RADIUS is five! Our birthday in March brought together staff, alumni, partners, friends and SFU leadership, and we couldn’t be more proud of the thriving, dynamic, and committed impact-driven community we are building together with all of you.
To date we have incubated 165 social ventures, supported 187 Change Lab students, funded 42 student social innovation projects, created 47 paid internship opportunities, amplified the work of 80 RADIUS Fellows, and hosted more than 100 local, regional, and national workshops and events reaching more than 7500 participants. Phew, that’s a lot of social innovation!
The landscape has also changed significantly in five years, and we are evolving with it. In 2013, there were virtually no dedicated social innovation or social venture programs in Canada, and few universities had a significant focus in these areas. As of 2018, SFU is one 18 Canadian institutions in the McConnell Foundation’s RECODE network and among nearly 50 international institutions in the Ashoka Changemaker Campus network. Social venture programs abound, while the sector needs to ask harder questions about whether helping individual ventures really maximizes our impact, without a more systemic outlook.
As a result of our own learning, we are rolling out a new strategy for our next five years that more intentionally marries our social venture expertise and systems change work, while both deepening our focus on capacity and leadership development and doubling down on our mission of economic transformation.
Venturing in Service of Systems Change
We believe an economy that works for everyone is one that is just, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. That is an economy which is rich in innovation, geared toward maximum participation from the most people and perspectives, rooted in the long view of social and environmental well-being, and that shrinks the economic distance between decisions and where their impact is felt.
In order to focus on more systemic impact that moves us more directly towards this vision, all of our social venture incubation work will now happen embedded within systems-change focused ‘labs’.
This organizational shift is informed by our belief that entrepreneurship and innovation can play an important role in creating meaningful societal change, but we need to look beyond individual ventures and solutions to engage with and influence the broader systems of which they are a part.
Moving forward each RADIUS lab will:
- Develop capacity for systems leadership;
- Incubate social ventures as models of the economy we wish to see;
- Identify barriers and opportunities to affect systems dynamics, through systems mapping and research; and
- Build the required social infrastructure and deliberate networks to collaborate for systems change.
Working at multiple levels, we will connect the energy and insights generated by entrepreneurial actors creating on the ground solutions with the key people, organizations and systems influencers engaged in the challenge.
This approach bridges the best of innovation labs and incubation programs – some might call it a ‘lab-cubator’. Our overarching commitment in RADIUS lab programming is to harnessing entrepreneurial energy and learning in service of systemic change.
We should say, this doesn’t mean we’ll be working with fewer entrepreneurs, in fact we will work with approximately 40 social ventures in cohort programs this year. However, instead of scattered across diverse areas of impact, we’ll be recruiting ventures bringing a broad set of solutions to specific problem areas, to allow us to dive deeper with them in cohorts, and into the systemic issues surrounding their work.
Each of our lab and venture programs responds to tackling an aspect of economic transformation. We are currently working to advance:
- Refugee social and economic integration
- Sustainable economic growth and diversification in Indigenous communities
- An equitable future of work
- Helping Canadians live healthier lives
You can learn more about each RADIUS Lab at radiussfu.com.
What We’re Holding On To: Building Capacity for Social Innovation
We are also deepening our work in our Education and Training portfolio, helping build capacity and readiness for tackling the big social and economic challenges of our time. This includes a breadth of curricular and co-curricular opportunities for SFU students, looking forward to the fifth year of the RADIUS Fellowship program for emerging regional social innovation leaders, and growing our custom trainings and workshops with values-aligned organizations.
And please don’t worry, you’ll still be able to count on us for some excellent community events, public workshops, and other efforts to help make our sector more welcoming, accessible and inclusive, including through our community hub at the Charles Chang Innovation Centre. You’re welcome to reach out about desk and space rentals at our shiny new building — we have hot-desks, permanent desks, and tech-enabled wall-to-wall whiteboard meeting rooms (large and small), alongside a community of inspiring innovation and impact minded colleagues
In order to realize this ambitious new vision, RADIUS has recently hired 7(!) amazing humans to join our team. This incredible team brings a mix of skills in education and experiential learning, social labs practice, social venture incubation, and specific problem area expertise to the execution of our new strategy. Get to know the new faces of RADIUS.
Please feel free to reach out to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and give us feedback on this transition, we’d love to hear from you.