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 open in the Fall. Sign up below to get notified when applications re-open.

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 & 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)


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. Admission requirements (may be waived at discretion of instructors in extenuating circumstances):

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

Submitting your application

Please email your application to

Include the following three documents:

  • A recent copy of your CV/Resume;
  • An unofficial copy of your transcripts; and
  • A letter of interest, not more than 500 words, summarizing why you would like to take part in this program.

Deadline to apply: Applications will re-open in September 2020.

Click the button below to get notified when applications re-open in the Fall.

The Team

Meet the RADIUS Team Behind Civic Innovation Change Lab

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.


Tim Ames

Tim is responsible for the implementation of the collaborative strategic direction of both Plan Institute & PLAN, a role that he has held for five years. Tim has also served as a community connector for PLAN, sat on the board of Plan Institute and worked for three years as General Manager for Tyze—an online personal networking service and a certified B-Corp Social Enterprise developed by PLAN. Tim also teaches Sustainable Innovation and is a Mentor in Residence at Simon Fraser University and the Venture Connection. Before working In the Not for Profit sector Tim was the Managing Director and Vice President of an International technology company and worked in Canada, the USA and Europe. Tim brings over 25 years of experience in business, sales, management, and personal development and is passionate about helping people and organizations create success and sustainability.


Tara Mahoney

Tara Mahoney is a researcher and civic engagement practitioner based in Vancouver. She has recently completed her PhD in Communication at Simon Fraser University,  which focused on new forms of participatory political culture in Canada. She is currently the research fellow in climate change communication at the David Suzuki Foundation where she is working to integrate qualitative research, crowdsourcing and experimental engagement projects to better understand how to leverage media and culture in ways that engage young people in the transition toward renewable energy. She is also the creative director of Gen Why Media, a non-profit creative agency focused producing public art, media and events for social issues.


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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