Tag Archives: MaRS

3rd Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise – Policy Forum – Pillars 4 & 5 – Increasing Awareness and Demonstrating Value & Facilitating Networking Among Stakeholders

I had a meeting with an important emerging social enterprise during these sessions. Further, as Great minds Global is working collaboratively with a Senior Advisor at MaRS on these very issues I felt it was appropriate to take the meeting instead. In the coming weeks I will explain further the details of our work in these important areas.

To develop a detailed policy priority the SECC conducted a survey of participants. Of the approximately 155 people who participated in the conference this pillar had only 71 respondents.

For increasing awareness and demonstrating value it was decided that the following were priorities:

  • Promote the role of social enterprises to different audiences – private and public sector, educators, investors and others
  • Develop an inventory of existing approaches to measuring and demonstrating the value of social enterprise, and
  • Engage the education sector along with other sectors in creating awareness and demonstrating value of social enterprise.

Pillar 5 also had 71 respondents.

For networking among stakeholders it was decided that the following were priorities:

  • Create networking opportunities between social enterprise and traditional business
  • Create an inclusive and loose network of networks that is flexible enough to pursue policy priorities, and
  • Engage federal and provincial governments to recognize and support social enterprise and social innovation networks in the construction of public policy.

John Moody once said: “Yet the railroad speedily demonstrated its practical value; many of the first lines were extremely profitable, and the hostility with which they had been first received soon changed to an enthusiasm.”

Gandhi once said: “A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.

The next post will address Pillar 6 or providing the supportive infrastructure and legislative environment.

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3rd Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise Gathering at the Centre for Social Innovation

From November 18th through 20th the 3rd CCSE was co-sponsored by the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, Causeway, SiG and MaRS.

I would like to thank Anne Jamieson, Sarah Lang and Tonya Surman of the SECC and Allyson Hewitt of SiG for the kind invitation to be included in this important national policy dialogue.

On the evening of November 18th the Centre for Social Innovation hosted a diverse collection of people for a lively gathering. Canadians from far and wide came together along with a wonderful group of participants from The Democratic Republic of Congo to learn more about each other and social enterprise.

The guest speaker was the Right Honourable Paul Martin who spoke eloquently about the need to create an enabling environment for social enterprise in Canada.

Mr. Martin, as a champion for social enterprise in Canada, demonstrated that a currently absent legitimacy is standing in the way of advancements. Without that legitimacy it remains difficult to attract the necessary capital to expand the impact of social enterprise across this country.

Explaining his dismay that the Americans are ahead of Canada in this important area he spoke of  new vehicles for investment such as the L3C (low profit limited liability corporation) that have enabled the ramp up of social enterprise.

In a particularly poignant moment Mr. Martin said: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Let’s get this out there and not let divisiveness between us become a weapon.”

Further explaining that social enterprise and its champions have to stop being: “so damn polite.” A unified voice is required to rise up and assert the role social enterprise is playing in transforming individuals, employment opportunities and GDP.

Finally Mr. Martin illustrated the importance of demonstrating to governments that social enterprise is not looking for handouts. Instead, it is looking for a level playing field, in so doing social enterprise can flourish, continuing its transformative role in society.

The next posts will detail the key elements of discussion about social enterprise at the policy forums of the 3rd CCSE.

A great champion of Social Enterprise, Liam Black: “Be bold. Take risks. Don’t get caught up in the self-referential loop of entitlement that discourse about social enterprise too often becomes.”

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Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and the Public Policy Forum Event 8 of 8: “Accelerating Social Innovation: Smart Ideas for Canada”

The decision makers present Tuesday, November 10th  at MaRS indicated active engagement in determining the current and future roles that social innovation would have in solving ‘wicked problems.’

Collectively acknowledging that social innovation is: “urgently needed to address the complex social and ecological challenges facing Canada and the world.”

