Social Innovation Knowledge Exchange
Cheryl Rose, Director of Partnerships and Programs, Social Innovation Generation at the University of Waterloo
Apparently, you don’t often get 200 senior public servants out to an event on how to change the world; but earlier this month, that’s exactly what happened in our nation’s capital at the Social Innovation Knowledge Exchange hosted by the Public Policy Forum of Canada, and supported by the Social Innovation Generation (SiG) partnership. Numerous federal government departments and a wide variety of NGO’s from across Canada were represented in the audience and at the event exposition. All seemed interested in this topic and excited to learn more. There’s something encouraging!
Deputy Minister Michael Wernick (Indian and Northern Affairs) opened the event with a statement around the urgent need to find new ways of addressing the complex problems that we are facing in government and as a society. He stressed that we can’t be interested in ‘boutique’ programs or quick fixes, but that we must learn about, and work together for, real social innovation – change that has durability, impact and scale. Tim Draimin, SiG’s Executive Director, followed this with an overview of social innovation concepts and an explanation of why they matter. And he placed Canada’s interest and efforts in this field within the global context of national social innovation initiatives and the related social finance agendas. How does Canada fair as a socially innovative country and culture? Well, there are certainly nations, like the UK, which have invested much more in delving into this area and disseminating knowledge and practice; yet, to my mind, there are few that seem as thoughtful, precise, and historically ‘ripe’ with social innovation examples, as Canada; maybe, it could be that we demure Canadians may yet lead as major change-makers for our world. There’s something to think about!
Ian Shugart, Deptuy Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, spoke towards the end of the event to those gathered and assigned them each a task; he challenged them to return to their offices and, before they left to go to their homes and families, to write down 2 or 3 practical ways that they will, as soon as possible, act to continue the conversation about how to truly support social innovation in Canada. I offer the exact same challenge to everyone who reads this blog. There’s something to do. There’s lots to do.