Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Huddart’

Why Vibrant Communities? 10 Reasons Why Canada Needs to Reduce Poverty

The following are some notes drawn from a speech I made at the Tamarack Poverty Reduction Summit in Ottawa, May 6.

Stephen-Huddart-authorJohn Wilson McConnell, who in 1935 established the Foundation for which I am privileged to work, was born in 1877 to Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada that same year, illiterate and bankrupt. Like many in those days, and millions more since, his family came hoping to find a better life here.

We now know that the promise of plenty that brought families like the McConnells to Canada – often with the offer of free or low-cost land – had devastating consequences for others. The colonial/settler era resulted in the systematic displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

Nevertheless, it is striking to consider that, starting out from such humble beginnings, by the time he was 50, McConnell had become, in all likelihood, the wealthiest person in Canada. How did that happen?

The advantages of coming of age in the 20th century

McConnell attended public school, and even in those days, Ontario’s schools were world class. As his biographer notes, “At the Paris Exhibition of 1887, the Ontario Department of Education won awards in six categories – more than Britain and the rest of the empire put together.” When his family moved from their farm in the Muskokas to Toronto – from rural to urban poverty – McConnell found work in the bookkeeping department of a dry goods trading company. He also took night courses at the YMCA. In this way he learned about business, and he soon began trading wood, wheat and other commodities.

rileycabin

The Muskoka cabin where McConnell grew up would have been almost identical to this one. Photo courtesy of Walker and Kapya Riley, circa 1889.

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Experiencing the shock of the possible in uncertain times…

Note: This article is cross-posted from the MaRS Discovery District and Social Innovation Generation (SiG), with permission from the authors. 

Guest post by Social Innovation Generation’s Tim Draimin, Executive Director and Kelsey Spitz, Communications and Research Associate.

Indeed these are uncertain times that we live in… ~Stephen Huddart

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.15.42 AMSpeaking to an over-200-person audience at MaRS Discovery District on November 24, Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, challenged the growing contemporary narrative that our future is bleak and looming ahead with daunting uncertainty.

Reminding us of a long history of Canadian precedents for testing systems-level innovation, and of the new big experiments underway today, Stephen invited us to experience the shock of the possible (a term coined by Eric Young).

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Reflections on the 2014 Evaluation Roundtable

Stephen-Huddart-authorLast week, the Foundation co-hosted [1] the Evaluation Roundtable in Montreal. This Washington DC-based network of some 30 US and Canadian foundations meets every 18 months to study a case in philanthropic strategy and evaluation, and this time the subject was Social Innovation Generation (SiG), the Foundation’s seven-year partnership with the University of Waterloo, MaRS Discovery District and Plan Institute. Its purpose is to foster a culture of continuous social innovation in Canada.

By many measures, SiG is a success.  Through a happy convergence of intent and circumstance the term social innovation is in wider use, and the partners, along with SiG’s national office, have contributed individually and collectively to Canada’s ability to address complex and persistent systemic challenges. Examples include SiG’s role in introducing impact investing and social labs; the first Ministry of Social Innovation, in BC; teaching and research into the nature of systemic change; the introduction of new philanthropic platforms such as Innoweave; and many more.

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Social Innovation Nation

Stephen-Huddart-authorRecent events suggest that the field of social innovation is maturing to the point where it is possible to envisage adaptive, evolutionary shifts in our social, economic, and environmental systems.

Consider: May 25-27, MaRS Solutions Lab (MSL) hosted Labs for Systems Change—the world’s first gathering of practitioners leading this type of work, with individuals from 30 countries. In her remarks to the gathering, Frances Westley— J.W. McConnell Chair in Social Innovation at the University of Waterloo—described how our understanding of psychology and group dynamics; design thinking; and complex adaptive systems theory—together with data analysis and computer modelling—affords us new ability to examine and improve institutional behaviour, and to generate testable solutions to wicked problems.

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