Application Number: 3
INITIATIVE: What is the title of your initiative?
Local Economic Development Lab
RATIONALE: Why was this initiative developed? Briefly describe your vision for this initiative: what changes would you like to see in your community, in the college/university, and for the student experience?
In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) only 13% of local residents are employed in the local economy, and more than 60% depend on Income Assistance and informal work to survive. Despite massive investments by community organizations and three levels of government, the prevailing poverty of the neighbourhood remains. The Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab), initiated and supported by RADIUS SFU and Ecotrust Canada (EC), partners with community organizations and municipal government to explore innovative ways to build a more vibrant and inclusive local economy in the DTES and increase economic independence for vulnerable inner city populations. LEDlab is a time-bound, place-based and action-focused initiative. Through it, we will build, test and scale solutions that put money in the pockets of DTES residents; increase local ownership of neighbourhood assets; enhance the capacity of individuals, organizations and networks; and disrupt traditional patterns of power and resource use in the community. Expected outcomes from the 3-year LEDlab include impacts on: - Community: Acceleration of meaningful ideas for change within resource strapped organizations and communities, co-creation of new models based on stronger relational networks, and improved livelihoods for low-income DTES residents. - University: Contributing to SFU’s commitment to social innovation as a key strategic pillar, and goals to become a leader in ‘open innovation’, this is a powerful exemplar and influential project in helping SFU understand how to engage as a problem solving partner in its communities. - Student Experience: The program provides 30 living wage, full-_time internships for graduate students helping to advance this work in strategic ways. This helps to address a labour market and talent gap in Canada’s social economy through training and development, and add rigour to our analysis of what works and what can be shared.
GOVERNANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS: Who will oversee and manage the initiative? How does it connect with other local, regional, or national projects or networks?
LEDlab is a unique partnership, which marries the venture and talent incubation experience of RADIUS, the rigour and research capabilities of SFU, and EC’s 20 years of community development practice. EC and RADIUS have co-hired a full time Lab Manager, who is accountable to both organizations, as part of a clear and comprehensive MOU. LEDlab aligns with and builds upon the work of the City of Vancouver’s DTES Local Area Plan and Healthy City (Social) Strategy, to catalyze action around key priority areas. A key funding and knowledge partner, we work closely with the City of Vancouver to ensure our work remains integrated and aligned. At the provincial level, both RADIUS and EC are active participants in the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation’s BC Partners for Social Impact. EC is a national organization, and RADIUS is an active participant in the national RECODE network, with both committed to learning from and contributing to similar explorations in other jurisdictions.
OVERVIEW OF ACTIVITIES: Briefly describe the activities of the initiative: when did it start, what organizations and departments are participating? Give a few examples of what participants will be doing.
LEDlab borrows from social change labs worldwide: this is a longitudinal ‘think and do’ initiative concentrated on understanding the conditions required for inclusive and sustainable economic development in disadvantaged urban communities, and building ground up solutions engaging stakeholders from across the system. LEDlab brings together a diversity of perspectives and professional capacities to unlock collective capacity, it is experimental by nature, and it is focused on affecting systemic change. We recognize that innovation is hard in the not-for-profit sector. As most activities are tied to funding agreements with specific project-based outcomes, already under-resourced organizations are working to develop new, game-changing ideas ‘off the side of their desks’. LEDlab addresses the desire to innovate within constrained conditions by providing actual human capacity to advance ideas, a safe space for design and experimentation, and a supported process to develop and evaluate social innovation projects. In addition, we use a cohort model to enable cross-pollination of good ideas amongst organizations, build trust and lay the foundation for future collaborations. Since May 2015 we have worked with 7 graduate students (both SFU and UBC) from 6 disciplines within 5 community organizations. For a description of each of the projects, please visit our website www.ledlab.ca. LEDlab is also committed to presenting publicly on our model in order to elevate our approach to community-university partnership. Recent public speaking engagements have included SFU Public Square's Researching the City Event, Surrey Social Innovation Summit, and SFU Semester in Dialogue.
STRATEGIC LEARNING: What will success look like both in the short-term and the long-term? How are you assessing results? What will you do with this information, and with whom are you sharing lessons?
Our overarching program goal is to contribute keystone components towards a more vibrant and inclusive local economy in Vancouver’s DTES. Our program has 5 key objectives, identified in partnership with a broad set of community stakeholders: - Put money in the pockets of low income DTES residents - Generate new local low-barrier jobs - Enhance local leadership capacity - Develop graduate student talent for social innovation in Canada - Prototype new models of community university partnership (specifically through place-based innovation labs) Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of LEDlab is supported by an external developmental evaluator, Steve Williams, who is capturing key learnings and developmental moments in order to support real-time decision-making, and inform and adapt development of our program model. LEDlab will publish an annual research publication, which will report on our project outcomes, evolving theories, and lessons from the field. Distribution will target the lab practitioner community and engaged university stakeholders. We will also produce a variety of infographics, and summary reports for community partners. We continue to do regular presentations on our work locally and will apply to academic conferences beginning in 2017, once we have early evidence of the impact of our work, and more feedback on our model. All reports will live on our website www.ledlab.ca.
Would you consider your initiative to be a social enterprise?
Does the proposed initiative have potential to be applied elsewhere in Canada? If yes, please explain.
Yes! We hope that our policy, practice and enterprise solutions will ultimately have application beyond the specific geography of Vancouver’s inner city, and we will learn from and share with leading work being done on similar challenges in other jurisdictions. Furthermore, the funding model and methodology will be documented, with an aim to advance the field of knowledge and innovation lab practice, particularly in relation to universities and civic innovation.
1. APPROACH: Which departments are involved in this initiative? How will they work with community organizations, social enterprise, local government and within post-secondary institutions (i.e. with professors, administration and students)?
