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Social Innovation Catalyzing Social Change Can SI+SE be a viable resource for positive social change on campus? How has SI+SE emerged at Laurier over the past year? Karli Ferriolo

Wilfrid Laurier University

Karli Ferriolo

Full-time daydreamer, disruptor of systems, and lover of burritos

Many social entrepreneurs talk about their journey as a culmination of seemingly small parts that end up playing a big role in the grand scheme of their life’s legacy. When I think about my journey over the past five years, I could never foresee that I would become the person that I am today. As many other undergraduate students, there was a significant amount of time where I found myself questioning my decision to attend university. But after a few failed courses and a change in faculties, I decided to continue my journey on the road of higher education. Throughout my time in the Global Studies program, I have learned a lot about the grave injustices that continue to occur in our communites both near and far. Lectures were often somber and critical, but I was able to engage with an amazing group of instructors and classmates who all shared similar interests in the future of our world. Last year, with the introduction of the Social Entrepreneurship Option, I was then able to learn and understand that although those injustices exist, we can apply skills and resources to better alleviate them. Wilfrid Laurier University is a unqiue community of changemakers. As I reflect back on my Laurier journey, I am grateful and humbled by the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had to find my place as a changemaker in the world. The University has recently been recognized as an official AshokaU Changemaker Campus, the second in Canada. This puts Laurier in an opportune position to become an international leader in the fields of social innovation and social entrepreneurship. There has been no shortage of inspired faculty, staff, and students that have worked endlessly to curate the necessary structure in order to maintain the culture of changemaking in the Laurier community. The next few pages will highlight the efforts that have been put forth over the past year. It has been an unforgettable journey and I am grateful to have had the chance to be a part of it. Cheers,


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Editor’s note


What is social innovation?


SI vs. SE


SIVC Laurier




The student perspective


Campus Highlight

SEO’s First Cohort

17 Campus Highlight Purpose Lab

What is

social innovation? T

he field of social innovation has recently become an international topic of conversation. Global thought leaders have explored what social innovation means and what it has the potential to do for our 21st century world.

and practical thought leadership contributing to social innovation discourse.

Social innovators that work in a variety of fields have realized that the way systems have operated for decades is becoming detrimental to the future of our world. The entirety of the social innovation model is necessary for our societies to adapt to change and become more resilient in the face of economic, social, political, environmental and cultural adversity.

Within Laurier’s framework, social innovation includes social ventures that are designed to address a complex social issue with sustainable, collaborative, Social innovation as a principle and impactful strategies and is not a new way of operating. approaches. This framework may Indigenous communities around include the creation of a social the world are the original social enterprise, a new innovation, innovators, as their traditional intrapreneurship or other knowledge and practices are approaches to sustainably improve ‘Social innovation is an initiative, innovative and sustainable in their our social sphere. product, process, or program that entirety, with the wellbeing of profoundly changes the basic future generations always in mind. At it’s core, social innovation is routines, beliefs, and resource and a response to the world’s most authority flows of any social There are many definitions of social complex challenges. Social system.’ innovation that exist today from a innovation aims to understand the SiG, ‘08 variety of different countries. From underlying and root causes of these Ashoka and SiG to The Australian challenges to best address them Centre for Social Innovation and with sustainable solutions. Nesta, there is no shortage of academic