The level of discourse that MaRS, SiG and the Public Policy Forum jump started resulted in further understanding of social innovation. What follows is a series of questions that result from the day.

Throughout social innovation was identified with a complex set of processes requiring mechanisms for collaboration. It is clear, that integration across broad sectors, with varying interests, cannot be viewed as simple. Yet, Canadians, time and again, have shown that as a Nation we are capable of incredible inspired creativity leading to innovations.

The Public Policy Forum, engaging this discourse states: “re-engaging vulnerable populations – those traditionally excluded from the creative or problem – solving process, has a positive impact on our shared capacity for innovation and will add to the resilience of the whole.”

Questions Resulting from Event

Does social innovation need to have such complexity?

As innovation is the desired output would it not serve Canada better to simplify and make easier mechanisms for the development of processes, systems and collaborations?

How do we best aid integration?

Are best practices opening the door to the development of next practices?

If so, what can be done to accelerate those practices?

What successes can we build upon? MaRS? SiG? SIC?

What areas offer the greatest opportunities in social innovation for rapid deployment?

How can we better identify the big ideas?

What is the best way to deploy resources in response to those big ideas?

What are the stories of social innovation? Social Capital Partners? Social Venture Partners? Right to Play?

How do we tell them better?

Who do we tell them to?


Given the definition used for this forum is commercialization a necessary precursor for initial development?

What does the government need from those in this dialogue to allow for new measures creating greater capital flows into social ventures?

What do investors need to direct more capital to social ventures?

Is it solely a matter of tax incentives and ROI or are there new metrics that can be applied that will satisfy?

Acknowledging the urgency to action how do we enable government, business, not for profit and academia to work collaboratively simpler, faster and better?

“Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries. Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren’t there before.” Margaret J. Wheatley

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Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and the Public Policy Forum Event 7 of 8: “Accelerating Social Innovation: Smart Ideas for Canada”

The previous six posts suggest accelerating social innovation is an essential notion for Canada. The Public Policy Forum created a useful definition for social innovation:

Social innovation is the successful application of new ideas in way that produce positive social, environmental, and cultural outcomes. Social innovation can be an initiative, product, process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any system. Successful social innovations have durability and broad impact.”

Recognizing it is important for a deeper societal collaboration and sound societal initiatives. And, we know and respect that we are also part of a global family and we can care as deeply about Africa and Asia as we do our Canada, taking steps now to ensure sustainability.

Social innovations to which we collectively aspire are addressing big issues for our time. These social innovations also require much: innovation thinking, sound initiatives well-implemented and societal changes. These social innovations also require champions and personal participation from the rich diversity of our multi-cultural nation in ways that take these ideas and guide them improving life for all Canadians, and our global family.

It is recognized that the need exists for greater capacity building – in government, the not for profit and profit worlds – and collaboration will always be a central consideration.

Just as there are risks from doing nothing, risks too apply to innovation. By its nature innovation embodies risk, and on occasion, creative failure. Yet, which is the greater risk for Canada, and the global family?

Convergence coincident with ever-greater technological advancements make imperative that we tell our story better – our dialogue and actions demand better communications for a wider audience, including non specialized groups and communities.

Social innovators across Canada are and can stand upon the shoulders of those who go before, building upon the success of smaller applications. In these efforts scalability plays an important role. Enabling mechanisms such as collaborative networks, innovation hubs and processes designed to deepen cross-sector research and development cry out for successful implementation for enabling the breath of humanity in our larger society. And concurrently is a profound need to have solid metrics that identify and evaluate the quantitative and qualitative results relating to initiatives.

This requires a fundamental change of the landscape, a culture engaged in the search for sustainable solutions across broad spectrums.

Practice makes perfect.

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” Leonardo da Vinci

…Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. It is the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Peter F. Drucker

We all strive toward this beautiful reality in social innovation:

Eureka” Archimedes

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Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and the Public Policy Forum Event 6 of 8: “Accelerating Social Innovation: Smart Ideas for Canada”

The final session explored leading social change. Again, Chatham House Rules were in effect.

