In mid-2011, the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, and Ministry of Children and Youth Services contracted Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to create and deliver a pilot program that represents a new area of focus at OCE: Social Innovation.
Social Innovation is about new ideas, products, services, and processes that address tough social and environmental challenges. OCE’s Social Innovation Program builds new and enhances existing partnerships between industry, not-for-profit, social entrepreneurs and academic partners. The program is designed to support these cross-sector partnerships in the development of innovative products, services, and business models that address unmet needs in the social and environmental space.
OCE worked closely with strategic partner SiG@MaRS and Pillar Nonprofit Network to launch the first Social Innovation Partnership Challenge forum. With over 50 attendees from industry, academia, not-for-profits, social enterprises and social purpose businesses, the forum was a great success. Over the course of one day, the cross-section of individuals in the social innovation space shared their insights, strengthened relationships and built new partnerships.
Participants across a variety sectors described the event as effective and necessary, allowing them the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people they wouldn’t have met otherwise. Participants found that while they came from different backgrounds, they shared similar goals of having a positive social and environmental impact and a need to address society’s most pressing challenges.
The first forum resulted in proposals that touched on many health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular health, food security, mental health, health services accessibility and pervasive developmental disorders. Stay tuned for the results of the call for proposals of the first Social Innovation Forum on Health Improvement in early 2012.
The next Social Innovation Partnership Challenge Forum on the Environment and Sustainability will be Feb. 29 in Guelph.
Later in 2012, the Social Innovation Program will debut its exciting student competition. Designed to launch the next generation of social entrepreneurs and provide support to students and recent graduates to start their own social enterprise, the student competition will challenge finalists to create a social enterprise plan and elevator pitch with an industry partner, providing them the real-world experience they need to contribute in the Social Innovation space. Awards will be presented at Discovery 12, May 14-15, 2012 in Toronto.