Indigenous Innovation Summit: What Happened and What’s Next?

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The inaugural Indigenous Innovation Summit (#IIS2015) was a groundbreaking event. This gathering brought together many stakeholders who don’t necessarily always work together: Elders, youth, service providers, academics, artists, social entrepreneurs, foundations, government representatives – the list goes on. A total of 320 people attended the proceedings from November 18-20, at the beautiful Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Hosted by the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), and organized in partnership with the Winnipeg Boldness Project, the 4Rs Youth Movement, Canadians for a New Partnership, the Circle, and the Foundation, the Summit convened people interested in social innovation, solutions finance, social entrepreneurship and more.
As the first of three planned summits, the focus of this one was to develop a common language around social innovation and solutions finance; to connect those with resources to those with ideas; and to highlight some of the most innovative work currently taking place in Canada and abroad.
2015November20-98It was a very moving three days. One of the highlights for me was the presentation on the Moose Hide Campaign – a grassroots movement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men who are standing up against violence toward women and children. Raven Lacerte and her father Paul spoke about how the idea for the campaign came to them as they were hunting near B.C.’s Highway of Tears. At the end of her speech, Raven sang a song and gifted the drum to Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Justice Sinclair was moved by this, and performed a Bear Clan song for Raven. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room.
For those of you who were unable to attend, photos, videos and content from the 2015 Summit (including Raven’s speech) will be posted in the coming weeks at:

A Hewit ReflectionsIn addition to an impressive agenda, some of the most exciting work happened at the fringes of the Summit. For example, ten of the presenters pooled their speaking fees and donated them to a social housing project in B.C. There were also a number of informal conversations that took place around the potential creation of an Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund which would be designed to provide flexible capital with capacity supports to some of the ideas that emerged over the course of the Summit. It will be interesting to track stories such as these and see how they’ve progressed over the coming year.

Next year’s Summit will likely be in Edmonton and sponsors are already starting to line up. We want to make it more interactive, and potentially reduce the number of panels so as to allow more time for discussion. Being in Alberta, we’ll have a stronger focus on example of social innovation in that province. The third Summit, in keeping with 2017 being the 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding, will be held in Ottawa.
The hard work we’ve done so far has demonstrated to a wider audience that innovation is very much an Indigenous value. When you look at the government systems that were imposed on Indigenous peoples over history, it took creativity and resilience for Indigenous people to not only survive, but thrive. Now we’re being intentional about innovation and sharing learnings across the country.
I’m confident that in Winnipeg we started a vital journey for Canada, and I’m very excited about where we’re headed next.