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Growing social innovation in Surrey

November 29, 2016
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Last week the City of Surrey held its second annual Social Innovation Summit, drawing more than 200 individuals to the table to join the conversation on how we can effectively and collaboratively work to address our common social issues. During the day the discussion highlighted many of those issues, from poverty and housing to addiction and safety, from transportation to settling refugees. We drew on our collective strengths, and even our weaknesses, and shared our ideas, hopes and successes in approaching them. These moments are now becoming building blocks to taking social innovation to the next level.

I was fortunate to co-chair the event and moderate a panel on generating social innovation. At its heart, social innovation is rooted in the drive to see positive change in people, places and priorities. The conversation focused on people partnerships and the evolution of ideas and inventions. From the insights of our speakers, we learned how individual struggles or barriers to some of our most pressing social issues can actually spark traction when we start looking at them collaboratively. Just as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, recognizing our roles in that village when there is a social need can be a catalyst for bringing people, communities, government and business together to generate, nurture and implement socially innovative ideas.

During the day-long event it was exciting to see the stalwart desire among everyone to bring about social change, and to be a part of this momentum here in Surrey. The city truly recognizes the value of social innovation by committing to this event, which grew from four plenary sessions in 2015 to 13 this year (and more than three dozen speakers). And 2017 promises to take us even further.

And a big part of that promise lies in our youth. At SFU, social innovation is being honed through SFU Innovates and a variety of student programs, including the new Health Change Lab. This fall 30 SFU students spent the semester working with the community to conceive solutions for a wide range of health concerns, from food security to better resources for addicts completing rehabilitation. They are shining examples that we are all part of the solution.

Steve Dooley
Executive Director, SFU's Surrey Campus

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