About The Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR)
We are excited to announce a major new development at SiG@Waterloo. The University of Waterloo Senate has recently approved the creation of the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). WISIR, located within the Faculty of Environment, will become the institutional home for SiG@Waterloo. Together, WISIR and SiG@Waterloo will work to generate and disseminate new knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process in Canada.
The Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR) was founded as a joint venture between the University of Waterloo¹s Faculty of Environment and Faculty of Arts. WISIR in an outcome of the Social Innovation Generation project at the University of Waterloo (SiG@Waterloo), part of a national initiative focused on advancing understanding of and perpetuating social innovation. Through collaborative research projects that bridge UW¹s faculties, join together researchers at different universities, and work beyond the university community, WISIR is committed to generating new inter-disciplinary knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process (the dynamics of learning, adaptation and resilience) in Canada and internationally. WISIR seeks to mobilize this knowledge through a range of new curriculum offerings and training opportunities within and outside the university setting, including the new Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation. .
The University of Waterloo’s reputation as Canada’s most innovative university, its recognized expertise in a range of disciplinary areas concerned with systems, complexity and innovation, and its demonstrated commitment to cross-sectoral collaborations, provide a rich and supportive environment to create the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience. WISIR is housed within the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development in the Faculty of Environment.
WISIR will further reinforce and realize UW’s statement that, “in the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow.”
At Social Innovation Generation, University of Waterloo (SiG@Waterloo), our goal is to generate new knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process in Canada. In particular, the dynamics of learning, adaptation and innovation in the arena of sustainable development and in the mental health domain (identified as one of the most pressing challenges of engaging vulnerable populations). We will seek to disseminate new knowledge through publications and learning events, from workshops to lecture series developed inside and outside the university research community.
Social innovation is an initiative, product, process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system. Successful social innovations have durability and broad impact. While social innovation has recognizable stages and phases, achieving durability and scale is a dynamic process that requires both emergence of opportunity and deliberate agency, and a connection between the two. The capacity of any society to create a steady flow of social innovations, particularly those which re-engage vulnerable populations, is an important contributor to the overall social and ecological resilience.
Story of Social Innovation in Canada
"…The need and desire for change is profound... We need to be change makers."
From the introduction of Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed
During the fall of 1999 DuPont Canada approached Eric Young, determined their corporate citizenship strategy would go beyond charitable donations and make a significant difference to social change. His bold recommendation, to make their cause social innovation itself, led to the creation of the Social Innovation Enterprise. Drawing in leading members from Canada’s social sector, the Enterprise sought to advance the work of change-makers by increasing our knowledge of social innovation. To this end, a partnership with Frances Westley and McGill University led to the creation of the McGill-DuPont Social Innovation Think Tank in 2002.
With a goal to explore how we can move the dial on our most complex social problems, the Social Innovation Think Tank, itself a hybrid group of relationships between DuPont, McGill, the Ontario Science Centre and Opportunities 2000, adopted a multi-disciplinary process. Calling on their own experiences from a range of disciplines, the group identified a variety of successful social change initiatives, and then engaged some of the world’s leading thinkers behind them. It was from these discussions that the group continued the search for detectable – and informative – patterns in transformative processes. Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Patton wrote Getting to Maybe as part of the continued pursuit of identifying and learning about these patterns. In order to share and deepen the knowledge they had generated, Social Innovation Generation (SiG) was formed in 2007 to provide practical support for social innovation in Canada.