Civic Innovation Change Lab

What is the Civic Innovation Change Lab?

Are you looking for a very unique learning opportunity where you can build real-world skill sets solving an actual problem in the community?

Civic Innovation Change Lab is the opportunity you’ve been looking for!

Change Lab programs have been running at SFU since 2011. These unique, once-in-a-degree studio programs are intensive opportunities to hone your skills at developing practical solutions to real-world challenges.

“Civic innovation” refers to a method that improves the lives of citizens, the functions of cities, the practice of citizenship, or the state of community affairs. This course weaves together advanced knowledge in civic issues, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship. Students delve into the core practices of dialogue, design thinking, and business model development to become capable of producing impactful social innovations in the city of Vancouver.

Civic Innovation Change Lab runs yearly during the Spring Semester.
Applications are open September 1st to December 20th*
Spots are limited! We’re reviewing applications on a monthly basis – apply early to avoid waitlisting!

Civic Innovation Change Lab Theme: Neighbourhood Resilience

Resiliency refers to our ability to adapt or recover from difficulties; to be tough. When we refer to resilient neighbourhoods, we include economic, social, and environmental perspectives, as each is necessary to support the others.  The quest of neighbourhood resiliency is to build strong, diverse, and dynamic communities where residents can meet their human needs within the constraints of our socio-ecological system.

While resiliency will look and feel differently in each local context, examples of what it could include are:

  • Fostering social cohesion
  • Developing more localized economies
  • Producing and distributing food locally
  • Transforming our lifestyles to tread more lightly on the environment
  • Finding new ways to include marginalized groups (eg. seniors, folks with disabilities, etc.)
  • Engaging more citizens within decision-making processes

In the Civic Innovation Change Lab, students’ projects will respond to the challenges faced within City of Vancouver neighbourhoods and explore community-oriented solutions that engage citizens and build local resilience.

Meet the 2020 cohort!

Program Information

What do Students Learn and Do?

Participants work in teams to understand a Civic Innovation-related challenge as presented by City of Vancouver staff, then develop and test an innovative, entrepreneurial response. Students will spend much of the term out in community – gaining input and insight from community members to better understand the complexity and nuances of the problem space. Teams will present to partner panels for feedback at the mid-point and end of semester. Sessions are a mix of hands on workshops, coaching by instructors and experts, guest speakers, limited content lectures, and open work time in your teams to advance your ideas.

Ideal Applicants

3rd or 4th year SFU students from any discipline who:

  • are interested in a unique, experiential, group project-based program
  • are interested in addressing real-world issues
  • have keen curiosity and a willingness to explore and deepen their own leadership skills

Personal Learning and Leadership

Ideal Change Lab students come in with keen curiosity and a willingness to explore and deepen their own leadership skills. Individual reflection and journaling are part of the course. Participants will be challenged to both give and receive feedback from peers and instructors. Openness, vulnerability, and the ability to listen deeply are highly valued.

The Workload

Commensurate with 9 credits, you should expect this to be an intensive experience. Many students have described the program as the most transformative of their undergraduate degree – but you have to be interested in and committed to:

  • developing and testing real ideas,
  • getting out of the classroom and talking to people, and
  • taking responsibility for the direction of your learning during the term.

There isn’t a lot of mandatory reading or information to memorize – you work with us to figure out what you need to learn to effectively advance your project.

The Content

Some of the topics you will learn about are social entrepreneurship, systems thinking, civic issues, public and user engagement, dialogue, business model development, personal development, effective teams, and more.

Credits that you are awarded are:

  • BUS 453 (Sustainable Innovation) – 3 credits
  • BUS 494 (Iteration and Prototyping) – 3 credits
  • DIAL 461 (Field Placement in Dialogue and Engagement) – 3 credits


Dates: The program runs every Spring Semester (January – April).

Official class times:

  • Tuesdays 10:30am – 5:20pm at CityStudio Vancouver (800 Spyglass Pl, Vancouver, BC)
  • Thursdays 2:30pm – 5:20pm at the RADIUS Social Innovation Hub (200 – 308 West Hastings, Vancouver, BC)*

*The program may run online, or a combination of online and in-person depending on the university’s COVID-10 protocol.


Students participate in a day-long off-site retreat, all expenses covered.

How to Apply

Civic Innovation Change Lab Admission Requirements

You do not need any past business or health experience to thrive in this course! Expect your changemaking peers to bring a variety of perspectives from departments and faculties across the university, a breadth of experience from their own lives, and a shared passion for social and environmental issues.

While we value experience in social change, leadership and project creation of all sorts, we also encourage anyone excited about the description here to consider applying.

  • 60 credits
  • 2.67 GPA
  • Some relevant work or volunteer experience

    *Admission requirements may be waived.

Submitting your application

Please email your application to

Include a letter of interest, not more than 350 words, summarizing why you would like to take part in this program in your application email.

Attach the following two documents:

  • A recent copy of your CV/Resume;
  • An unofficial copy of your transcripts

Deadline to apply: Applications are open September 1st – December 20th *
Spots are limited! We’re reviewing applications on a monthly basis – apply early to avoid waitlisting!


want to know more?

Recent blog posts


The Change Lab Experience


If you have further questions about Civic Innovation Change Lab, please send them to, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


Making the Civic Innovation Change Lab possible