Social R+D

This week’s guest post first appeared on SiG’s (Social Innovation Generation) website and is reposted here with permission. 

In July 2015, an emerging cross-sector alliance of social innovators, thinkers, activists, pragmatists and advocates came together to explore how R&D for social impact could become more accessible, supported, integrated, diffuse and intentional. The result? A Declaration of Action.

All are welcome to join this alliance of activity and inquiry – please email to sign this declaration for a robust, networked and cross-sector social R&D ecosystem and/or to sign-up for news & updates as the ecosystem develops.

An audacious opportunity

 As an emerging alliance of front-line innovators, professionals, advocates, academics, nonprofit and foundation leaders, entrepreneurs, and public policy professionals: We declare a commitment to generate intentional, networked, and shared Research & Development (R&D) capabilities for lasting, positive social outcomes.

Our view is Canada’s innovation culture and ecosystem requires a networked, cross-sector R&D approach if we are to achieve the positive social outcomes we seek.

Creating the conditions for innovation requires our collective commitment to enable and advance R&D for social impact.

Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday in 2017 is an audacious opportunity for this country to lead the world in advancing breakthroughs in complex social, economic and environmental challenges through open, networked and distributed R&D for societal well-being. Over the past 12 months, a common call has been heard at gatherings, in research, around milestones and in working groups across the country around tackling entrenched challenges by animating cross-sector innovation and R&D.

We see R&D as complementary and reinforcing activities that unleash continuous process, product, policy, service, structural, and systems innovation across society.

These activities include, but are not limited to:


Exploring, community-led inquiry, ethnography, lit review, case studies, data sourcing


Brainstorming, generating hypotheses, leveraging small, big and open data


Designing and testing, piloting, prototyping, evaluating, designing feedback loops, co-production


Building/sharing capacity, aggregating/sharing lessons from success, failure and process development, leaping by learning

A cross-sector social impact R&D approach will significantly enhance the work of Canada’s innovation ecosystem and propel us towards long-term social and economic prosperity.


Now is the time to seed and lead a vibrant ecosystem of public good R&D-enabled innovation across corporate, academic, public and community sectors to generate lasting positive impact.

We believe that an advanced R&D approach necessarily:

  • Focuses on transforming entrenched structures, policy and systems
  • Designs for thriving communities and enriched lives at all stages of life
  • Strives to be open, networked and distributed, supporting all contributors from the passionate amateurs to the large-scale innovation hubs
  • Operates in a spirit of abundance
  • Activates various forms of capital including data, talent, knowledge, infrastructure, finance and social capital (networks)
  • Pursues connection by diffusing from, to and across the margins, the grassroots, the labs, the R&D “arms,” and ongoing organizational silos
  • Targets systems innovation, engaging in the complementary co-development of institutional, scientific/technological, business, and social innovation
  • Facilitates social organizations and enterprises to pursue a “fifth dimension” of core activity: innovation
  • Leads from a new ethical framework for R&D for public good

This declaration is a living document. It serves as a reminder of our commitment to action. We invite others to join in the development of this R&D approach to enable lasting impact.

Declaration Participants:

Tim Draimin SiG National

Vinod Rajasekaran – Impact Hub Ottawa

Kelsey Spitz – SiG National

Lee Rose – Community Knowledge Exchange  

Sarah Schulman – InWithForward

Andrew Chunilall – Community Foundations of Canada

Stephen Huddart – The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

Jason Pearman – Public Servant, Co-Founder Impact Hub Ottawa

Rohit Ramchandani – Antara Global Health Advisors/ColaLife

Amy Mapara – Canadian Red Cross

Anil Patel – Grantbook

Jess Tomlin – MATCH International Women’s Fund

Indy Johar –  00:/

Dave Farthing – YOUCAN

Andrew Taylor – Grand Challenges Canada

Bruce MacDonald – Imagine Canada

Jean-Noé Landry – Open North

Ben Weinlick – Skills Society & Think Jar Collective

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation

Marilyn Struthers – Consultant, Former Eaton Chair in Social Innovation, Ryerson University

David Phipps – York University, ResearchImpact-ReseauImpactRecherche

Liz Mulholland – Prosper Canada

Claire Buré

John Brodhead

Reading Resources:

The Top 8

  1. Doing Good Better: Upping Canada’s Game with an R&D Engine By Tim Draimin & Vinod Rajasekaran (2015)
  2. Conference Board April 2013 Public R&D Spending By The Conference Board of Canada (2013)
  3. Introducing Kudoz & Fifth Space By InWithForward + partners (2015)
  4. Netiquette 2.0: Moving Forward at the Speed of Trust By Marilyn Struthers & Penny Scott (2015)
  5. Fueling Nonprofit Innovation: R&D Vigor Trumps Randomized Control Trial Rigor By Peter York (2011)
  6. Impact by Design: Making R&D Work for the Social Sector By Meg Long (2012)
  7. Making Evidence Practical for Development By Joe Dickman & Samir Khan (2015)
  8. The point of no return By Sarah Schulman (2015)


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