Explore the roots of Indigenous Innovation, get advice from Indigenous Innovators, and access resources that can support you on own journey.
What is Indigenous Innovation?
- Innovation is about building new ideas and solutions for how we can create the change we want to see in the world.
- Social innovation is a term used for solving problems and building solutions for the betterment of local and global communities and ecosystems.
- Indigenous Innovation is Indigenous-led, -owned, and -impacted innovation. Indigenous innovation is solving problems and building solutions using Traditional Knowledge – practices, beliefs, and experiences of Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous daycares create immense opportunities for Indigenous communities. An Indigenous daycare supports parents’ ability to work and still be able to provide culturally-relevant care for their children.
A community garden creates a way for neighborhoods to grow and access locally-grown nutritious food. Community gardens act as a vehicle for education, self-sufficiency and community building.
A language education program that creates hand-crafted regalia from recycled fabrics from the community can inspire cultural pride and strengthen self-identity among all members of the community – young and old.
A women’s group that creates hand-crafted regalia from recycled fabrics from the community can inspire cultural pride and strengthen self-identity among all members of the community – young and old.
We have always been problem-solvers and builders.
Indigenous peoples have always been problem solvers and solution builders – inventing products and creating solutions to problems using our Traditional Knowledge.
Here are some examples to be proud of:
- Kayak and canoe
- Pain reliever
- The cure for scurvy
- Chewing gum
- Petroleum jelly
Innovation is in us.
Innovation, change, growth, and flourishing, are not new ideas – they have always been inherent to Indigenous culture and life.
Francine is Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec and is founder of Whiteduck Resources Inc. a boutique consulting firm that provides research and evaluation to community, national and international indigenous organizations.
Our values can guide the way.
Traditional Knowledge is an asset when it comes to innovation. Let the teachings from your ancestors and your community guide the way you make decisions. Here are some examples of traditional values and practices that can help you succeed.
Community and context
Intergenerational knowledge transfer
Oral knowledge transfer
What is Social Innovation to Canada?
Social Innovation is about “developing new solutions to social or economic challenges. It can improve people’s quality of life through collaborating with new partners, testing creative ideas and measuring their impact” (Government of Canada).
Social innovation is an opportunity to create the change we want to see in the world through economic development. The Government of Canada recognizes the societal and economic benefit of investing in people and organizations – both large and small – creating social innovations and community-based solutions. Indigenous innovators are actively participating in reshaping systems to support themselves in addressing local and global social challenges.
For more information please visit: Government of Canada page
Indigenous Innovators are leading the way.
Jaqueline Jennings - Raven Indigenous Capital Partners
Diane Roussin - Winnipeg Boldness Project
Jennifer Harper - Cheekbone Beauty
Indigenous Innovators are able to hold true to their worldviews while actively participating in the Social Innovation economy. For Canada, Social Innovation represents an opportunity for a responsible, inclusive society and economy.
Canada’s opportunity is your opportunity, too.
The Government of Canada is placing more and more attention on Social Innovation. $2 billion dollars will be invested in Social Innovation projects over the next 10 years through the Social Finance Fund. This fund will be one way to access repayable and non-repayable resources to support your own social innovation project.
How can you innovate?
- Concept design
Detail design stage
- Detail design
3 examples of Indigenous Social Innovation ; Using a circular Social Innovation process
Innovation is a journey that is shared
Fellow Indigenous Innovators are on the path with you, supporting you!
What is Indigenous Innovation?Social innovation is impactful because people can work together based on shared values like the ones below.
Social innovation is inclusive innovation because, if social standing and life are to be improved, the voices of all members of a community or society must be heard, especially those voices whose lives stand to be improved the most. Ex: Getting feedback from many different voices from across your community before you launch.
Inclusion requires collaboration. Coming up with new and creative solutions to problems requires that many perspectives be included and considered as well. Collaboration is the backbone of many other social innovation values. Collaboration between individuals and teams, and across organizations and sectors within the Social Innovation ecosystem is essential to its development. Ex: If you have a community garden, then you can collaborate with a bakery to make a new kind of jam you can sell together at the market alongside your fruit and vegetables.
