November 27 to December 1 was an eventful week for social innovation. In Toronto, the Spark! conference convened 300 diverse social innovators for a lively exchange of ideas and perspectives. In Ottawa, the Future of Good brought together 100+ invited guests to discuss the changing landscape for social change, given the increasing pace of financial and technological innovation.
On November 27, the Maytree Foundation hosted an event at the University of Toronto to conclude 25 years of work by the Caledon Institute for Social Policy — with whom McConnell worked closely on initiatives ranging from poverty reduction to respite care. We congratulate Maytree and Caledon on their contributions to social justice, including such innovations as the Child Tax Credit.
On the evening of November 28, nearly 500 people gathered at MaRS in Toronto to commemorate the conclusion of Social Innovation Generation or SiG. There were tributes to SiG’s founders, including special recognition for Frances Westley, who is retiring as Director of the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience. In addition to organizing the evening, SiG colleagues Geraldine Cahill and Kelsey Spitz launched their new book: Social Innovation Generation: Fostering a Canadian Ecosystem for Systems Change.
At McConnell, ending support for SiG after ten years recognizes that the field has matured. The social innovation map of Canada includes innovators, initiatives and institutions in every part of the country, and they are increasingly linked to similar efforts around the world.
McConnell will maintain the repository of resources housed at the SiG Knowledge Hub (sigknowledgehub.ca), continue granting through the Social Innovation Fund, support social innovators’ participation in the Social Innovation Learning Program, and provide access to tools and coaching through Innoweave.
We are also supporting a process whereby several stakeholders are exploring the design of a social innovation “ecosystem”.
If SiG has largely achieved its goal of introducing social innovation and social finance to Canada, it is clear that the work of applying the associated mindsets, language and tools to the complex challenges facing society is just beginning.
In other words, it is time to scale up the application of social innovation to issues like Indigenous reconciliation, transition to a low carbon economy and the elimination of poverty. This is not something that philanthropy can accomplish on its own, and the recent creation of a federal social innovation and social finance advisory committee, with representation from all sectors, is an indication of what’s in store.