A joint diplomatic commitment to social innovation between Canada and the United Kingdom that was formalized May 9 has a connection to work underway at York University in the area of knowledge mobilization.
The Joint Innovation statement signed by Ed Fast, Canada’s minister of international trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Stephen Green, the United Kingdom’s minister of state for trade & development, highlights the importance of collaboration between the two countries in the area of social innovation. Social Innovation takes new ideas and puts them into practice for the public good. David Phipps, director of York’s Research Services and Knowledge Exchange and leader of York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR), Canada’s knowledge mobilization network, played a role in realizing the commitment by both countries to social innovation.
It began in September 2011, when British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The pair discussed many matters, including international diplomacy, national security, the economy and innovation. During their meeting, they decided to build on their countries’ mutual interests in science and innovation by committing to a joint innovation statement. Click here to view a video of Cameron’s address to the Canadian Parliament.
In November 2011, some two months after the prime ministers agreed to draft the joint innovation statement, Phipps travelled to the UK for a series of meetings on knowledge mobilization and social innovation. While there, he met with representatives from the Centre for Research in Families & Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and the Community University Partnership Program at the University of Brighton.
“At that time, I wrote in Mobilize This! [a blog about ResearchImpact and knowledge mobilization] about my meetings ,” said Phipps. “What I didn’t write about at the time were my meetings with agencies interested in social innovation. I met with the Young Foundation, a global leader in social innovation, and with NESTA, the UK’s innovation foundation.”
Accompanying Phipps to the meetings was Caroline Martin, trade commissioner for science and technology with the Canadian High Commission in London. “We discussed the importance of social innovation to Canada and the United Kingdom, a conversation we then continued with Nicole Arbour, team lead for the Science & Innovation Network at the British High Commission in Ottawa. Together we explored opportunities for collaboration on social innovation with Canadian organizations such as Social Innovation Generation and the McConnell Family Foundation, organizations whose leadership in social innovation parallels that of NESTA and the Young Foundation.”
Phipps learned that Martin and Arbour were assisting with drafting the Joint Innovation statement that was called for by the prime ministers. “Our conversations helped inform the decision to include social innovation in the text of the Joint Innovation statement,” said Phipps.
Once completed, the Joint Innovation statement included this declaration: “The Participants will consider taking joint initiatives in the following priority areas [including] Social Innovation: Working with academic, government and civil society partners to leverage research and innovation activities for greater societal benefits.”
Phipps said the joint diplomatic commitment to social innovation between Canada and the UK has found another home with the Governor General of Canada David Johnston. On Feb. 17, 2012 he wrote about knowledge diplomacy in an opinion piece published in The Globe & Mail. “So how do we bring about a smart and caring world that is at once prosperous, sustainable and resilient?” wrote Johnston. “Our ability to work together – to practise the diplomacy of knowledge – will be the key to our success.”
“Social Innovation is one outcome of knowledge mobilization for which York is developing an international reputation,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “New discoveries are being made to address persistent social challenges through social innovation. Our conversations with the British and Canadian High Commissions helped inform the decision to include social innovation in the text of the Joint Innovation statement. The outcome reflects the growing international appreciation of the work of York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and its leadership role in ResearchImpact, Canada’s knowledge mobilization network, in working to turn research into action.”
“Collaborating for social innovation is now recognized as a priority for Canada and for the UK,” said Phipps. “RIR-York was there and will be there working with colleagues from Canada and the UK to support knowledge mobilization as a process that enables enhanced social innovation.”