Sowing the seeds for social innovation

silver puzzle in the shape of a globe

Work by York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb) has served as one of the catalysts for a new form of community-university collaboration with the United Way York Region (UWYR), which supports a number of social innovation projects in its community.

The grassroots, social innovation projects were made possible through support provided by the UWYR under an innovative funding model known as Strength Investments, which funds civic participation projects that help inspire community-based change. The model for Strength Investments was informed by research collected in 2010 by three York University graduate students during a summer internship project that was jointly funded by York University’s KMb Unit and the United Way.

“In May 2010, UWYR CEO Daniele Zanotti and I were walking up Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal discussing new ways for United Way to invest in community solutions to community opportunities,” said David Phipps, executive director of Research Services and chief knowledge mobilizer for York University’s KMb Unit. “York University and UWYR each invested $15,000 to support three graduate student internships in the summer 2010. The students’ work focused on social assets in York Region neighbourhoods.”

headshot of David Phipps

David Phipps

The students, Jessica Carriere, Silvia D’Addario and Nausheen Quayyum, spent the summer of 2010 collecting data about civic engagement opportunities. They also reviewed literature on social innovation and place-based community work. The resulting data was then used to create one of the research reports that informed the UWYR’s investments in communities experiencing rapid growth and the development of the Strength Investments model. See YFile, July 13, 2007.The UWYR Board of Directors approved the new funding model in the fall of 2010. The first $150,000 investment supporting six projects was made in 2011, followed by another $150,000 invested to support five more projects in 2012.

Some of the early projects funded by Strength Investments include, working with and improving the lives of residents of Aurora’s Charles Darrow Co-Op, many of whom are new Canadians, and working with the John Howard Society in York Region improving the lives of individuals emerging from the correctional system by helping them reintegrate into society.

“The internships of 2010 are a perfect example of community-campus collaboration and illustrate the impact of university research on community-based social innovations,” said Phipps. “This is the type of work being championed by the Governor General’s Community Campus Collaboration Initiative.” See YFile, June 11, 2012.

For more information, visit the Knowledge Mobilization web page or the ResearchImpact blog.