Social R&D Knowledge Product RFP Recipients

At the spring 2021 SI Canada National Social R&D Gathering we explored the question:

“How can we leverage social research & development to build a more inclusive economy; one that is regenerative, and centred on empathy?” 

This is the same question we asked ourselves as we put out a call for applicants to 3 granting streams around equity and accessibility of the social R&D sector last fall. We had over 90 applicants and were incredibly moved and impressed by the caliber and diversity of knowledge products proposed to help increase equity and accessibility in the field. We undertook a rigorous and community-informed review process to select 6 applicants to receive a total of $146,000 in funding.  

We are excited to share highlights of the projects the recipients are taking on, and we  hope the articles, videos, and toolkits created by these organizations can provide knowledge and inspiration for other social innovators and social R&D practitioners across Canada and beyond.

These six Canadian organizations have received between $21,500-$25,000 to share their learnings using Social R&D approaches in their communities:


Laura Gaaysiigad Cuthbert

Populous Map is an interactive way to experience the hidden history of British Columbia. Populous Map is a grassroots organization that cares about the history of BC. By looking at equitable, reciprocal relationships, Populous Map has been able to repatriate 24,000 items to Indigenous nations with a network of 400 volunteers. 

Laura from Populous Map is developing an equitable ethnography pack – a printable guide to support people doing peer-to-peer community-based research to check in on their own privilege, challenge their own biases and assumptions, and allow clear innovation and problem solving so that it’s led by the community they are supporting. This guide is also meant to allow the community to feel like experts in ethnography and experts in their own work so they can contribute to ethnography – and so we can level how people access and uplift their own voices when doing ethnographic research or documented research. This product will go through all of the phases of ethnography, and focus on building real relationships with communities. 


How We Thrive

How We Thrive is a learning organization, innovating and capturing learning in collaboration with the social innovation ecosystem in Nova Scotia. They are taking a deep dive into the “Nature of Hosting,” distilling lessons from the land, cultural practices, and emerging fields such as Re-authoring, Collective Trauma Healing, and Presencing. 

How We Thrive is developing a podcast series that weaves a multiplicity of voices around themes of The Visit, Forest, River, Fire and Wind, as well as an online resource portal for community facilitators and hosts. This series will be a jumping-off point for online collaborative meaning-making (re-authoring) about restorative ways of meeting and gathering. A summary paper that captures themes and learning while integrating first-person voices and key resources, will also be made available.


Mathura Mahendren

Mathura is a design researcher who has designed and conducted research projects with various organizations across Canada and internationally. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to conceptualize, design, test, iterate, and (where possible) train others on a set of research and facilitation tools, activities, and principles that support an increasingly intersectional and anti-oppressive research practice. Continuing to learn from and crediting the work of fellow BIPOC practitioners and facilitators (including Resmaa Menakem on racialized trauma, adrienne maree brown on Emergent Strategy, Prentis Hemphill on somatics, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson on Nishnaabeg knowledge systems, among others) serves as fertilizer for her evolving practice.

Mathura is developing a toolkit that can guide users through a brave and critical exploration of their identities, narratives, and practices as researchers. It is designed to prompt and hold difficult and perhaps uncomfortable conversations with oneself (and possibly with each other), while being mindful of individual boundaries around safety. The toolkit includes:

  • Invitations to researchers to explore their own lineage (who/what/where they come from) the stories they hold (about themselves, the people they are engaging, research, and the world overall), and how these beliefs impact their approach to research.
  • Meditations that unpack the ways in which persisting beliefs and “best practices” within social R&D can and do contribute to harm in the name of research.
  • Reflection questions that prompt researchers to critically examine their relationship to, and embodiment of, these beliefs and practices.
  • Activities that facilitate a structured yet compassionate exploration of the ways in which we are predisposed to cause harm as researchers operating within systems designed to cause harm.
  • Proposals on how we might begin to practice and embody alternative ways of doing the work of research, through approaches that center reciprocity over extraction.


Ecotrust Canada

Ecotrust Canada has long been a leader in social R&D, working with rural, remote and Indigenous communities for over 25 years to realize thriving, resilient, local economies. Ecotrust Canada’s Indigenous Home-Lands (IHL) initiative blends Social R&D practices with Indigenous-partner-led housing systems and economies, facilitating two Indigenous Housing Solutions Labs with two First Nations partners (Huu-ay-aht First Nations, and the Tŝilhqot’in Nation) in collaboration with RADIUS-SFU. 

With Yunesit’in First Nation, Ecotrust is working to create a culturally-appropriate evaluative framework and methodology that highlights diverse practices of social innovation and measures (in ways that are locally meaningful) how these practices serve as pathways toward self-determination and community empowerment. The materials that will be developed will reflect interviews with Yunesit’in members and leaders relating to examples of community social innovations, as well as metrics and methods to evaluate impacts that reflect the community’s values and priorities.


Okanagan Circular Society (OCS) and Wakopa Financial Collaboration

Over the last 6 months, the OCS Collaboration researched transitional economics from four diverse groups who are developing foundations for a just and sustainable future. Coupled with decolonial community psychology, informed by Indigenous and ecological psychologies, they developed an innovative 6-week process, called the Circle Entrepreneur Design Lab (CE DLab). Based in Kelowna, British Columbia, they invited a group of community members with diverse experience into the CE DLab to co-create a community platform that 1) builds unity and power at the local level; 2) Includes a new institution(s) that builds a future where people of all racial, social, gender, and economic backgrounds can excel; 3) restores labour to community ownership; 4) creates a community commons.

They are now incorporating a new Indigenous governance model that is currently being developed in Winnipeg, Manitoba and developing an interactive journey map on the process that they went through in deconstructing the hierarchical models and building circular practices and systems with Indigenous governance. Accompanied with the map, they are also developing tools that will help other communities that are looking at transitional economics, circular practices, systems, and community platforms. The knowledge product will most benefit those who are innovating with new economic and political systems that distribute power, foster psychological well-being, and co-create community wealth. 


River Stone Recovery Centre

River Stone Recovery Centre (RSRC) is a non-judgemental welcoming space providing evidence-based medical treatment for substance use disorder with a focus on harm reduction. Based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, RSRC is a safer supply pilot project funded under Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). 

The design of the Centre was a collaborative process, involving people with lived and living experience of substance use disorder and the core team of physicians, nurses, social workers, mental health workers, peer support workers, and administrative staff. RSRC opened in July 2020.

In September 2020, in response to the devastating impact that COVID-19 had on essential community services, the team established an emergency daytime drop in centre. After being moved from its initial location due to concerns from neighbouring businesses, the Centre found a new home, which was unfortunately closed in April 2021 after  zoning complications that prohibited its continued operation.

The knowledge product that RSRC is developing is a Social Research & Development Field Guide. The guide is being co-authored by individuals who were directly involved in the project to share lessons learned and practical resources to help others who are living and working at the intersection of substance use disorder, homelessness, mental illness, and poverty.



The case studies produced by these organizations are in active development and will be shared as they become available on our website. We can’t wait to learn from these incredible individuals and organizations. 



Related Stories