Frequently Asked Questions

What is SI Canada?

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.  

What is the history of Social Innovation Canada? 

In 2017 and 2018, a group of philanthropy and social 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.

What does Social Innovation Canada do?

SI Canada’s work focuses on convening, capacity building and storytelling. This means SI Canada connects people in person and virtually, develops learning resources, and shares stories of the work being done across this country to inspire others.

Complex problems are hard to solve. SI Canada aims to better connect innovators to tools, resources, and each other. Through knowledge and capacity building, storytelling, peer groups, opportunity matchmaking and impact measurement tools, SI Canada helps practitioners be their best, most effective, connected selves.

What is the connection to Centre for Social Innovation and to the Social Innovation Institute?

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.

How is SI Canada different from Social Innovation Generation?

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.

Is SI Canada a federal government thing? What is its relationship to the Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-Creation Steering Group?

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.

If you would like to learn more about that group and process, you can do so here. You can find their full list of recommendations here.

What is SI Canada’s relationship to the social enterprise sector and the Social Finance Fund?

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.

What is the the scope of SI Canada? How will it be different from existing networks?

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.

What will SI Canada do?

SI Canada’s work will be focused on convening, capacity building and storytelling.

Complex problems are are hard to solve. SI Canada aims to better connect us to tools, resources, and each other. Through knowledge and capacity building, storytelling, peer groups, opportunity matchmaking and impact measurement tools, SI Canada will help practitioners be their best, most effective, connected selves.  

Who is part of it?

We invite and encourage everyone and anyone working to make an impact who is interested in taking a social innovation approach to be part of SI Canada.

SI Canada believes in the power of local relationships. Our work recognizes that there has been incredible leadership in communities from coast to coast.  SI Canada has connected this existing leadership through a partnership of six regional nodes: RADIUS SFU in BC, ABSI Connect in Alberta, Social Enterprise Centre in Manitoba, Centre for Social Innovation in Ontario, LaMIS in Quebec, and Inspiring Communities in Atlantic Canada.  We look forward to more regional and sectoral leadership emerging and being able to further weave this work together more seamlessly. The origin of working through ‘nodes’ comes from The Constellation Model of Governance, a complexity-inspired framework designed to ‘hold’ collaborations within dynamic systems. 

There are also a number of existing communities of practice eager to join as nodes (indigenous, corporate, universities, etc) , and a few emerging around identified action areas (labs, social R&D). If you are part of an existing community of practice and want to learn more about forming an official node email hello@sicanada.org, or if you’re eager to join a community of practice make sure to get on our mailing list at SICanada.org

Who is it for?

Social Innovation Canada is an ecosystem effort, informed, designed and governed by practitioners. These practitioners encompass people and organizations from across sectors and geographies seeking to affect change at a systems level. They come from the grassroots, from the echelons of corporate power, they are front-line workers and process facilitators. They work at the community level, act as intermediaries and inside the highest levels of government. They work individually or come from across sectors, demographics and geographies. Some are at the beginning of their journey and others are experienced systems change agents. They come from social enterprise, nonprofits, labs, corporate social responsibility, academia and so much more. While many identify as being social innovators, others align or identify with their sector first and haven’t recognized that they too, are social innovators.

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. They know that to do this, they need to learn quickly, build connections, collaborations and capacity to align for greater social impact.

What is the structure of SI Canada?

We use an innovative constellation model of governance that pushes leadership to the most relevant and effective place, like an ecosystem. You can read more about that in our strategy roadmap. At the pan-Canadian level, the secretariat housed in the Social Innovation Institute, a registered charity, provides the administration infrastructure, staffing, and holds the legal accountability for the network. Things are still very emergent, but at the moment the highest level of guidance comes from the Guardians Group.

How did the six regional nodes get chosen?

We looked for who was already active in their regions and communities of practice.  Each of the nodes was already a leader in their field and expressed interest in collaborating. There is no limit on the number of nodes in SI Canada and anyone is welcome to form a new one. Nodes should be:

    • building capacity locally, regionally and nationally on social innovation by supporting innovators
    • engaging in ecosystem building
    • connected into a local ecosystem and have existing regional networks
    • focused on social innovation in its broadest understanding
    • open to working collaboratively
    • have a strong commitment to inclusive innovation
    • aligned in terms of mission and strategy
    • working on systems change

Can I join? How do I view and join thematic groups?

Yes! The best way to join us on this journey right now is to connect with the emerging network through our mailing list or social media. Links are available on our temporary website at SICanada.org. A more robust membership service will be available when the new website  is launched in 2019.

What is the offering?

You! First and foremost, the SI Canada network is an ecosystem of practitioners connecting to each other to learn, share and align.

SI Canada will host and convene innovators across Canada, and will facilitate storytelling, knowledge sharing, capacity building and more.

How is SI Canada structured and who makes the decision?

We use an innovative constellation model of governance that pushes leadership to the most relevant and effective place, like an ecosystem. You can read more about that in our strategy roadmap. At the pan-Canadian level, the secretariat housed in the Social Innovation Institute, a registered charity, provides the administration infrastructure and holds the legal accountability for the network. Things are still very emergent, but at the moment the tactical level of guidance comes from the Stewardship Group, which is comprised of the six regional hubs, and a Guardians Group holds the highest level of guidance on SI Canada’s direction.

How do I become a constellation?

Constellations are formed somewhat organically and are often time limited. Nodes are more permanent. At the moment there are six founding nodes: the Regional Hubs which emerged from the cross country engagement process. We plan to create constellations around communities of practice which also came forward during the engagement process later in 2019. How exactly more are brought in is still an open question, but in the meantime if you want to put your hand up to join in the future you can email hello@sicanada.org.

What is SI Canada working on?

Between fall 2018 and spring 2019, we’ll be working on the collaborative infrastructure, the people, processes and technical systems we need in order to deliver on these ideas. We’re figured out governance, we’ve hired a Director, we’ve developed a communications and engagement strategy, we’ve made great progress on the digital platform and are knitting together the tools that already exist.

I still have questions, who should I talk to?

This network is built on the ideas of emergence and distributed leadership, which creates great potential for the ecosystem to produce the most effective outcomes. But of course the tension is that many official policies don’t yet exist and may never exist. This is by design, and far from perfect, but we believe it is better than a top down system of governance based on inflexible rules. That means we may not have the answers you’re looking for yet, but we’re always open to starting a conversation. Email hello@sicanada.org