A Great Time for Social Innovation

Resource Type: Audio Seminar || Speakers: Al Etmanski & Vickie Cammack
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This seminar seeks to understand the social innovation and its potential in today’s world. Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski consider the deep patterns that drive change and innovation and influenced the creation of the Social Innovation Generation network.

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ChangeThere has never been a better time for community innovation and change. Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack are heartened by the boldness and creativity that they see around them in many diverse sectors. Their work with the Six Elements of Successful Innovation has provided critical information about the qualities availble to all organizations for driving successful change.
For more than two decades, Vickie and Al have been on the leading edge of advocating for people with disabilities and their families. They are celebrated innovators in the social sector, offering not only inspiration and hope, but visionary thinking in social policy, community development and non-governmental solutions to social problems.
Learning Objectives:
  • To understand why now is a great time for change
  • To identify the six deep patterns that drive massive change
  • To appreciate the growth and impact of Social Innovation Generation (SiG)
On this page you'll find:
A Great Time for Change
Indeed, there has never been a better time for change. One big factor is that young people are as bold as any group these days. They don’t see themselves as coming from any one sector - they’re not constrained by the labels. They want to engage and mobilize all sectors.
There’s also more creative interest coming from public servants. Everyone is recognizing that this is a time for us to move boldly into unknown territory, with unknown partners and even known enemies.
Foundations such as the McConnell Foundation have invested heavily over long periods of time. They have grown and matured; they’re coming to the table to problem solve around deep challenges, with decades of knowledge about making social change. Match that knowledge with the energy and open mindset of young people, and with the increased willingness of the public and corporate world!
Is it because there is so much fear around some of the challenges we face that we are finally willing to look at them? That’s only half the answer. Love and fear are both great motivators, very powerful sources of action.
The Six Elements of Successful Innovation
There are common patterns, insights and attributes among individuals, groups, coalitions and movements addressing deeply rooted social challenges.
Big impact change cannot be done by just one leader or organization. We have to learn to work in the sometimes uncomfortable space of collaboration - to “think and act like a movement,” a space beyond ego and territoriality. This implies multiple actions, time frames, scales and levels of engagement. The slow food movement and micro-credit are examples.
The second is what Al and Vickie call “framing.” How do we frame what we are doing in a way that makes it easy for people to do the right thing? When we are rooted in our local work, we can benefit from thinking about its essence. The Blue Box initiative blossomed across the whole country because it made it easy for people to recycle. Tyze is another great initiative, because it makes it easy for people to care for each other.
A third pattern is the ability to mobilize economic assets. In Europe they talk a lot about the Grey Pound, the older citizen market. In Canada, we have Pink Tourism that speaks to gay and lesbian travelers. There is a huge disability market, worth a total of 160 billion dollars. Governments pay more attention to you if you can successfully mobilize that market to achieve social objectives.
The fourth pattern is “convening” – creating networks to collaborate, engage, nurture, and inspire.  Some of the features of these networks are hospitality and action orientation, and a generative and problem-solving approach.
Removing structural barriers comes next. Organizations need to understand the ins and outs of public policy and politics. If you are bringing a new idea you have to think like a senior public servant who is preparing something for Cabinet. Currently the PLAN Institute has convened two federal forums on the disability plan – and they want more!
Finally, “who” is as important as “how.” Leadership is nuanced, collaborative and intuitive. It’s very important to have a comfort with paradox/ambiguity – to be able to stay with “the uncomfortable spot.” There is a spiritual dimension that is critical; this all allows us to evolve our deepest human self, to stay with the mystery and overcome what might initially be perceived as barriers.
Social Innovation Generation (SiG)
In 2005, Al and Vickie had “the good fortune” to be seconded to the JW McConnell Foundation to explore the question of sustainability and what resources would be needed to get an initiative to a place where it would have impact.
There are currently four Social Innovation Generation nodes across Canada: SiG at the McConnell Foundation, SiG at the University of Waterloo, SiG atMaRS, and SiG at the Plan Institute.
A fundamental premise of the work is that “the thinking that got us into complex social challenges is not the thinking that will get us out.” They wanted to explore means and mechanisms to inspire change.
One huge lesson has been in understanding how to take something that has been created locally and take the values and processes of it to scale, beyond the organization and “into the water supply.”
At the PLAN Institute, there is a particular mission to transform the system of supports for people with disabilities and their families.
There is a “welfare mindset” that can apply to individuals when they are getting support. The Registered Disability Savings Plan is forcing the welfare system to deal with the fact that people with disabilities across Canada will have substantial savings and assets.
Along with financial security is the importance of social welfare. PLAN’s  tyze program addresses the isolation and loneliness of people with a disability. This proven model is being carried beyond the disability sector, being used by older adults and young mothers with premature pregnancies. These are examples of “having our hands in the stars” and getting the processes out into the world.


