The SIX 2014 Summer school was held in Vancouver, as part of a full week of social innovation activities and events happening across Canada which included Vancouver Ideas Festival and Social Frontier Research Symposium. We created a forum where, over two and a half days, policy makers, grass roots activists and social innovation practitioners could share insights, practical solutions and current thinking about where social innovation is headed. We delved deeper into the issue of shifting culture, exploring the elusive set of variables that influence it.

SIX Vancouver was a collaboration between Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and BC Partners for Social Impact (#BCPSI), representing the global, Canadian, and British Columbian social innovation communities respectively.

The theme and context

Identifying the ‘invisible’ barriers and preparing for surprise…

We all recognise the feeling of hitting a wall when our efforts do not bring about the social impact that we hoped for. New ideas, structures, teams and techniques do not by themselves change individual, organisational, institutional or social habits attitudes, behaviours and values (what we call “culture”).

What are the invisible factors that make change difficult? We delved into these underlying assumptions individuals, organisations and societies have that determine the way we perceive, think and feel. These assumptions are often taken for granted and fil to register in our conscious when we plan and implement our social innovation projects, policies, and strategies.

Why Canada?

The location of the 2014 Summer School was significant: it testified to the fertile culture of social innovation in Canada; celebrated Vancouver as an urban leader in sustainability and innovation; and recognized the pioneering momentum in British Columbia with BCPSI, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, and Hubcap BC. Through site visits, workshops, keynote presentations, music, public art, and idea jams, Canadian innovators showcased the vibrancy of the local social innovation ecosystem in unique and resonant ways, engaging international social innovators not only in the national narrative and work, but also in the energy and diversity of Canadian culture. The program welcomed the ‘unusual suspects’ to speak, weaving in the voices, presence and resilience of First Nations communities, youth, and local activists.

The event

SIX Vancouver encouraged critical thinking and deep introspection, inviting participants to embrace paradox: how to be passionate and self-critical; theoretical and practical; powerful and vulnerable; experienced and yet humble.

The following questions directed the discussions:

  • Where can we make resilient and systemic change most effectively?
  • What is at the edge of our thinking, and how can we scale to the next level of impact?
  • What is the role of culture in shaping (enabling or hindering?) how change happens within society, sectors and ourselves?
  • How might we grapple with the challenge of working from both outside and inside systems?
  • How can we drive collaboration and build the right teams of people around us? How can we most effectively gather support for our work?
  • What is relationship between culture and strategy and how to we prepare for surprise?