Why a Study Tour in Boston?

Boston is home to cutting-edge initiatives in social entrepreneurship (EforAll, the MassChallenge); neighbourhood revitalization and civic innovation (The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Roxbury Innovation Center); and youth engagement and social innovation (YouthBuild, DesignX-MIT and Mission Hill School). The city also inspires practitioners who have done extensive research in sustainability, smart cities and inclusion. Boston is not only an innovation hub, it is also one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the United States. From the historic streets of nearby Cambridge to the artistic Victorian town houses of Black Bay, the city suits a variety of lifestyles.

From November 14 to 16, 2016, a group of 28 Canadian innovators met with representatives from 13 Boston changemaking organizations and professors from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University to share expertise and feedback on how to build more inclusive, resilient and innovative cities. Believing that agents of city change come from all sectors and walks of life, the itinerary catered to a diverse group of stakeholders involved in city-making: entrepreneurs, researchers, community leaders and members of the private sector. Having a multidisciplinary group allowed us to learn different approaches to tackle similar issues.

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From Non-Profit to a For-Charity Business: An Innovative Funding Model for a Good Cause

By Justin Scaini, Capitalize for Kids

Every non-profit or charity has its own unique challenges it must overcome to provide great services, and keep the doors open. The one challenge almost all organizations can relate to is finding funding. Each institution has its own “secret sauce” for how to attract dollars. Whether it’s government funding, individual donations, corporate partnerships, a social enterprise, or other models of funding, each organization looks for funds that will work in its unique context.

Capitalize for Kids was founded in 2013, and was built around a unique funding method that has helped us become financially sustainable. We built the organization as a business first. We are a non-profit, but we think of ourselves as a for charity business.

We designed the organization with a specific attention to what product or service people will pay for that will specifically benefit and add value to them or their businesses. Rather than rewarding a specific group of shareholders, we allocate funds to children’s brain and mental health research, and run a capacity-building consulting program for evidence-based mental health service providers.

Every year we host Canada’s top Investors Conference.

We welcome over 20 money managers to speak about their best investment ideas in front of over 400 senior executives at the top banks, pensions, and family offices. This event raises about $1.5 million annually, and to date we have raised over $4 million for the cause. Everyone is at the conference because it benefits their business. We only use about 15 minutes of this two-day event to talk about children’s brain and mental health.

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Cities Reducing Poverty | Bringing All Voices To The Table

By: Megan Wanless, Senior Community Animator

Poverty is a complex issue. It’s an issue that cannot be approached in isolation or solved by a select few – it effects everyone, is experienced by people in different ways, and involves a significant number of interrelated elements and stakeholders. We know this. We know that when working on complex problems, such as poverty, finding comprehensive solutions requires communities to come together to leverage and better understand their assets – knowledge, experience, skills and resources – to truly see and act on the issue from all angles.

Momentum around the importance of bringing everyone to the table to combat complex issues has been growing over the years, particularly with the introduction of collective impact in 2011 (See: Kania and Kramer, 2011). Over the last 15 years Vibrant Communities Canada (a division of the Tamarack Institute) has been building a network of cities committed to working collaboratively to reduce poverty. Cities Reducing Poverty is a collective impact movement of 57 member cities or regions who together aim to reduce poverty through local interventions at the individual and household levels and through policy and systems changes. These local, multi-sector initiatives are bolstered by provincial and territorial poverty reduction strategies and by the federal government’s recent mandate to develop a Canadian poverty reduction strategy. Together, we are in the midst of a country-wide movement to overcome poverty.

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Ancient stories, new technology: Indigenous media treads new ground

by Cara McKenna

Ryan McMahon is finding power in voices with Makoons Media Group 

Now is the time for Indigenous people to break new ground in media, says Janet Rogers, who has worked in radio for a decade. Rogers hosts a show called Native Waves Radio on CFUV in Victoria. “We’re picking up these tools on our own and without the colonized filter, we’re kind of fumbling our way towards creating and maintaining a voice through the medium of podcasting.”

It’s not a simple task, says Ryan McMahon, founder of Makoons Media Group, whose best known success to date is the Indian & Cowboy podcast network. “White people have always controlled the gaze … and that gaze has always exploited us and our weaknesses,” he says. McMahon wants to change this and is scaling up his vision of an Indigenous podcast network, with support from the Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund (IIDF).    

The Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund provides support to organizations seeking to develop or expand their Indigenous social innovation and social enterprise. The Fund was created through a partnership of the National Association of Friendship Centres, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

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Montreal subway cars get new life and revitalize public space

By Elvira Truglia 

Montreal’s South West is in the midst of transformation. Some residents have had roots in the borough for generations, while others have flocked to the area attracted by new housing as well as business opportunities.

Two young entrepreneurs want to create a unique space in the borough that will pay homage to Montreal’s history while opening up space for locals to mix and enjoy the arts. Brothers Frédéric and Etiénne Morin-Bordeleau are going to integrate eight Montreal métro cars, called the MR-63, into a three-storey sculpture that will house a community space, café-bar and art gallery. Montreal’s transport agency (STM) approved Project MR-63 along with six other submissions to repurpose the retiring metro cars after putting out a call for submissions in the spring.

With the brothers’ goal to make art accessible, MR-63 will be a place for emerging and established artists to exhibit their work. It’s one of the reasons South West borough Mayor, Benoit Dorais enthusiastically endorsed the project.

A new public space for a borough in transition 

Art is seen as the equalizer for the borough with mixed social backgrounds. “I think we need to be able to provide locations where there will be opportunities for all people to rub shoulders,” says Dorais. He sees MR-63 as a way “to promote the arts while respecting the history of the neighbourhood, the history of the South West, and the history of Montreal”.

Locating the MR-63 building in the Quartier de l’innovation (QI), a district in the southwest of the city that straddles Montreal’s cultural, artistic, economic, technological and multimedia boundaries, seems like a logical fit.

He thinks the innovative sculptural form of the building will act as the calling card but that people will stay and return because of its functionality.

Exhibits will give visibility to local artists who will also be given opportunities to build their capacity to market their art and run their own businesses.

The café-bar will introduce people to locally produced food and eco-friendly vendors. The community space will also host public events, and will be available to rent for private events.

“In short, what we want to do is to use MR-63 to animate public space,” says Dorais.

 

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A Nation Healing Through Stories

By Pam Chookomoolin. 

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Photo credit: Brandon MacLeod

I’ve read that no great work can be done without knowledge. They say knowledge is power. My own path towards enlightenment and empowerment has led to both personal and communal healing through two of the most powerful tools we know: storytelling and sharing.

My first few steps down this particular path started in the spring of 2015, as the thick ice of the Winisk River began to break up and flow past my hometown of Peawanuck, ON. It was then I signed on with the Indigenous Reporters Program. Peawanuck, located 32 kilometres upriver from Hudson Bay, is one of 13 remote First Nation communities in northern Ontario where the program, developed by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), has operated to date.

Journalism has, for me, become a very empowering tool, through which I create and share my own stories with my neighbours, community and across Canada. Journalism offered new knowledge, an opportunity to build on my own skills, and be a part of the changing landscape of Canadian media — a landscape that is slowly beginning to reflect the true history and demographics of Canada and contribute to the healing of a nation.

I did not always see the bigger picture or the critical role Indigenous journalists can play in supporting reconciliation by sharing their stories from their perspectives. Signing up, I thought it was just journalism theory, but within a few weeks, with hands-on training, we were already sharing stories and discussing the potential positive impact journalism can have.

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Is our playbook out of date?

by Vinod Rajasekaran

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Canada spends over $300 billion annually on social outcomes, according to the OECD. Our fast-evolving societal challenges — ranging from mental health, Indigenous communities’ access to quality education, and a lack of affordable housing — demand equally fast-paced and nimble research, learning, experimental and replicating approaches so people can access the best possible services, supports and solutions, no matter where they live in Canada.

 

This is where R&D comes in.

 

Canada’s not-for-profit, charitable, B Corp, and social enterprise organizations have built strong capabilities in volunteer management, donor stewardship, and program delivery, among other things. Along with an appreciation and celebration of these competencies, there is increasing consensus that social change in the 21st century requires an additional strong capacity and capability in research and development, or R&D.

Just as R&D in the business world drives new and improved products and services, R&D can also help social mission organizations generate significant and rapid advancements in services and solutions that change lives. However, currently only a small proportion of social mission organizations repeatedly incorporate a wide range of new knowledge (like insights into how the brain works and how positive behaviours can be encouraged) or new technologies (like machine learning) or new processes (like human centred design).   Read the rest of this entry »

Social Innovation and the Serious Business of Play

Guest blog by Joanne Benham Rennick, PhD, Executive Director, Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation, Wilfrid Laurier University. This blog originally appeared on the RECODE website. It has been republished here with their permission. 