GOING DEEPER
Reflection Questions
  1. Do you think that this is a good time for innovation and change in the world? In your community? Why? 
  2. In reviewing the Six Elements of Social Innovation, think about how these have been reflected in your work for social change.
  3. What are the natural networks with whom you could collaborate, nurture and inspire change in your community?
Links & Resources
Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) - The Stanford Social Innovation Review is the first publication by a leading school of management to promote innovative solutions to social problems. Each issue advances strategy and leadership in nonprofit management, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, and philanthropy.
Sustaining Social Innovation - This Tamarack web section is designed to track the evolution, growth and learning of a group of Canadian practitioners who are concerned with applied dissemination (AD) and sustaining social innovation (SSI).
Rediscovering Social Innovation - Social entrepreneurship and social enterprise have become popular rallying points for those trying to improve the world. These two notions are positive ones, but neither is adequate when it comes to understanding and creating social change in all of its manifestations. In this Stanford Social Innovation Review article, the authors make the case that social innovation is a better vehicle for doing this.
SiG@Waterloo - The focus of SiG@Waterloo is linking social and ecological resilience to strengthen the environment, and re-engaging vulnerable populations to strengthen communities.
The JW McConnell Family Foundation - The philanthropy arm of SiG, The JW McConnell Family Foundation provides seed funding to transformative ideas, individuals and organizations.
MaRS - The incubator and launch pad for important social ideas based at MaRS, and focuses on social enterprise and leadership talent development.
More about Al and Vickie
Each of the following websites provide great information and ideas generated by Al and Vickie’s work.
The PLAN Institute - The PLAN Institute creates networks, develops resources, cultivates innovation and promotes thinking to foster the contribution of people who are isolated and marginalized.
Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) - PLAN is a non-profit organization, established in 1989 by and for families committed to future planning and securing a good life for their relative with a disability.
Tyze - PLAN’s  tyze program is a new online service that makes it easy to reach out to friends, family, neighbours and caregivers in order to build a network of care.
Philia - Philia is a global conversation on caring citizenship - a notion of citizenship based on contribution, participation, relationship, and a commitment to the common good.
The Belonging Initiative - A national initiative committed to nurturing belonging and ending isolation of people with disabilities.
Ties that Bind - A film to assist families to plan for the future of their relatives with disabilities. Available through the PLAN Institute.
Meet the Thought Leaders
Plan InstituteVickie Cammack - Vickie is a founding director of the PLAN Institute and CEO of Tyze Personal Networks. Vickie is a pioneer in the field of social enterprise. She created PLAN’s Personal Network program, a unique response to the isolation and loneliness experienced by people with disabilities and mentored the spread of grass roots PLAN groups in 40 locations globally.
Vickie is also the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal of Canada, the Community Living Institute’s Leadership Award, the Canadian Psychological Association’s Humanitarian Award, and Simon Fraser University President’s Club Distinguished Community Leadership Award.  In 2008, the Women’s Executive Network named Vickie one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.
Vickie is co-founder of PLAN and co-author of Safe and Secure –Six steps to Creating a Personal Future Plan for People with Disabilities. As a past college instructor at Douglas College in New Westminster she designed a curriculum process for the preparation of caregivers that is being used in colleges and universities throughout British Columbia and is the founding Director of the Family Support Institute of British Columbia. 
As the President and CEO of Tyze Vickie is a recognized Canadian source of inspiration and demonstrable solutions related to social networks, social innovation, citizenship and disability. At Tyze, Vickie focuses her attention and expertise on how best to deliver online, personal support networks to people facing life challenges. She spearheaded the development of the Tyze platform, built the team that is now driving Tyze, and is playing the leading role in creating the connections and partnerships that will take Tyze to scale.
Al Etmanski - Al is the President of PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) and has been a leading advocate for people with disabilities and their families for more than two decades. He is widely recognized as a visionary thinker in areas of social policy, community development and individualizing services for people with social problems.