Social Innovation versus

Social Entrepreneurship


s new research is constantly being conducted in the field of social innovation, the discourse surrounding the field is continuously evolving. Similarly to many other fields of study, research is conducted to find new discoveries and methodologies. With that being said, how people use the terminology of social innovation and social entrepreneurship changes from day to day as well. Uncertainty surrounding which terms are best to use at particular times can often get confusing for those who are interested in the world of social innovation. Canadian research group, Social Innovation Generation (SiG), defines social innovation as an initiative, product, process, or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, beliefs, and resource and authority flows of any social system. SiG then defines a social entrepreneur as someone who aims to put those initiatives into action. In Alex Nicholls’ Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change he is very critical of Stanford University’s Professor Gregory Dees’ well-known five factors that define social entrepreneurship. They are as follows: 1. Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value); 2. Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission; 3. Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning; 4. Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and; 5. Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created. The factors that Dees highlights are not incorrect to social entrepreneurship, however, the concept of entrepeneurship is not included in his definition. Ventures that are socially entrepreneurial have the ability to maintain their social mission and generate enough profit to become self-sustaining. In essence, social entrepreneurship takes practices that are often associated with business — innovation, goal setting, the measurement of results, financial sustainability, and the creation of systems that can be scaled or extended — and applies them to address social challenges. Social innovation involves the development of new strategies and novel approaches to addressing social needs and sustainability issues. Social innovation and social entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive; they both encompass what it means to work towards creating positive social change as a sustainable way of life for oneself and for the world. New reserach is always being conducted in the world of academia. It is important to have definitions of terms such as social innovation and social entrepreneurship to be able to recognize the changing dynamics of our world. It is also important to not get overly caught up in the semantics of terminology but to remember the true intent of the efforts.

Inspiring lives of leadership and purpose

Social Innovation & Venture Creation S

ocial innovation requires interdisciplinary collaboration from all operational levels in order to be successful. At Laurier, Social Innovation & Venture Creation (SIVC) aims to expand on the network of changemakers on campus and in the community. Through these efforts of collaboration, Laurier is able to further develop what social innovation means to future faculty, staff, and students. With available resources and supports, SIVC brings to life Laurier’s mission to ‘Inspire Lives of Leadership and Purpose’. With a unique strategy for cross-campus and community engagement with social innovation, SIVC is cultivating the necessary structures to influence a lasting culture of changemaking on Laurier campuses. It is critical for universities to balance both the structure and culture of social innovation on campus in order to create the most significant impact.

SIVC also engages with Alumni and community partners through a Catalyst Team that is able to further expand on local and global community partnerships. As well, the SIVC Change Team allows for departments from across Laurier to come together in a way that encourages creative ideation and collaboration. The resources that SIVC provides on campus is a way for social innovation to be formally recognized as a core value of the institution. Although efforts of creating positive social change were occurring on campus prior to SIVC’s development, this initiative allows for changemakers at all levels to collectively recognize that the work they are doing matters and plays a significant part in what social innovation means at Laurier.

@SIVCLaurier SIVC Laurier

HIGHLIGHTS September 2014

February 2015

Laurier launches interdisciplinary SE Option

Laurier attends AshokaU Exchange at the University of Maryland

November 2014

May 2015

Laurier receives $500,000 grant from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

‘This is truly an affirmation of the terrific grassroots work in many corners of Laurier in the social innovation and social entrepreneurship arena.’ Dr. Deborah MacLatchy

Laurier appoints Dr. Joanne Benham Rennick as director: social innovation & social entrepreneurship


oth research and action are required to cultivate social innovation as a diverse and viable driver for change. At Laurier, there is a wide array of research and action evidence that highlights how Laurier staff, faculty, and students have been dedicated agents of change before social innovation existed as it’s own field. However, over the past eight months, there has been a significant amount of institutional recognition for social innovation on campus. Laurier has proven to be a unique and innovative university in the past, which makes furthering these efforts an obvious fit. With national recognition from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s RECODE initiative, to the internationally esteemed AshokaU Changemaker Campus designation, Laurier’s focus on social innovation has made it’s presence known as a successful driver for positive social change.


ocial Innovation & Venture Creation (SIVC) has been a significant catalyst movement in encouraging collaboration between departments on campus to be able to expand on the growing network of changemakers. The SIVC Change Team is comprised of faculty, staff, and student representatives from various departments on campus that are researchers, advocates, or drivers of positive social change. During the SIVC Launch that occurred in January, each represented department was able to showcase their initiatives to the entire Laurier community. Laurier’s efforts of putting forward initiatives to encourage positive social change will only continue. The 2014-2015 year has been one of great strides and successes for social innovation at Laurier. Growing networks and access to resources will continue to expand in the years to come.