Leading social change requires addressing the strategic roles and outcomes resultant rather than simply the funding model. Governments, foundations, corporations and the community all have a role to play, individually and collaboratively. By identifying best and next practices, along with successful strategies, funding will become more widely available.

Adopting these strategies necessitates identifying synergies that exist currently and could exist in the future. In doing so broad social innovations and change can occur in the development of new thinking, processes and leadership.

Leadership within social innovation will address the changing needs as we march toward deeper economic, political and social integration. Realizing that the challenge is not the development of new ideas rather one of making them work. Leadership directly deals with this challenge by successfully bridging the gap between a ‘good idea’ and execution. Great leadership will harvest the seeds of innovation to address ‘wicked problems.’

Recognizing the truth of Einstein’s assertion: “ We can’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Traditional methods, like a top down approach, have not served to advance the innovations that will lead to broad and lasting social impact. Therefore true leadership recognizes that widespread input is required and will actively seek collaboration.

Greater citizen engagement is needed to aid in the creation of an appreciative culture for community assistance. Serving further the ability to identify new leadership and new areas for innovation within the communities themselves.

To do this requires that capacity building in local, regional and national hubs of excellence be recognized and nurtured. It stems from the community itself and opens the pathways to transparency, accountability and funding.

There is not a shortage of capital out in the ether. However a shortage of investors exists willing to sacrifice hard returns on investment for impactful social returns. While this is changing, it is slow, and requires a greater effort by all sectors to open the door to capital through whatever means are possible.

It is paramount that the Canadian Federal Government, Provincial and Territorial governments take steps to unleash the charitable sector. These steps include the creation of new financial instruments and regulations that make social enterprises easier to create and operate. Unnecessarily restrictive and antiquated rules should be removed or reformed to aid in these developments.

In conjunction with this it is necessary for a fundamental reframing of the meaning of ‘fiduciary’ duty to encompass the broader economic and social impacts as outlined in the triple bottom line – people, planet and profits.

One speaker made two beautiful references: We all need to become “Billionaires for Good,” and, we need to create “Sustainable Peace Rooms” as opposed to war rooms, as illustrated in political campaigns around the world.

Currently in the throes of building the next economy a great emphasis needs to be put into finding new efficiencies and innovations to reduce our current carbon footprints. Recognizing this shift to the ‘new economy’ a need exists understanding the conversion of the current industrial sector is going to lead to turbulent if not in the moment unwelcome yet necessary change.

Our generation has created more wealth and become more productive than any in history. We have done so at the cost of being, by far, the most destructive.

Social innovation offers an opportunity for us to stem the tide of that destruction and solve many of the ‘wicked problems’ that face us today.

The next post will summarize the previous six.

As the births of living creatures are at first ill-shapen, so are all innovations, which are the births of time. “ Francis Bacon

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Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and the Public Policy Forum Event 5 of 8: “Accelerating Social Innovation: Smart Ideas for Canada”

The keynote speaker, as head of one Canada’s top research organizations for the humanities, spoke about: “Tackling the World’s Toughest Challenges: Social Innovation for the 21rst Century.”

The first is to do identify where big thinkers learn to think big? Pursuant to that is what is knowledge creation?

Working toward answers the speaker had three convictions:

1) Perspectives are coming together:

  1. The distinctions between innovation and social innovation are giving way to integration through collaboration

2) There have been internal pressures for increased contributions from multiple areas

  1. Scholars, researchers, etc, and,

3) There are many reasons for optimism.

The need exists to move from talking points and start engaging in meaningful actions to address the challenges currently existent. Actions looking beyond products and services – deeply into all areas where integration and collaboration is of benefit.

Models from the past revealed their flaws and offer an opportunity to course correct. Specifically the linear push model as illustrated by tech transfer in 1970s Canada.  What is learned from the weakness of that model? How can it be incorporated into new models and policies to prevent its repeat?

