Adrian Shellard, for Innovate Calgary
Feb. 1, 2023
Community and campus collide in newly launched social innovation hub
The Social Innovation Hub is where research, innovation, and community collide to create positive social change. Powered by Innovate Calgary, the Social Innovation Hub (SIH) provides critical support to innovators and startups solving social problems to help them launch and scale. The hub actively collaborates with partners in the University of Calgary's innovation ecosystem to support innovators working to build a more inclusive and resilient social economy.
Following the announcement of Prairies Economic Development Canada’s generous $2.65-million contribution to developing viable social enterprises and building a more inclusive innovation ecosystem in 2022, the team behind SIH has spent the last several months connecting with community organizations, social entrepreneurs, and innovators. By supporting first-time founders, non-profits looking to explore social enterprises, and academic innovators, SIH aims to expand what innovation means, who is seen as an innovator, and how innovation scales to create sustainable impact.
Complex social problems are worsening and without diverse perspectives at the table we will be no closer to solving them. In partnership with other innovation organizations at UCalgary and more broadly, SIH will help move the needle on the enduring social challenges we face today.
- Photo above: At the Social Innovation Hub opening, from left: Sean Crump, founder, Included by Design; John Wilson; Alicia Nahmad Vazquez, founder, R-ex Faculty; Jenna Galloway, founder, Fledge; Jordana Armstrong; Lourdes Juan, founder, Knead; Karen Benzies, director, social innovation, UCalgary; and Ed McCauley.
On Jan. 31, 2023, members of the public were invited to see the space at University Research park, #290-3553 31st St. N.W., and hear from Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor, University of Calgary; John Wilson, CEO and president, Innovate Calgary; and Jordana Armstrong, director, social innovation, on the future of the hub. Guests also heard from a dynamic panel of social entrepreneurs who are illuminating new pathways of scaling social impact, such as leveraging policy advocacy, innovative technology solutions, and evidence-driven, relational approaches to creating social change.
"We are excited to bring people from different sectors with diverse backgrounds and interests together in the hub, with the shared goal of translating revolutionary research and ideas into meaningful change," says Wilson.
"UCalgary is Canada's entrepreneurial university and Innovate Calgary proudly supports this work as a central support for researchers, startups, students and community. Our work together can be a significant game-changer and truly shape the future of Calgary’s social and economic economy.”
Transformation comes with vision and action
Hub members can connect with coaching, mentorship, capacity-building resources, networks, as well as access to funding, and space. This, together with responsive programming, provides a launching pad for founders and their businesses looking to move their ventures forward, but unsure where to find that next key resource or support.
The hub includes a makerspace (podcasting and videography room); library; meeting rooms; a community wall to support knowledge sharing between members; a wellness room; and a kitchen. The SIH will also be home to Innovate Calgary’s social innovation programming like the Research to Social Innovator Incubator and host various initiatives that support inclusive innovation like the Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition and the BIPOC Women Founders in Tech Pitch Competition happening in March 2023.
“We support impact-first innovations and startups, and also aspire to be a social innovation that investigates the structures and barriers that have historically excluded marginalized groups from the innovation ecosystem. Our team is constantly seeking and reiterating ways to support inclusive innovation with our partners like PrairiesCan, United Way and the many startups and organizations with whom we have worked. I look forward to what we can accomplish together as the hub gets off the ground,” says Jordana Armstrong, director, social innovation hub.
Innovate outside the lines with us
Interested in learning more about the Social Innovation Hub and its membership? You’re invited to test out our community programming for free over the next two months and learn more about how we can help you launch and grow your impact. Free community offerings coming up include:
- Feb 6: Social Innovator Breakfast Club Start your week off in a good way — with coffee, pastries, and intention setting.
- Feb 14: Social Innovator Work Sprint An opportunity to get work done and have fun doing it.
- Feb 15 and 21: Workshop your Application to the UCeed Social Impact Fund Get guidance, advice, and your questions answered before submitting your UCeed Social Impact Fund application!
- Feb 28: Black Professionals Community Lunch and Celebration Celebrate the stories of Black professionals and build community over lunch at the Social Innovation Hub.
- March 2: Social Innovator Mastermind Support and be supported through the Social Innovator Mastermind at the Social Innovation Hub.
The University of Calgary’s multidisciplinary approach to social innovation mobilizes knowledge that creates positive social change. With community collaboration and a robust ecosystem including the Social Innovation Hub, the Social Innovation Initiative, Knowledge Engagement, Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, and others, our social innovators and entrepreneurs are transforming solutions for social good.
Innovate Calgary is the innovation transfer and business incubator centre for the University of Calgary. As part of the Office of the Vice-President (Research) portfolio and as a member of the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, we work closely with researchers, faculty, and students to help bridge the gap between discovery and creating economic and societal impact. We do this by going beyond traditional technology transfer services to include focused startup support programs and services for research-intensive companies.