‘Laurier is a community of changemakers. Being part of the Ashoka network is a way for Laurier to emphasize and share who it already is.’ Dr. Joanne Benham Rennick

August 2015

January 2016

Social Innovation & Venture Creation develops as a central hub for social innovation theory and practice to emerge at Laurier

SIVC Laurier and the Purpose Lab have a launch event to showcase initiatives

October 2015 AshokaU conducts a site visit to evaluate how Laurier can be a leader in SI+SE

March 2016 Laurier is officially named an AshokaU Changemaker Campus

Campus Highlight:

Social Entrepreneurship Option’s First Cohort

Introduced in 2014, the Social Entrepreneurship Option is an interdisciplinary program that allows all students to explore SI+SE

The First Cohort Of



How to Change the World: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship What do you want your legacy to be? How does your personal journey imapct how you interact with the world? What matters most to you? What are you passionate about?


Developing a Social Venture Bridging the gap from personal to team efforts. What are the different models of social innovation that exist and how can they be applied to various wicked problems?


Capstone Course in Social Entrepreneurship How have you grown as a leader? How can you transition from learning social entrepreneurship to becoming a real-world social entrepreneur? What resources do you need to be able to sustain your venture?

How does it feel to be a part of the first cohort of Social Entrepreneurship students at Laurier?

‘It feels empowering to study and work with other like-minded students who have a passion for social issues and are wanting to pursue change through their education.’ Serena Gill Communication Studies, ‘18 Did the SE Option give you opportunities you wouldn’t have found through your Major or extracurriculars?

‘The Social Entrepreneurship Option provided opportunities for growth and new experiences that allowed me to learn more about social entrepreneurship and gave me the confidence to launch my own venture.’

'The SE Option gave me the opportunity to apply the theoretical frameworks learned in the Global Studies program in a practical and impactful way.' Shannon Wackett Global Studies, '16 What’s next for your SE journey?

‘Social innovation and social entrepreneurship at Laurier has inspired me to deeply believe that everyone has the ability to create true positive impact in the world, and that’s something that will never leave me, regardless of which career path I take.’ Nada Ahmed Business Administration, ‘17

Jordanne Whitmarsh Global Sudies, ‘16

‘I feel extremely honoured to have been involved in the beginning of Laurier’s changemaking journey. I hope to continue looking for issues and projects that I feel connected to, and see what I can do to contribute.’ Dayla O’Hearn-Smith Global Studies, ‘17

‘Students, regardless of discipline, can learn to apply innovative principles and strategies in order to turn their passion and area of study into a force for positive social change.’ Tom Ebeyer

Global Studies, ‘16

The Student Perspective U

niversity is meant to equip people with the necessary tools and resources to be productive and contributing members of society. However, education models have not kept up with the dynamic and everchanging society we live in. Current university students are expected to be the prospective leaders of tomorrow. The question is, have institutions of higher education prepared us to be able to take on that inevitable task? Social innovation curriculum has expanded into a number of faculties at Laurier. Science, Business, Music, and Arts students are all able to engage with social innovation theories and models in their classes.

Tevis Shkodra, a Global Studies with Social Entrepreneurship Option student, claims that the social innovation curriculum that he learned in the SE Option classes added a greater degree of diversity to his overall university experience. He adds, ‘I learned that SI+SE is complementary to Global Studies and can expand on my future influence in the field.’ ‘65% of children entering school in 2005 will end up working in careeres that haven’t even been invented yet.’

The heightened sense of community on Laurier campuses is a noteworthy point of interest when students speak of their experiences. With a variety of volunteer and community service experiences both locally and globally, many students have been working towards creating positive social change well before social innovation teachings were formally introduced.

Abbas Jeraj, Business Administration student, states that, ‘there are a lot of institutional initiatives but they Cathy N. Davidson aren’t always that accessible or Now You See It necessarily what students even need.’ Similarly to other students, Laurier has always been a community filled with people who Abbas found his interests in influencing positive change are passionate and dedicated to outside of the classroom with creating positive social change. campus club Enactus Laurier.

