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Opening the lens on social innovation in Surrey

November 20, 2017
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This past week we opened the lens a little wider on social innovation in Surrey with the city’s 3rd annual Social Innovation Summit. Several SFU speakers took their place alongside a host of voices, on topics from reinventing public spaces and growing public participation to minding our social responsibilities to youth.

As co-chair of the summit, together with City of Surrey Councilor Vera Le Franc, I look forward to being part of this important event for both the city of Surrey and SFU Surrey. It's an opportunity to share SFU’s commitment to nurturing social innovation, a key component of the university’s own Innovation Strategy.

Whether focusing on economic development, affordable housing, poverty, health or safety, driving social innovation is not so much about changing what we are doing, but rather how we do things, and how we, as a city, inclusive of all neighbours, can move forward on the social issues that connect us. By thinking outside the box and trying new approaches to engaging with each other and those around us, social innovation solutions become part of a bigger picture; one that we all can contribute to and stand to benefit from.

As moderator of a session on social procurement: putting the economy to work for social innovation, SFU VP Research and International, Joy Johnson, facilitated a great discussion in a packed room with some leaders in the procurement field from both the non-profit and business sectors.

SFU showed up in multiple conversations and from varied disciplines: a discussion on how to grow public engagement in local issues with Beedie School of Business lecturer Kathleen Burke’ a session on place-making with people in mind and reinventing public spaces, with Andy Yan, director of SFU’s City Program, and two feature sessions focusing on youth, building caring schools, and empowering them to lead change, with SFU education professor Wanda Cassidy, and RADIUS education program coordinator Zoya Jiwa. SFU's director of social innovation Shawn Smith, led a workshop on tackling complex community problems.

I was also thrilled that the summit included those who participated in the highly successful Ambassadors program during CU2 Expo: For the Common Good. The summit, like C2U Expo before it, walked the talk of social innovation right into the delivery of the day. The Ambassadors program hires and trains those with barriers to employment to work at meaningful jobs during these events. From Craig Muirhead as greeter to Janek Bajerski covering photography, the ambassadors had a huge presence at the summit.

And while I look forward to the fourth summit next year, we recognize that the most important work happens between the gatherings. We need to continue the dialogue to move the dial on common social issues and make Surrey an even richer caring community.

Steve Dooley
Executive Director, SFU's Surrey Campus

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