Social innovation can be hard to get a handle on until we notice it around us. Maybe that is because it take time for social innovations to really create long lasting change. That is how it should be. Change begins with the personal steps we take to learn from one another, how we honour our histories, our relations, and the lands. We start here. We bring ourselves to the hard work of changing the systems around us to become receptive to initiatives, policies, and mindsets that put people and planet first.
For me, social innovation sparks an intention to make a positive and sustained difference. It starts with people coming together to make positive change happen in their community. As an idea takes hold we can start to see shifts happening. That spark of intention over time becomes integrated in all aspects of our lives. Often through with struggle and perseverance, because real change is complicated and address’ fundamental power structures.
There are so many examples. Once we start to think a bit about it, I bet we could all start to name social innovations. I think of Luke and the Stop Gap Foundation with a vision to create a barrier free world. Luke was fed up with a simple doorstep or stairs preventing him and so many others from accesing places they wanted to go. Business owners often rent their store space and don’t have the money or desire to invest in accessibility ramps, plus who wants to deal with bylaws and permits if you don’t have to. So, Luke created Stop Gap. A colourful wooden ramp with handles that allowed it to be moveable. The Stop Gap ramp is not expensive and it is easy to build to fit storefronts. Presto, an easy way for store keepers to truly open their doors to everyone.
What makes Stop Gap a social innovation? It started a shift in mindset and culture around accessibility. We saw the colourful wooden ramps and it really made sense. Stop Gap is part of a movement for increased accessibility that intentionally shifts how we as a society values people with diverse mobilities in their daily lives. That is a pretty big shift.
Business’ begin to recognize that their customers have diverse needs and they want them in their stores, restaurants and services. There is a market demand for improved accessibility. Our government introduced public policies like the ADOA that improves accessibility standards for all organizations and business’. Stop Gap is one part of a greater movement for accessibility and inclusion that we can all get behind and benefit from. Today, Stop Gap is across Canada with over 1,000 ramps.
I am on a constant journey of learning how to support the changes we need for equality and economic justice. My hope is that this work with SI Canada allows each of us to participate in the changes we seek to place people and planet first.
Jo Reynolds leads the Ontario hub for Social Innovation Canada, through her role with the Centre for Social Innovation. Get in touch directly at firstname.lastname@example.org