Civic Innovation Change Lab

What is the Civic Innovation Change Lab?

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, with the core practices of Dialogue, Design Thinking, and Business Model Development to allow students to become capable of producing impactful social innovations in cities.

Civic Innovation Change Lab is co-hosted by SFU Beedie, RADIUS SFU, CityStudio Vancouver, and SFU Semester in Dialogue. Local partners include the City of Vancouver and other leading community organizations.

Final Application Round: APPLICATIONS OPEN until spaces filled


2019 Cohort Theme​: Neighborhood 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.

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, venture-based 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.

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 & Engagement) – 3 credits


Official class times:

  • Tuesdays 11:30am – 5:20pm at CityStudio Vancouver.
  • Thursdays 2:30pm – 5:20pm at the RADIUS Social Innovation Hub

You will also have access to CityStudio’s studio space and group rooms from 9am-11:30am on Tuesdays, and all day Wednesdays.  If your schedule allows for it, we recommend leaving those times free from other classes so that you can work with your group during these times.


There is a day-long (9am-5pm) offsite retreat on Jan. 15, 2019, expenses covered.

How to apply


Change Lab programs are application-based. There are typically many more applicants that spaces available, so we suggest that you apply early and take some time to thoughtfully compose your application materials.


You do not need any past business or civic innovation 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.

Pre-requisites (may be waived at discretion of instructors in extenuating circumstances):

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

Application deadlines

Final Application Round: APPLICATIONS OPEN until spaces filled

How to apply

To submit your application for the Spring 2019 Civic Innovation Change Lab, please email the following documents to

  • An updated Resume/CV
  • A statement of your interest in Civic Innovation Change Lab (maximum 500 words), describing your motivations for participating in this program
  • A copy of your unofficial transcript

The Program Team

The Civic Innovation Change Lab will be stewarded by the following team of individuals. This team will also invite in a variety of guests from the local community.


Alia Sunderji

Alia is a social entrepreneur and lecturer at Simon Fraser University where she teaches Sustainable Innovation and Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Passionate about the fields of sustainability, poverty alleviation and impact investing, Alia is the Founder of Luv The Grub an emerging social enterprise that operates at a number of levels in the food system by capturing produce seconds that would otherwise go to waste, hires newcomer refugees and immigrants through a paid employment training program and produces delicious chutneys and spreads for the local market. In addition, Alia is also the Co-Founder of Liv & Lola; a fair trade home decor business which works with artisans in rural areas of Nicaragua, Guatemala and Thailand where employment opportunities are scarce in an effort to lift them, their families and their communities out of poverty.

Tamara Connell

Fellowship Support

Tamara is a white settler woman who has called British Columbia home for much of her life. She is a partner, friend, daughter, sister, auntie, colleague and enthusiastic pumpkin-carver.

Tamara’s background is diverse, but for her, nothing compares to teaching, coaching, and mentoring within educational settings. Through facilitated trainings, games, simulations, and workshops, she helps people to see the interconnectedness of the world and our underlying mental models.

As the Associate Director, Education and Training, Tamara oversees RADIUS’ innovative curriculum and its delivery. She is a certified personal coach and a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods facilitator.


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.


Thank you to our generous supporters!

Change Lab is generously supported by Scott Shaw, Scotiabank and Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship and it is co-delivered with innovative allies at SFU such as the Faculty of Health Sciences, Faculty of Environment, CityStudio, and Semester in Dialogue.