The Tech Transfer model had some successes and may still have some today, specifically in the developing world. Yet it is clear that the model did not work well in the developed world. This is especially true with the rise of the informed consumer class. One that became involved in the model and now in many ways is pulling products and services through increased demands. The consumer class as driver has replaced the top down example of tech transfer.

Building upon and beyond past failures is allowing us to work toward the future that we desire. However, to do this we must build sustainable relationships and models, across all sectors that recognize that society, ergo people, matter.

Increasingly technology and society are more integrated and this must be true for our research and development if as a nation we are to remain competitive and productive. Moreover, we have the opportunity, to become a world leader with successful efforts toward greater social innovations.

Realizing it is essential for a fundamental rethinking of the economy, its pillars both in Canada and across the world. This rethinking should acknowledge that social innovation must become a central strategy for all society if we are to move toward the desired future and achieve our stated outcomes. Utilizing this strategy in China and India has lead to many important advances.

Once notional understandings of the triple bottom line are becoming hard and fast reality – people, planet and profit. Organizations failing to understand or take action with regard to finding sustainable courses through this lens will find initial hardships leading to much harsher outcomes including redundancy.

These concepts are a work in progress requiring detailed outward looking from universities, researchers, scholars, government, business and communities themselves. At present this is a resource intensive process of engagement, yet with technological advancement and the discovery of new efficiencies that will dissipate.

There needs to be an increase in the mobilization of knowledge. Opportunities exist for deeper involvement in collaboration leading to richer innovations resulting in improved quality of life.

It is important to identify areas that can be clustered and create hubs (SiG, MaRS), where program architectures, across all sectors of research and development can be updated, simplified and executed. This is already evident in large research organization that are deconstructing old program silos and creating umbrellas instead.

This requires a new, fresh and inspired vocabulary that leads to a hybrid of pure and applied research where appropriate as well as further dismantling of hierarchies that are antiquated or worse redundant.

We all want to improve our seeking new ways to be more inclusive, integrated and collaborative. There is a pressing need for communication with non-specialized groups that becomes even more paramount as the digital age has presented itself as a driver for increased collaboration and communication.

Focusing on best practices will not necessarily lead us to next practices. These will result from the development of that new vocabulary, increased collaboration and innovation.

In that way ‘open source’ offers a key for the future. A clarion call that we not only aspire to but work toward every day. Naturally, in breaking down of barriers and deeper integrations, the urgency to embrace innovation will become clearer.

The enemy of advance in these areas is apathy and ignorance. Breaking down those barriers will create new opportunities to address that enemy head on and march toward advancements in innovation.

It is incumbent upon social innovators across all sectors to catch this moment of hope and history. To do so requires all sectors to come together effectively.

Harkening back to the progress of the Enlightenment and the advancement of knowledge that resulted from that period in history we are witnessing a modern enlightenment that is removing the obstacles and barriers to increased production of knowledge.

Initial collaborating across sectors is leading to rapid knowledge co-creation and is requiring us to find processes and systems to keep pace with technology  laying the foundations of the future more concretely now.

Solid foundations require processes that are built upon accountability and transparency. The worst thing that could happen now is that unaccountable progress could hamper efforts due to some type of scandal involving the transparency of processes.

Part of the foundation has to be an effort to identify new metrics that are widely applicable. Those metrics need to identify both the quantitative measurements that are necessary while balancing them with the qualitative that are not so readily measureable. The foundation requires that concurrent with the development of the language that will be used and widely accepted so too will metrics.

This new paradigm recognizes that certain research hubs (government) were not necessarily involved in the innovation discussion and further that there needs to be a collaborative back and forth across all sectors for true innovations to occur more simply, quickly and effectively.