RADIUS SFU is a social innovation lab and venture incubator at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University with a mandate to: - Build a pipeline of emerging social economy leaders; - Strengthen impact ventures and the ecosystem that supports them; and - Develop and test new ideas for a more resilient, healthy, just, and sustainable economy. Lab Manager and staff of RADIUS SFU (in a shared role with Ecotrust Canada), Kiri Bird, primarily manages external facing relationships with community organizations, social enterprise, and local government, closely supported by SFU faculty member and RADIUS director Shawn Smith. Senior research support comes to LEDlab via Dr. Sarah Lubik - Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at SFU, and Dr. Blaize Reich, of Beedie School of Business. Graduate student researchers are engaged in LEDlab through our student internship program, supervised by the previously named staff and faculty. These graduate internships are already being seen as some of Canada’s best experiential learning and professional development opportunities in social innovation, supported by both SFU faculty and community partners.
2. INFLUENCING POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS: Will research or teaching within the post secondary institution you are a part of or working with be changed as a result of this initiative? How will the administration staff, faculty, and students be involved and recognized for their accomplishments within the college/ university?
LEDlab contributes to SFU’s vision as Canada’s most community engaged research university, drawing on talented graduate students and engaged SFU researchers to collaboratively develop new solutions with the communities in which the university is embedded. Seen as a significant contribution to SFU’s commitment to open innovation, and the establishment of social innovation as one of four pillars in a high profile “SFU Innovates” strategy, our program represents a new model of community-university partnership, inverting the traditional research lab model and placing community needs at the center of the research agenda, to enhance solution building. Our theory of change posits that multi-sectoral collaborations between academics, community organizations and the public and private sectors, will indeed build better solutions to complex problems. With regards to this question, this provides tangible benefits, and recognition, to: - Students, who have high profile roles engaged in helping to address complex challenges in SFU communities, through thirty guaranteed internships over the three year lab. Their work is augmented through white papers, blog posts, and public presentations. LEDlab students have already been broadly recognized for their work within SFU and in external media including CBC radio, Roundhouse Radio, Vancity Buzz, and Business in Vancouver magazine. - Researchers contributing to fields of research surrounding public participatory processes such as social innovation labs. This project engages two principle investigators from the Beedie School of Business (Dr. Blaize Reich and Dr. Sarah Lubik), and PhD candidate, Steve Williams, in a Developmental Evaluation and Knowledge Mobilization role. - Senior SFU leadership interested in expanding the university’s focus on open innovation, and becoming a leading problem solving partner for business and community partners. The LEDlab is a central contributor to this work, helping to activate social innovation as one of four pillars in the newly announced “SFU Innovates” strategy.
IMPACT: What will you be able to accomplish now that you could not before the collaboration? In what way will your organization work differently as a result of this initiative?
LEDlab is a multi-stakeholder collaboration that engages all sectors in co-creative economic innovation and solution building. Through it, RADIUS SFU works in deep collaboration with respected charity - Ecotrust Canada, as well as a broad network of social enterprise, community organizations, public and private sector partners. Please see a selection of quotes from our partners. “From Ecotrust Canada's perspective, the LEDlab partnership with RADIUS SFU is an exciting marriage of our organization’s boots-on-the-ground community development work with the social venture expertise and research rigour of RADIUS and Simon Fraser University. Through our Mitacs partnership with SFU, we unlock the creativity and passion of students, which has proved to be a unique talent development pipeline for our organization, and through research and publication we hope to increase Ecotrust Canada’s ability to scale our work. While we have always worked with people in communities of place, LEDlab has introduced new rigour and methodology from the toolkit of social innovation to our work, which has enhanced our ability to document and capture what works, and learn from what doesn't. It has also allowed us to test our methodology for community-building and social change in the context of an inner city instead of in a remote community.” - Brenda Kuecks, Past President of Ecotrust Canada “Working with LEDlab has widened our understanding of how community organizations such as our own can meaningfully and practically collaborate with academic institutions. In prior collaborations, more often than not we saw considerable value generated for (and captured by) the students partners but little-to-no real value created for Potluck. LEDlab’s commitment to building sustainable capacity and their explicit desire to realize mutually beneficial outcomes has proven to be more than mere lip service: we are already seeing results and LEDlab staff are helping us to plan for mid- and long-term success. This collaboration has powered the launch of our newest employment initiative – an on-demand system of competency based employment for individuals living on income assistance – and has identified clear pathways to partnering with Simon Fraser University. Potluck is a stronger organization now than we were before connecting with LEDlab.” - Colin Stansfield, Executive Director of Potluck Cafe Society “The quality of support and collaboration that the LEDlab has brought as a partner to the DTES Street Market Society has been instrumental in strengthening its organizational capacity, enabling the Society to work with the City of Vancouver to further expand the creation of a safe and legal survival vending economy in the Downtown Eastside - one of Canada’s most marginalized communities.” - Tobin Postma, Strategic Issues Manager of City of Vancouver “The LEDlab has provided me with an opportunity to jump into the social enterprise sector and put my business skills to the test. The internship (work term) is a required part of my MBA program, and I was grateful for the hands-on experience to work specially in the sector of social innovation as I had no experience prior to starting my masters degree. During the past 5 months, I have had the opportunity to apply the lean methodology to a project called “Knack” and build a strong network of likeminded professionals.” - Anna Migicovsky, MBA Candidate and LEDlab Graduate Student Intern
Ms Kiri Bird
Phone Number: 778-835-5474
Mr Colin Stansfield
Phone Number: 778-985-5552
Ms Anna Migicovsky
Mr Shawn Smith
Other relevant information/comments
Jean Pogge, President of Ecotrust Canada firstname.lastname@example.org 604.682.4141 x202