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The Non-Profit's Dilemma: Innovate or Perish

Posted on April 13, 2016
By Tim Draimin

With no place to hide from change, the next decade will bring unprecedented transformation to Canada's non-profits. This metamorphosis will be driven by metrics unleashed by open data; new behavioural insights; deepening new technology penetration; demographic shifts (e.g. aging population's service demands, millennials assuming workplace leadership; generative partnership approaches; and, revamped government commissioning of contracted services (Gs+Cs).

Will the resulting innovation, supported by Social R&D, be the exclusive domain of new upstart non-profits and social enterprise hybrids? Or, will we also see an expansion of existing organizations intentionally and systematically leveraging their deep front-line experience to reshape programs and better tackle root causes?

Non-profits that are keen to innovative and accelerate their impact are fortunate that there are many excellent resources now available to guide this journey. A leading example is the DIY Toolkit assembled for a global audience by a team at the United Kingdom's innovation foundation Nesta.

SiG and Innoweave are two Canadian organizations that collaborate with Nesta and DIY. Nesta, formerly the government-created National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, is an international powerhouse that became an independent charity in 2012. Several years ago, SiG and MaRS hosted Nesta's CEO and well-known social innovation thought leader, Geoff Mulgan, for various presentations.

DIY has scoured the world and reviewed hundreds of tools to be able to curate and assemble a downloadable set of practical tools to help trigger and support social innovation. The tools are organized around Nesta's seven stage framework for innovation.

The well-developed field of mainstream innovation dates back well over a century. While the term "social innovation" has been actively used for 200 years, the field is only several decades old. Nesta's online DIY Toolkit blends mainstream and social innovation resources, organizing and presenting them in an agile, informative and accessible way that empowers social change innovators to pursue formulaic or iterative approaches for achieving greater impact.

On Wednesday May 18th I will be exploring these DIY tools and their application in a with Nesta's Brenton Caffin, who leads the ongoing development and deployment of the DIY Toolkit. I hope you'll be able to join this dialogue!

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Collaborative Leadership, Tim Draimin

Tim Draimin

By Tim Draimin

Tim is the Executive Director of Social Innovation Generation (SIG) National. SiG is a partnership of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, and the University of Waterloo. SiG acts a catalyst for strengthening the enabling ecosystem for social innovations to be able to go to scale and generate whole system change. In 2010 SiG convened the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, a blue ribbon panel that proposed a seven-point agenda for mobilizing private capital for public good influencing federal, provincial and municipal policy across Canada. Tim was the founding CEO of Tides Canada Foundation and serves on the boards Trico Charitable Foundation, Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), Partnership Brokers Association (PBA), and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Grand Challenges Canada (GCC). Tim is a senior advisor to the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing (CII).

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