Students are a key stakeholder in university operations. Without students, a university would just be another research institute. Students are often unaware of the power and potential that their voice holds. Top-down models have proven to often be ineffective for the population they are aiming to serve. Laurier students have been known to take issues that matter to them and work towards changing them for the better. Whether it is showing solidarity for racial injustices around the world or advocating for a fully-funded tuition freeze, Laurier students are keen on working endlessly from the bottom-up to create or influence positive social change. The language of social innovation on the Laurier campus is still relatively new. Laurier has established a reputation of being dedicated to creating positive change; many students groups have been working in the realm of social innovation but they were just unaware of it before its introduction on campus.

‘Social innovation is a lifestyle in which you require the ability to be empathetic with the drive to overcome challenges to create change.’ Kamil Ahmed Global Studies & Political Science, ‘19

Kamil Ahmed highlights how social innovation can be very diverse and take many differe forms. He says, 'social innovation for sexual assault looks different from social innovation for ecological sustainability.' They fit under the umbrella that is social innovation, but the context in which they operate will be different. There is no one-size-fits-all model or definition for what social innovation can be. As young people living in a constantly changing world, being able to apply theories of social innovation to the wide array of social and environmental challenges will allow us to build dynamic and resilient societies for the future.

You go to university to get a degree but where do you go to get a life? Why can't you do both? Your time in university has the potential to greatly impact your life's journey and how you identify your place in the world.

“ Let us dream the wildest dream possible and then pursue it Muhammad Yunus

Campus Highlight:

Purpose Lab

Where can students go to ideate their passions? How can students bridge the gap between theoretical classroom knowledge and applicable realworld challenges?

Where Passion

Meets Purpose A student-operated social innovation and coworking space, the Purpose Lab is a physical place on campus where students can ideate their passions and interests to create positive social change.


urrent research on zone learning shows how place and surroundings have a substanial impact on work and team dynamics, especially in the diverse field of social innovation. Interdisciplinary collaboration is at the heart of creative problem solving and social innovation. How can a team of changemakers create their full potential of influence in cramped work spaces that do not foster ideation, creativity, and innovation? The Purpose Lab aims to solve that problem on Laurier’s Waterloo campus. As a multi-purpose space, it can be utilized by different groups of students who are interested in ideating their passions and creating positive social change. What began as a seemingly implausible idea quickly turned into a reality. With faculty and adminstrative support, the renovations of a traditional classroom on the first floor of the Dr. Alvin Woods Building soon began turning into a social innovation zone. Social innovation at Laurier is a broad spectrum, that ranges from, but is not limited to, enterprises and advocacy to intrapreneurship and education. With that in mind, students from all years and faculties on campus can use the Purpose Lab for what best suits their needs. The overall objective of the Purpose Lab is to create an accesible resource for students at any point of their social journey in order to continue working on what matters most to them.

‘The myth of the lone genius achieving one eureka after another in a closed room is a cartoonish, outdated cliché .’ Steelcase, ‘16


ltogether, social innovation at Wilfrid Laurier University is a broad spectrum that includes a variety of individuals who are dedicated to creating positive social change. Whether that is through environmental sustainability, advocating for social equity, or fostering storytelling through living libraries, Laurier is a melting pot of socially innovative initiatives. In order to truly inspire lives of leadership and purpose students, faulty, and staff must work together across their silos and faculties to collaborate and ideate initiatives that will solve some of the world's most complex challenges. Over the past year, Laurier has shown dedication and commitment to social innovation. While national and international recognition is an added benefit, changemakers will continue to pursue positive social change because it is what they are wholeheartedly passionate about. Laurier is a place where students can come to find their passions and then take action on them. Through campus frameworks, such as SIVC, to international networks, such as AshokaU, there is no shortage of opportunities for all of Laurier to continue to inspire lives of leadership and purpose.

“ Someone who wants the world to remain as it is does not want the world to remain at all

Erich Fried

Get Inspired. Change the World.

Profile for Karli Ferriolo

Social Innovation for Social Change  

Capturing a year of social innovation and social entrepreneurship at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Social Innovation for Social Change  

Capturing a year of social innovation and social entrepreneurship at Wilfrid Laurier University.