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I played a game of ping pong last week that made me laugh so hard I was in tears. It was not your typical ping pong game (should you have one). Instead, it involved three people at each end of the table. The first person served the ball, then ran to the other end to receive it back from the second person. That person then sprinted off to make the third return, and so on until there were six bodies racing around the room with tiny paddles and desperate looks on their sweaty faces. The skill level was not high so ingenuity and adaptation was critical. A missed ball had to be chased down and banked off the wall or ceiling to get it back in play. A hit into the net required a sideways grab and tap to avoid the imminent crash. Innocent bystanders had to be avoided. There was grunting, sliding, wild paddle swings, crash avoidance efforts, and high-speed dodging. One player took a ping pong ball to the back of her calf that left a small, bright-red welt. But what was most memorable about the evening was the incredible, child-like laughter that erupted.

Reflecting on the experience a little later, I realized with some surprise that I hadn’t laughed that hard in a very long time. I am very fortunate to do a job I love with people I respect and appreciate. I get to work with students and colleagues that are full of energy and enthusiasm for generating positive change. We work on big, complex issues and we take our work seriously. We think a lot about poverty, inadequate social supports, climate change, species loss, discrimination and all the other complex issues our society faces. We work unceasingly to support students and community members trying to innovate solutions that are transformative yet achievable. When I thought about that ping pong game I felt a little ashamed that I got so much pleasure out of such a seemingly unproductive activity.

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Getting to Reconciliation: why tension and discomfort is a step forward

Last week I attended the second Building Reconciliation Forum. This annual two-day gathering examines the role of post-secondary in implementing the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I was there to listen and to learn.

The Forum was an eye-opening and heart-wrenching experience, with speaker after speaker outlining the impacts of Canada’s colonial and genocidal treatment of Indigenous Peoples. These testimonies were in both first and third person, and they were always from the heart. I am grateful and appreciative to have been there and humbled by the courage of the survivors who shared their stores.

Truth be told, I am just starting to understand the extent to which the trauma of residential schools permeates so much of present day Indigenous lives. In the words of University of Alberta Deputy Provost Wendy Rodgers, “awareness of residential schools and the impact of colonization is less an epiphany and more of a quiet awakening”.

Simply put, we are on a journey together and can’t independently get to solutions, let alone reconciliation.

What was also an eye-opener for me was the consistency with which the pathway to reconciliation was identified as a two-way street. This being an academic conference, there were many definitions of reconciliation put forward, but all agreed that authentic relationships will be at the heart of reconciliation. Simply put, we are on a journey together and can’t independently get to solutions, let alone reconciliation.

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Students bring their talents and skills to community projects through Vancouver’s LEDlab

By Elvira Truglia

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This fall, the Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab) gave the green light for a new group of students to start working on community projects in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. An award-winning community-university partnership between Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS Simon Fraser University, LEDlab works with community partners to jump-start ideas by matching graduate students to non-profit organizations for eight months. Students use this incubation period to help launch or scale new and innovative ideas. The added human resources LEDlab provides allows the community partners to try new things in a safe environment and to learn from and support each other in the process.

“One of the largest reasons that ideas don’t take off is it is difficult to access funding to develop the idea, and dedicate staff or resources to them,” says LEDlab’s manager, Kiri Bird. “We provide the human capacity to advance the idea, sometimes with a technical or business skillset that the non-profit might not have in-house.”

Brandon Toews, an MBA student at SFU with an arts background, is one of the four students in the cohort, funded through Mitacs, a national non-profit supporting research and training across Canada.

Before joining LEDlab, Brandon Toews says he was extremely troubled “to see the lack of resources that were available to marginalized and vulnerable communities and to see how often they were overlooked or outright ignored”.

He’s now happy to be involved with the Binners’ Project, a grassroots initiative in the Downtown Eastside with the goal to become “a project once led by support staff, that over time becomes one led by the binners and for the binners.

“I want people to know that binning is a legitimate living, people work hard for it,” says Michael Leland who has been collecting redeemable containers in the Downtown Eastside for the last 11 years.

Now a team leader with the Binners’ Project, the 58-year-old former commercial fisherman wants to remove the social stigma associated with “binning,” the term for collecting and reselling recyclable materials.

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