Community Innovation



Community Innovation

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
- Albert Einstein

Community Innovation is: change, for good, with and within a community. In other words, Community Innovation is a community-championed change with benefits that are meaningful to the community. What makes Community Innovation different from other forms of Social Innovation is the focus on community – placing community members as both the champions and as the arbiters of change.

As dynamic ‘living labs’, communities offer the perfect container for innovation. Our experience with community change has taught us to appreciate that to be effective, Community Innovation requires an appreciation of both the issue one is hoping to address, as well as a deep understanding of the unique characteristics of the community – the place and the people within it – where the innovation will be implemented. Successful Community Innovation is context specific. Solutions that have been proven effective in one community can, at best, serve as a source of inspiration for another community. These innovations, however, must be adapted and modified to reflect the unique strengths, challenges and leadership of the community where they are being replicated.

Innovation creates a solution that is distinct from – and more ambitious and uncertain – than continuous improvement. Innovation exists in a number of different forms. These include: program; product and/or service innovation; funding innovation or, system innovation. Karen Pittman, founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, illustrates this distinction well: “Programmatic interventions help people to beat the odds but systemic interventions seek to change the odds.” System innovation challenges the system’s conventional norms and look beyond proven or accepted practices to create new, never-before considered solutions that are based on a different set of assumptions.

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Foundations of Community Engagement

This online course is designed to help you learn at your own pace as you work to build your community engagement toolkit.



Learn More About the Online Course

Getting Started

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Human-Centred Design Toolkit, 2nd Edition

The Human Centered Design Toolkit is an essential resource that provides new frameworks and ways to hear your constituents, create new solutions, and deliver on long-term goals. 

This free resource was produced by IDEO, a global design company comitted to creative positive impact.

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Preventing Snapback: The Challenge of Resilient Systems

In this video, taken at Tamarack's 2014 Collective Impact Summit, Brenda Zimmerman discussed the concept of snapback in relation to community innovation and the difficulty involved in creating resiliency in change.

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The Introduction to Community Innovation

In this series, we will learn what community innovation is, how it has changed the way we look at community change and how you can apply different innovation methods and lenses to your work in a meaningful way.

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Becoming a Leader Who Fosters Innovation

This free resource was developed by the Center for Creative Leadership and outlines the difficulty of pursuing innovation in the face of day-to-day duties. It emphasizes the need for organizational support, focus, and a culture that nurtures creativity. 

Featured Resources 

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Facilitating Co-Design Virtually: Part One

By Lisa Attygalle

In this blog series, Lisa Attygalle outlines some of her favourite exercises for facilitating co-design sessions online based on the four phases in the double-diamond framework.

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Building the Capacity to Innovate: A Guide for Non-Profits

By The Bridgespan Group, and The Rockefeller Foundation

In this helpful guide, the Bridgespan Group and the Rockefeller Foundation discuss how non-profits can realistically satisfy their aspirations to innovate. This paper covers both how to identify breakthrough ideas and opportunites, and how to put them into practice. 

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The Community Innovation Imperative

By Sylvia Cheuy

In this thoughtful paper, Sylvia Cheuy explores community innovation -  a unique form of social innovation that is place-based within the specific geography of a community - and notes how communities face an imperative to develop innovation capacity.

Meet the Director

Sonja Miokovic, Consulting Director of Community Innovation

Sonja is the Consulting Director of the Tamarack Institutes’s Community Innovation Area. She is a dynamic educator, social scientist, and innovator with over 16 years of experience in the sector. Having lived, worked, and played in over 80 countries, she has a broad spectrum of international experience that cuts across the public, private and civil society sectors.

Sonja is a long-standing advocate for community-led innovation and development. Known for bringing larger-than-life initiatives into being, Sonja thrives on building meaningful relationships and connecting the dots in innovative ways.

Learn more about Sonja

Current Community Innovation Themes Being Explored:

  • Q1 – Transformative Innovation – a definition, distinctions against others, the dynamics involved 

  • Q2  Transformative ideas – a review of ‘transformative’ ideas of how the world could be – and the implications for the status quo
  • Q3 – Transformative Methodologies – a review of the different stances towards change-making and associated methodologies

  • Q4 – Transformative Learning, Evaluation & Adaptation– builds on and profiles the work of the other four Learning Center Domains (e.g. evaluation, leadership, collective impact, engagement), but focuses on the implications of working adaptively, where strategic learning, conflict and cooperation, and adaptation meet. 


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