Archive for 2016

A Nation Healing Through Stories

By Pam Chookomoolin. 


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.


Is our playbook out of date?

by Vinod Rajasekaran



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).   (more…)

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. 

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.


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.


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

By Elvira Truglia


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.


Cities for People + Getting to collective impact

Read the original article, Ten Key Ingredients for Collective Impact: Powering Town Halls for Societal Change, by Indy Johar, Imandeep Kaur, and Orestes Chouchoulas on Dark Matter Laboratories.

One of the goals set out by the Cities for People initiative during its inception over three years ago was to shake up the ways in which we work in cities. How? By approaching big issues from a thematic, collaborative, multi-sectoral angle, rather than on a project-by-project (setting out objectives and following a linear timeline to tackle one facet at a time) basis. The ‘experiment’ laid out in the first phase of Cities for People, which wrapped up in summer 2015, was to see how taking a thematic approach would enable us to identify ways to scale up, out, and deep – on the kind of ‘wicked problems’ cities are faced with, from inequality to housing to public spaces. Underpinning this effort was the belief that lasting change comes from individuals and organizations, often in different sectors (public, private, nonprofit), working deeply together to drawing out commonalities and symbioses that lead to breakthrough moments. This concept is easy to agree upon, but can be difficult to put into practice: how do we actually work in this way to transcend traditional partnerships that quickly become removed from the problem with which they’re trying to address? This article lays out ten essential pieces of the collective impact puzzle necessary to develop a practice of deep collaboration.


The energy behind collective action (referred to variably as Collective Impact, Collective Innovation, and Collective Change) is fundamentally rooted in the understanding that meaningful change is increasingly not in the hands of any single organisation. No single actor is able to bring about structural impact in terms of addressing life outcomes, health outcomes, alleviating poverty, or even creating new connected products and services. Whether seen from an interventional perspective or a political and organisational legitimacy perspective, the complex interdependencies at the heart of our largest challenges are not addressable by agents acting in isolation. It is increasingly recognised that impact at these scales requires us to build open, large, diverse, multi-sector coalitions committed to a shared mission, common accountability, allied political intent (small “p” politics), and change at a systems level. These open movements seek to work beyond individual agendas, missions, and activity to leverage our collective capacity for organised and coordinated agency but also to manage and moderate the “unintended aggregative consequences” of our siloed individual decisions.

When many citizens and organisations band together in pursuit of common objectives they generate new kinds of power, agency, and innovation.

Some see Collective Impact as nothing new?—?just partnerships rebadged and rebranded. We would argue that this misses the point. Collective Impact is not about partnerships between a handful of key institutions sitting in a closed board room but rather about a new architecture for movements of citizens and organisations numbering in the hundreds. Collective Impact is a fundamentally different social scaling theory that changes everything. Collective impact represents a different politics of change that transcends partnerships between a sample of stakeholders and looks to all-embracingmovements.

Therefore, inevitably Collective Impact requires new models of planning, organising, and financing. While we continue to invent them, we have identified a few key ingredients:

1. An authentic invitation to a shared challenge

The core momentum behind mobilisation en masse comes from a genuine and authentic invitation to address a shared challenge that many of us face consistently. There is beauty and great potential in the energy generated by individually motivated participants joining forces.


Indigenous Innovation: The Moose Hide Campaign

Laurence Blog Author_EN

In 2011, during a father-daughter moose-hunting trip along BC’s Highway of Tears, Paul Lacerte and his daughter Raven – members of the Carrier First Nation – were discussing the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, and what they could do to help. “What if we could invite men to wear a moose hide patch in recognition of the need to protect women and children from violence?” they wondered. Five years and 250,000 moose hide squares later, they are about to bring their successful Moose Hide Campaign from BC and Alberta to the national level. On the eve of its October 5 launch in Ottawa, Paul and Raven speak about the journey so far…

“We were cleaning out a moose and talking about all of the murdered and missing Indigenous women. We wanted to do something, to be part of creating a safer place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and children,” Raven explains.