Social innovation is an approach to changing the world we live in. It has ambitious goals of improving the way we live individually and together on this whole planet. Ex: People all over the world are facing the challenges of pollution and need clean water. Selling your filtration system online so you can ship it internationally can create a global impact.
Social innovation is also a way of creating change right in your community. Use social innovation to solve a local problem to help your neighbours or your family, like starting a daycare or developing a new water filtration device. Ex: Your clothing line is doing well and more and more people have become aware of your brand and community. The local news has come to interview you and your team. Everyone feels proud for what they created together.
Social innovation is an approach that is always learning, developing, and improving upon itself. Long-term thinking is especially important for developing robust solutions that can create long-lasting change. Social innovation cannot only consider the immediate impact. Change must be sustainable. Ex: Over time, our community garden will rotate crops ensuring that our soil remains fertile over the long term.
Social innovation addresses real, felt challenges. Whether the challenge is new or old, it requires creativity in order to develop a solution that prioritizes impact over marketability. Ex: when we encounter an obstacle, we bring our teams together and think about how we can overcome them. When we ran out of cotton for our clothing line, wew realized that we had access to so much recycled fabric within our community and that this would make our clothing line more environmentally friendly.
We have an opportunity to create a local impact and shape how the Social Innovation economy in Canada evolves with Indigenous leadership.
With our Indigenous ways of innovating, we have an opportunity to promote social justice, reconciliation, intercultural dialogue, environmental sustainability, and to build community resilience. Social innovation can have a healing impact on Canadian society and the planet, but only if all people – Indigenous and non-indigenous – are empowered with the knowledge and the resources to be successful.
Together, we can solve our world’s greatest challenges.
Canada’s Social Innovation EcosystemCanada’s social innovation ecosystem can enable social innovation through collaboration. It is made up of people of all ages from different parts of society – governments, civil society, the private sector, public sector, universities, individual entrepreneurs, Hereditary chiefs, elected community leaders and others. Social innovations grow in environments where there is support and access for entrepreneurs and innovators to develop their ideas, conduct research, and build solutions, and put them out into the world – that is what the social innovation ecosystem is for. Everyone is interconnected by the shared values and goals of improving our quality of life and our environment.
Social Purpose Organizations (SPO)
Canada has kept the definition of a social purpose organization broad. Any of the following types of organizations can be included:
Where are you in your innovation journey?
Based on your stage, you can find resources that can help you at each stage of your strategy and process.
BLUESKY – Early-stage thinking and design
DEVELOPMENT – Strategic development
WAYS TO IDENTIFY YOU’VE ACHIEVED THIS
You understand the strengths, skills and resources you, your team and your stakeholders have in making the social innovation a success.
You have identified other skills, tools and resources you will need to deliver on your strategy.
You have identified partnerships, financing, and/or hiring that can provide the remaining skills, tools and resources you need to deliver on your strategy.
You and your stakeholders know how the team and stakeholders wish to govern, lead and nurture.
You have created room for feedback and learning.
RESILIENCE – Long-term thinking
WAYS TO IDENTIFY YOU’VE ACHIEVED THIS
You have identified your revenue model.
You have calculated the financial projections and current financial health of your business or organization.
You have identified external sources of social financing (if desired).
WAYS TO IDENTIFY YOU’VE ACHIEVED THIS
You have a sense of the ecosystem and value chain in which your team or organization operates.
You have learned who else can be a partner and ally to deliver added value and create greater impact.
You have created a process to conduct research into the ways your organization can evolve with the changing needs of your stakeholders.
Resources to help you on your journeyDepending on where you are on your innovation journey – bluesky, development, or resilience stage – here are some resources that can help you to continue moving forward.
Early-stage innovation design
- Taking action in the community – toolkit and online course
- Mission Statement – resource
- Mission and Purpose – toolkit
- Stakeholder mapping – template
Strategic thinking and business set-up
- Taking action in the community – toolkit
- A toolkit for First Nations-Municipal Community Economic Development Partnerships
- Charity models – Charity How-to toolkit
- Social community development planning – Hub development toolkit
- Grand Challenges – Indigenous Innovate 202