Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement (CPA) sits at the intersection of a number of fields. Peacebuilding, social innovation, and art for social change all find a home in the work of the CPA and our participants. In pursuit of our mission – to advance expansive and innovative understandings and practices of peace locally and globally – we have dug into these intersection points to see what new possibilities might emerge. This journey has resulted in new programs, like the Epp Peace Incubator, and even new terms, such as ‘PeaceTech’, in order to address needed or existing links between fields.  

Through the Epp Peace Incubator program, the CPA runs social innovation programming for peace-focused start-ups. Being rooted at Conrad Grebel University College, a faith-based institution, the CPA has recognized the importance of exploring the intersection of faith and innovation. Questions that have emerged from our work include, ‘What difference does our theology make for our attitude toward innovation?’ or ‘What do faith communities have to offer to social entrepreneurs?’

While programs like the Spark Initiative suggest that some churches are getting up to speed on these questions, there has been an underwhelming amount of interest from both theologians and innovation experts. Last month, however, CPA Director, Paul Heidebrecht, found himself amidst a community of Christian social innovators eager to engage these questions.

The Traditioned Innovation Symposium at Duke University brought together 15 thought leaders who are engaging the tension between tradition and innovation within the context of Christian leadership.  Paul left the symposium inspired to participate in building this framework for faith-based social innovation, and felt encouraged that his own vantage point has something to offer. The peace and justice work of Mennonite institutions such as Mennonite Central Committee, for example, provides a rich history to mine for examples of Christian social innovation. In addition to MCC, The Working Centre is another amazing case study from our local community in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Furthermore, there are striking points of connection between the idea of traditioned innovation, being developed by Greg Jones and others at Duke, and the perspective offered by Indigenous leaders in Canada. As Senator Murray Sinclair put it a few years ago: “Social innovation is not just new ways to fix old problems. It’s bringing old ways forward into a new context.”

This encounter at Duke University demonstrated yet another example of the CPA’s potential to further mutual learning between intersecting fields, with the purpose of advancing innovative understandings and practices of peace.