Environment professor emeritus named to Order of Canada

Monday, January 4, 2021

School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) professor emeritus Frances Westley received one of the highest honours in Canada for her work in social innovation. 

As one of 25 Canadians named to the Order, Westley's honour is not only a personal success, but also shines a light on the social innovation work being done in the Faculty of Environment. 

Those outside of academia likely know Westley from her groundbreaking book, Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed. Published in 2006, the book vaulted Westley into the ranks of the world’s top social innovators which include microfinance pioneers Muhammad Yunus and Akhtar Hameed Khan. 

While at the University of Waterloo, Westley led Social Innovation Generation (SiG) — a collaborative partnership between the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, University of Waterloo, MaRS Discovery District, and PLAN Institute which brought together academics, business leaders and government to work on societies most wicked problems. 

Among SiG's achievements under Westley was PLAN's initiative the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), which has shifted the policy of our government and the big five banks to see people with disabilities differently. Unlike those who are disadvantaged by unemployment, people with disabilities are disabled for life and until recently, strict benefit guidelines prevented them from building financial assets that will allow for independence in their later years. The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) is a powerful savings tool similar to a registered education savings plan, but designed specifically for people living with a disability. The plan allows those living with a disability to have financial security well into older age, thus avoiding the poverty trap and enabling independence. 

For more on Westley's work in the Faculty of Environment check out this profile from 2013