SI Series 1: Social Innovation and ReLocalization – a Personal Perspective

One of the key aspects of strategic development within the Arusha Centre is the theme of “ReLocalization” for overall organisational direction. For the Arusha Centre, “ReLocalization” is a term that describes social innovation, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise initiatives that drive local food production and security, local economy and local livability in our city’s social context. For us, this is fulfilled through our projects on Calgary Dollars, which is a local currency system and community economic development initiative, Open Streets Calgary, which is an initiative that promotes awareness for pedestrian, cycling, and other alternative transportation options, and our grass-roots granting program Take Action Grants.

Calgary Dollars

As the previous Calgary Dollars Manager (on Educational Leave), and current Adjunct Associate, I’ve started PhD work on Creativity and Social Innovation at University of British Columbia in Okanagan (UBCO). I’m studying the creative processes of social innovation that lead to social redevelopment, such as “ReLocalization”, and thus will further the research around “ReLocalization” and the social innovation and local movement. I’m very interested in why some social innovations become successful, what creative processes stimulate successful social innovations, and how creativity can transform the way we see and interact in the world through social innovations. When we think and act more creatively, we invite new possibilities into our spheres of influence. Social innovation employs creative processes to establish more ethical and harmonious social patterns and have shown to be successful in, for example, reducing poverty, increasing communication amongst disparate groups, and initiating new business and non-business ventures that return investment in our communities and social structures. However, the effectiveness of such initiatives can be limited by habitual patterns of interaction referred to as physical and social “holding patterns.” My research addresses this by identifying these holding patterns and developing creative processes that are conducive to creative problem solving of complex social challenges.

One example of a social innovation / social enterprise is Farmbound.ca. The venture helps hard-to-reach communities get access to local organic produce and other foods. It started out of a Permaculture Design course assignment and challenge that grew into a start-up company. Only a few months old, the effort was spurred out of a desire to get organic foods to family members in Fort St. John. The initiators also had a passion for supporting local BC farmers and businesses, and, with communities not able to reach Okanagan produce, Farmbound started to bridge that gap. But not all social innovations are for-profit, indeed, many are non-profit innovative efforts taken on by organisations or governments to help complex challenges. “Social Labs” are an example of this, which are workshop processes that gather multi-stakeholders together to tackle local problems. This is just a simple introduction to some examples.  More examples with details will be included in upcoming posts.

My purpose, then, through these blogs, will be to provide you the reader, and the Arusha Centre, with pivotal upcoming creativity and social innovation research, in a tangible means. Hopefully, together, as individuals, communities, organisations, businesses and ultimately nations, we will start thinking social innovation solutions to complex problems to support a more relocalized world.

Mike Unrau

(this photo is in Woodhaven, a UBC eco reserve site, where I live).

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