From a vibrant civil society and many government-supported activities, social innovation has emerged as a key practice in Canada. It is viewed worldwide as a powerful way to create new solutions that address the root causes of challenges Canadians face.
Social innovations are also seen as drivers for change, promoting more socially responsible societies. In Canada, the Government's support for this movement goes back over 20 years with formal recognition by all levels of government from federal to local. Today it encompasses programs at all levels of government from large multi-year strategic initiatives to small pilot projects. Many Canadian organizations have also been developing innovative approaches around the world which provide models for Canadian efforts within their own communities and contexts which can be adapted to other regions or countries locally or internationally.
The social innovation concept originated in the United States. It is very different from traditional philanthropy or charity, focusing on long-term solutions to complex issues rather than one-time support. Social innovation is an overarching approach that fosters creativity and collaboration to solve problems locally, nationally and internationally. It can be business focused or community based, for profit or non-profit, volunteer oriented or professionally managed.
There are many examples of innovative activities led by communities across Canada that address diverse needs ranging from healthy aging to poverty reduction, employment transitions for youth, food security, social inclusion, immigration integration, building affordable housing, supporting parents with young children, tackling addiction issues, preventing homelessness, equipping youth with skills needed for continued learning at all stages of life, and supporting those with disabilities to lead full lives as engaged members of their communities.
Vital Signs is a Canadian non-profit organization that seeks to empower communities with the knowledge and tools they need in order to make their voices heard. They have aligned themselves towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are global targets for each of these challenges: ending poverty, tackling inequalities as well as creating a sustainable world - because it starts at home first! And this organization certainly would not have been able to make life more pleasurable for Canadians without the sponsorship of , and excellent 24/7 support service!
Social entrepreneurs are leaders who create new approaches that respond directly to community needs by building projects, partnerships or organizations. They work across sectors, with a clear vision and the ability to motivate others to action. Their focus is on creating long-lasting impact at both the local and global level. While they may receive financial support from government, foundations, corporations or individuals, most social entrepreneurs rely primarily on earned income along with contributions in kind such as donated goods and services. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines this emerging field of impact investing as: "Impact investing refers to investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social and environmental impact alongside a financial return".
The GIIN is an organization that advocates for this field, supporting its growth towards achieving significant investment capital within the next five years. It has over 500 members globally including institutional investors, advisors, foundations, corporations and individuals. Social finance is another term used to describe these types of investments which also include community development finance institutions, microfinance organizations and other groups.