In a recent speech at the Economic Club, the University of Toronto President said: “For one, I believe it is fully within our capabilities to move from mediocrity to excellence in innovation. Making the necessary changes to build an innovation economy is our shared and urgent responsibility if we are to secure the prosperity of future generations in this great country.” David Naylor

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Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and the Public Policy Forum Event 3 of 8: “Accelerating Social Innovation: Smart Ideas for Canada”

In advance of this post I just want to remind you that Chatham House Rules were in effect which is why I am not attributing other than to the forum.

To have 24,000 employees under your leadership is no easy task and a lot of responsibility. To have that many employees looking to you and to still ask the question: “How do we make a stronger and more competitive Canada?” makes you unique and highly valuable in a leadership position.

It was widely commented upon throughout the day, the forum at MaRS and SiG in connection with the Public Policy Forum is ideal to have a dialogue about accelerating social innovation than exists

Further it was highly probable that more questions would arise from the dialogue which offered an opportunity to advance understanding related to social innovation.

Social innovation represents an opportunity to effect meaningful and lasting change in areas that most require rapid and impactful solutions.

Contexts useful in starting this dialogue – societal challenges like the Millennium Development Goals, communal and family challenges and searching for solutions to deepen integration of labour markets, to name a few.

Each represents ‘wicked’ problems that require new efforts to solve or at the least mitigate. Covering a wide range of actors demonstrates that historical boundaries have become blurred. In part, due to this blur, there seems to be no ‘aha moment’ rather a series of interconnected efforts that come to a workable solutions. Efforts requiring a cross-domain version of connects the dots.

Such intractable challenges offer important opportunities at the societal, communal and family levels as well as for global integration efforts.

Increasingly a demonstrable elevation in our consciousness as individuals, society, governments, business and academia stretches far beyond buzzwords recognizing that  all have a part to play if we are to lead social change.

This has caused more demands from various sectors and as technology advances and increases penetration this trend will escalate even further.

However existent demands have led to a level of collaboration that has not previously existed. Collaboration offers promise for social innovation and thus to solve those ‘wicked’ problems.

Social innovation reveals that throwing money at problems is not the best approach rather suggesting that we need to reexamine the way that things have been and are going to be done in the future. A properly executed good idea offers far more hope to address the increasing need at the local and national levels to solving intractable problems.

To more effectively collaborate it is necessary to remove the roadblocks of the past. Namely, static vertical silos,  needing now to be integrated with horizontal ones. The vertical silos cause issue with current realities in collaboration yet also allow for ongoing experimentation to figure out what works, what does not and how we can steady and course correct the ship.

As a nation such cross department and domain engagements will result in better integration and open the door to more effective- COLLABORATION.

Peter F. Drucker said: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

The 20th century was one of management. The 21rst century, resultant from the paradigm shift earlier discussed, must belong to leadership. Drucker also said that economic innovation is a precondition for social ones.

Collaboratively, we must find  ways to transport economic successes to social ones. Yet while the debate rages about the value of economic instruments the same level of discourse has not been applied to social instruments such as innovation.  Especially timely given the Global Financial Crisis.

Canada’s ability , to build upon past successes while creating new paradigms, identify and nurture leaders locally, nationally and globally by embracing social innovation as a tool offers hope to the resolution of intractable problems in a meaningful way.

As  individuals concerned with and engaged in social innovation we need to work toward indentifying commonly acceptable metrics that reveal the social return on investment perhaps as relates to standard of living. Beyond metrics we also need to identify, through analysis, a series of best practices that can be applied in multiple domains.

Canada and its social innovators can lead the way. Organizations like SiG and MaRS (and others) can work toward creating solutions that might be adapted and scaled to any community, whether local, regional, provincial or national. This represents an opportunity for a type of ‘cookie cutter’ that could be used in some cases and broaden further innovation.

The next post will look at several reflections on social innovation  through different lenses.

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton

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The New Currency SDM “Change…At the Speed of Thought”