Introducing Social Innovation Canada
A robust, connected, social innovation ecosystem inspires new efforts to illuminate relationships between social innovators, bringing together key parts so they can combine to create a much greater whole.
We are at a powerful tipping point for a social innovation ecosystem in Canada that can lead to widespread social and environmental change. To make this possible, we need to pay greater attention to both the whole and to the parts. We need to create the collaborative infrastructure to connect, support and enable social innovators to maximize the potential for change.
Social Innovation Canada is working to provide the collaborative infrastructure to strengthen Canada’s social innovation ecosystem, empowering people, organizations and systems with the tools, knowledge, skills and connections that they need to solve real and complex problems.
To see how we got here, have a look at Findings From The Field.
The SI Canada team consists of a small ‘secretariat’ team at the national/operations level, working in partnership with regional ‘nodes‘ or host partners in various parts of Canada. Each node has a ‘weaver’. These ‘weavers’ are natural networks who are responsible for convening regional gatherings and learning events to revel, share, unlock, and enable people, organization and systems to thrive. They meet regularly and work together to reflect the vibrancy, diversity and knowledge that is emerging from coast to coast.
Director of Social Innovation Canada – Toronto, ON
What unites these practitioners is the shared desire to bring a systems lens to their work so that they can achieve a real and substantive impact in the world.
Shayna Rector Bleeker
Program Manager – Vancouver, BC
As program manager I help social innovators in Canada find the people, resources and knowledge they need – creating a stronger ecosystem.
Community Engagement Weaver – Vancouver, BC
My role to connect those who are innovating for survival, those who are innovating for progress, and those who don’t yet know they’re innovating.
Social Innovation Canada (SI Canada) is an inclusive, emerging network of social innovators: people and organizations with a focus on social change, through systems change, across Canada. It will connect and empower them with the social innovation tools, knowledge and skills they need to solve real and complex problems. SI Canada will build inclusive and open ecosystem for people and planet first by leveraging and connecting existing assets, using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and focusing on action.
In the summer of 2017, the McConnell Foundation approached the Centre of Social Innovation with a mission: to undertake a cross-country discovery process that would engage hundreds of stakeholders and find out if social innovation practitioners wanted to build a network. This new network would carry the torch and inherit the assets of Social Innovation Generation, following their planned sunset in December of that year. SI Canada is the result of that process.
In 2017 and 2018, a group of sector leaders connected with hundreds of Canadian social innovation practitioners from coast to coast, and listened. Their process revealed that the sector is too fragmented and disconnected to effectively learn from one another, and scale solutions broadly and quickly. SI Canada was then created to address the needs identified during that process. You can read the whole story about that year here.
A secretariat holds the legal responsibility for the network, and is currently housed within the Social Innovation Institute (SII), a registered charity affiliated with the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI).
CSI is a nonprofit social enterprise that has grown from the ground up and is now home to hundreds of social purpose organizations in Ontario.. With 15 years of experience in community and sector building, social enterprise and systems change work, CSI has been a key convening force behind the creation of SI Canada. CSI and its SII affiliate, recognize how vital it is that we build on the work of SIG while also ensuring that social innovation’s future be more accessible, inclusive and rooted in community than ever before. You can read more about CSI’s leadership in this area here.
SiG was designed to function as a “living laboratory where we can experiment with a different way of telling a story, learning new practices for tipping or changing systems, and the creation of new possibilities for building resilience.” SiG was a valuable and trailblazing organization that laid the foundation for SI Canada. SI Canada is the torchbearer of those lessons, and it is focused on helping this growing field develop them and putting them into practice. SI Canada will function as the collaborative infrastructure that connects the existing work being done by Canada’s many labs and leaders, and as a platform for learning, collaboration and wayfinding. If SiG was a university lab, we’re more like a professional association for social innovators.
SI Canada recognizes how vital it is to ensure that we build on the work of SIG while also ensuring that social innovation’s future be more accessible, inclusive and rooted in community than ever before.
No, SI Canada was born of civil society: foundations, non-profits, charities, social programs inside universities. We envision SI canada to be multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder. Although there are many collaborators inside federal and provincial governments, there is no official connection to the federal government.
SI Canada is does, independently, build on the general momentum of, and is working to address many of the recommendations of the Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-Creation Steering Group, which itself came from a separate and Canada-wide process meant to gain perspective on:
- the skills and capacity of community organizations and governments to pursue social innovation and social finance, including their capacity to measure social outcomes and impact;
- federal laws, regulations and policies that have an impact on the ability of community organizations to participate in social innovation and social finance initiatives; and
- access to the capital needed to fund, replicate and expand the reach of social innovation and social finance projects.
There is no formal relationship. Our definition of social innovation is very broad: we see that social innovation happens through markets, collaborations, policy changes, culture, education and more. We recognize the incredible power of social enterprise and social finance to create market solutions, but we see social innovation being inherently broader in its tactics, and primarily focused on systems change as its objective.
Social Innovation means a lot of things – everything from design thinking to social enterprise, collaboration to labs. We are using the broadest possible definition of social innovation – new ideas for a better world – and recognize that some fields within this broad umbrella are already quite organized. For example, we see the social enterprise and finance space and the nonprofit/charitable spaces already having well established networks and supports within them.
SI Canada seeks to connect to these existing networks where they already exist and not duplicate what they are already doing. SI Canada network Weavers are drawn from existing networks and are embedded in existing organizations for better integrations. SI Canada’s “many communities of practice, one network” approach will provide cross-disciplinary collaboration opportunities to practitioners, all in one place.