit that they did. You have to be brave enough to do things differently, often with no previous framework to work from.”

Mobilizing Experiences, Learning in Action

May 22nd TACSI will be diving deep into their approach, lessons, stories, and success as part of our Inspiring Action for Social Impact series, MaRS Global Leadership, and Social Innovation Canada.

Register here to learn more, join the conversation, and gain key insights from Australian Social Innovation In Action!