Social R&D Case Studies: Grant Winners

These five Canadian organizations will receive $5,000 to share their learnings using Social R&D approaches in their communities.

At this time of systems disruption and reinvention, strengthening our capacities to better solve problems has never been more needed. Across Canada, social innovators have been tackling social issues using experimental approaches, such as human-centered design, social labs, prototyping, and ethnography.

These experimental techniques applied to social problems are what we call social R&D.

In March 2020, we invited Canadian changemakers using these approaches to share what they’ve learned. We wanted to hear from innovators who are testing new ideas on the ground and creating new evidence of what’s working and what isn’t. Five projects were awarded a $5,000 grant to tell their story.

As a result of COVID-19, the need to be connected and learn from each other has become an even more important part of how we will build the resilience we need to get to the other side.

We hope the articles, videos, and toolkits created by these organizations can provide knowledge and inspiration for other social innovators in Canada.

These are the five projects selected to receive the grants:

-NouLAB (NB)

For the past three years, NouLAB has been seeking to address economic immigration in New Brunswick both in rural and urban areas. The project is focused on developing a more inclusive economy in a province facing an ageing demographic and decreasing population.

NouLAB is a social innovation lab using systems thinking, design thinking, prototyping, and other approaches to develop solutions that better integrate New Brunswick’s labour force.


-Laboratoire Culture Inclusive / Exeko (QC)

The Laboratoire Culture Inclusive (which translates to “Inclusive Culture Laboratory” in English) seeks to understand and overcome the systemic injustices within cultural institutions, and develop concrete processes that put people affected by social exclusion at the center.

Their work combines traditional social science approaches with innovative methodologies borrowing from ethnography. They also involve all the stakeholders in workshops and forums as methodologies of co-construction of knowledge.


-Binogiinyag gaa bi giiwejig – Children Who Came Home (ON)

This initiative was created to support the healing process of Indigenous populations after the practice of mass removal of children from their families into residential schools known as the Sixties Scoop.

Techniques such as human-centered design have been used to engage the community in healing processes from intergenerational trauma, poverty, and other consequences of the colonial legacy.


-Fireweed Fellowship (National)

The Fireweed Fellowship, an initiative of Raven Indigenous Impact Fund, is focused on Indigenous excellence, abundance, and beauty. Working to address the lack of representation and support of Indigenous people in entrepreneurship and business ownership, they offer a unique, culturally appropriate accelerator program.

Years of community-led research have allowed them to develop the expertise and cultural integrity necessary to build a program that supports not only Indigenous communities and individuals, but that can help transform the economy as a whole.


-Old Strathcona Odd Jobs-Community Project / Jamii (AB)

Focused  in the Strathcona community  of Edmonton, Alberta, this project aims to bridge the divide between folks experiencing homelessness and/or extreme poverty and those who live, work, and run businesses in the area.

Ethnographic research, prototyping, and testing concepts are some of the methodologies used to develop a service that connects the vulnerable Strathcona population with meaningful work opportunities in their community, consequently developing an increased self-esteem, self-worth, and sense of belonging.


The case studies produced by these organizations will be developed throughout the year and will be published on SI Canada’s website. Stay tuned.

And if you’re working with Social R&D in your community, join us at Social R&D: A National Practice Gathering on June 16-17!


Image: courtesy of NouLAB


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