We hear a lot about the problems of today. Like so many countries, Canada is struggling to solve intractable social and environmental problems like poverty, inequality, and climate change. We’re facing a host of new challenges as the pressure from technology and globalization bear down on people and planet in lopsided and unpredictable ways. We see the same patterns again and again: few institutions are designed to address the root causes of problems; our sectors are fragmented and work is divided by cross-purposes; and new initiatives often falter in the face of backlash.

Social innovation makes a promise: we can not only handle but solve the problems faced in society today. And we can do this together. Bringing social innovation practices into institutional thinking revives and reinvigorates how problems are approached using fresh and modern tactics. Canadian society can continue to thrive in the 21st century if we first acknowledge existing problems, and then level the playing field by funding and incentivizing innovative people-and-planet first solutions. Here’s five things that social innovation does better than other approaches: a) aspires to solve the root causes of issues, to avoid endless spending by problem solving at an ecosystem level; b) experiments with new approaches to breakthrough institutional inertia; c) acts inclusively by working directly with communities and people with lived experience; d) leverages markets for scaled impact; and e) collaborates and shares resources to ensure that we all flourish.

In our paper Unlocking Canadian Social Innovation we examine the social innovation landscape in Canada; key moments, ideas, and examples of meaningful change. We then propose how Canada might unlock the sector so it can achieve it’s full potential.

This paper will do three things: 1) offer frameworks to understand social innovation; 2) explore the importance of social innovation ecosystems to the success of any individual initiative; and 3) offer specific ways to unleash social innovation’s potential to help Canada meet its challenges head-on and continue to thrive.

This paper is the product of our combined decades of experience as social entrepreneurs, who together have created conditions for other social entrepreneurs to succeed. To make the best use of that field experience, we have included stories from all over, but also from our work at the Centre for Social Innovation when it is useful to explore a larger point.

Read the entire paper Unlocking Canadian Social Innovation here.