The federal government's social innovation and social finance strategy is the biggest policy opportunity for community economic developers in a generation.
Let me tell you why.
The practices described by the term 'social innovation' may not be new – public schools, hospitals, co-operatives, credit unions, labour unions and even community economic development itself are historic social innovations. But the 'social innovation' label itself is relatively new.
What is also new, is the way the federal government is approaching the topic. A Co-Creation Steering Group of people from across the country has been appointed to help develop the strategy. That might not seem like much, but to bring in community partners at the beginning of a policy development process is a major step for the federal government, and one that many departments are watching. It reflects an approach to policy called 'co-construction' in Québec, and it's a partnership-based model that is vital to the philosophy of CED.
The co-creation steering group was first convened in June and had a very intense summer before beginning public consultations and engagement this fall. We had a very valuable consultation session at EconoUs2017, and there have been many others across the country.
An online engagement platform has also been created, asking for your stories of social innovation and feedback on the themes addressed by the strategy to date. Many CCEDNet members have posted excellent contributions, including CCEDNet Board member Laurie Cook from Nova Scotia, who makes the case for community visioning and organizing, and Eden Yesh from Kootenay Employment Services in BC, who describes their innovative work on community investment co-ops. You can also find stories about social enterprises for people with disabilities, a social innovation centre, and even community economic development!
Social innovation's focus on collaboration across sectors, and its co-construction approach that recognizes the complexity of persistent social challenges, is entirely aligned with community economic development. A strong social innovation and social finance strategy that is grounded in the powerful work being done by community leaders across the country could chart a course for profound changes to the policy and funding environment.
So now is the moment to show our support for the strategy, and illustrate how it can scale up the impacts of innovative work you are already doing.
Please post your own stories, like and comment on the ones there, and participate!
Also, be sure to mention the social innovation and social finance strategy to your MP, and encourage her/his party to support a strong investment in the federal budget.
The online platform will close at the end of December, so add your feedback now.