That day, Raven and her father decided to take the moose hide home, tan it, and cut it into squares that men could wear to demonstrate that they were taking a stand against violence. When men wear them, they are pledging accountability to the women and girls in their lives. Wearing a moosehide square also leads to conversations with strangers about the need to end violence. As the movement grew in BC, men began forming regular discussion circles. The BC legislature joined in, and the BC Regional Division of the RCMP has joined the campaign.

“It was powerful to have the RCMP take part”, says Paul. “Spousal abuse is not unknown in the force, and this acknowledgement, along with officers’ commitment to wear the moosehide patch, shows how seriously they take their role in reducing violence.”  (more…)

The round-up: the dark and light of Future Food

Beth-2014-1The past six months have provided us with a wonderful kaleidoscope of visions of future food — thought packages from a dozen leaders, thinkers and writers, published on our blog site every two weeks. I have had the privilege of knowing most of the writers for some time, and yet these pieces have revealed surprising reflections and new lessons. To wrap up the series, I revisited the blogs as a whole and offer some highlights and reflections riffing off them — quoting shamelessly with the aim of enticing readers (back) into their stories and nuggets of wisdom.

Our bloggers say that the future of food is dark and light.


Dark, because many of our current practices, culture and systems are proving to be destructive of our health, environment and communities. We see this in Indigenous communities whose traditional relationship to agriculture, land and food heritage has been disrupted, and who often suffer from food insecurity; in a seafood world mired by facelessness; in toxic junk food ads for KFC’s finger-lickin’ good nail polish; and in weather patterns which are now unpreventable, which for some farmers will be difficult or impossible to adapt to.


Major step for social enterprise in Canada: Federal Government launches social enterprise directory

Guest blog by David LePage, Principal, Accelerating Social Impact CCC:ASI. This post originally appeared on the Accelerating Social Impact CCC website. It has been republished here with the author’s permission.

With little fanfare the Federal government has taken a major step forward in supporting the social enterprise sector – providing clarity on a definition and supporting the development of a national directory.

The directory defines social enterprise as “an enterprise that seeks to achieve social, cultural or environmental aims through the sale of goods and services. The social enterprise can be for-profit or not-for-profit but the majority of net profits must be directed to a social objective with limited distribution to shareholders and owners.”


The Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development’s definition is clearly signalling that from their perspective a social enterprise has to blend a community impact and insure the majority of profits are also reinvested in community. Rather than looking at a corporate structure, they have opted for a performance based model, which allows several different corporate forms to be included – if the purpose and the structure both align with and meet this definition.

social enterprise


Who gets to decide the future of food?

Guest blog by Nick Saul, President & CEO, Community Food Centres Canada

Nick Saul_Blog Author ENThe first thing you notice in the ad campaign is the model’s index finger stuck suggestively in her mouth, fingernails painted in alternating shades of orange and taupe. The slogan: “Finger Lickin’ Good.” It’s an advertisement, I quickly learned, for KFC’s brand new edible nail polish, which comes in two chickeny flavours: original, and hot and spicy. I’m not afraid to admit that this toxic junk food ad nearly had me—an inveterate optimist—coming close to despair for the state of our food system.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The way we currently move food from field to table often seems hell-bent on making us sick, damaging the planet and dividing us as citizens. Fast food companies worldwide spend billions of dollars a year to hook us on fat, sugar and salt (marketers behind the edible nail polish told the New York Times the product is an attempt to “remind the younger generation” of “the great taste and good times the brand stands for.”) Corporate agricultural giants grow larger and more predatory, pushing low-impact, regional, non-chemical approaches to the sidelines. And as we see every day at Community Food Centres Canada, four million Canadians struggle simply to put food on their table.

Yet, despite all of this—despite, even, the end-is-nigh portent of chicken-flavoured nail polish—I continue to believe that the future of food doesn’t have to be so dim. A different world is possible so long as we can mobilize enough people to push for it.

The Table Community Food Centre - After School Program 2014 #2 (David Zimmerly) (1)

Of course, a paradigm shift has been brewing for some time. Farmers, chefs, home cooks, foodies, beekeepers, health care reformers and advocates for low-income people are the canaries in the coal mine, sounding the warning about the unsustainability of this bloated, inequitable and unhealthy food system. We’ve seen an explosion of farmers markets, CSAs, and 100-mile restaurants. More and more people are gardening, eating local, and working to regain lost cooking skills,