Abstracts and Articles

The intermediary strategy, Moore, M.L., F. Westley 

From costal timber supply area to Great Bear rainforest: exploring power in a social-ecological governance innovation, Moore, M.L., O. Tjornbo 

Community Foundation Case Studies, Rose, C. 

The Oak Ridges Moraine as a social innovation: strategic vision as a social ecological interaction, McCarthy, D, G.S. Whitelaw, F. Westley, D.D. Crandall, D. Burnett 

The intermediary strategy


For more than a decade, the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation (Foundation) has concentrated on building the capacity of Canadians to understand, undertake, and adapt to change. As part of their approach, the Foundation has been interested in funding social innovations, believing the capacity of society to innovate is a critical part of the ability to respond and adapt to change. But how does a foundation find social innovations to support? Social innovation often occurs in small niches or pockets of communities. Finding them, sharing them, and trying to scale them up to have impact in other communities in a country as large as Canada is a challenge. To help, the Foundation has worked with intermediary organizations, that is, groups that are intended to connect the localized and otherwise disconnected innovations to the national perspectives of the Foundation. After more than a decade of working together, the intermediary organizations—working in problem domains such as child poverty, social inclusion through sports, arts and environmental education programs, and long term caregiving in the health sector—and the arrangements between them and the Foundation have been as diverse and dynamic as the social innovations themselves.  

This report reflects on the lessons that both the Foundation and the intermediary organizations have learned from their experiences in working together. Based on interviews with staff at the Foundation and each of the intermediary organizations, as well as workshop discussions where primary results were analyzed as a group, the findings illustrate important tensions between: love and power, allowing for emergence and maintaining a strategic plan, and having similar visions but sufficient differences in strengths and weaknesses. In the end, trying to generate and implement socially innovative initiatives was full of paradox. However, tension was recognized as an important part of the innovation process that did not necessarily need to be resolved, but that both sides needed to be aware of and to understand. 

The intermediary strategy (PDF)


From coastal timber supply area to Great Bear Rainforest - exploring power in a social-ecological governance innovation


Social innovation is inherently a political process. Transformation of our governance institutions both requires, and is a result of, a redistribution of power as different actors and organizations assume new roles, responsibilities, and authority. Dominant institutions and social groups may resist the social innovations needed for changes toward more resilient arrangements, which threaten the status quo and their interests. Yet, marginal groups still seem to be able to trigger governance transformations, despite a lack of conventional financial and institutional resources.    

The paper reveals how two groups historically marginalized in Canada–non-governmental organizations and Indigenous Nations–helped transform a social-ecological governance regime for an area known as the Great Bear Rainforest, located in British Columbia, Canada. The regime changed from one where the provincial government had formal authority over decisions and preference was given to the forest industry, to one where government, Coastal First Nations, the forest industry, and environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) have roles to play within an agreed-upon ecosystem-based management framework.   

Using a nuanced framework for looking at different types of power, the authors identify what strategies were and were not successful in bringing about change and the different types of power used in the process. They found that for marginalized actors, such as First Nations and ENGOs, wielding productive (using knowledge and discourse) and institutional (rules and procedures) power led to the desired governance transformation, while other strategies, such as using compulsory power (e.g., “naming and shaming” corporations into altering policies, protests, blockades) – were not as useful in bringing about long-term structural change that altered the whole system of how the environment and resources are governed. 

From costal timber supply area to Great Bear Rainforest (PDF)


Community Foundations Case Studies


1) This profile documents a Community Foundation’s journey through the beginning of an organizational transition phase, as well as their group process for dealing with a complex set of issues. An initial operational challenge quickly was seen as an opportunity with potential benefits for the foundation AND their community. Leveraging leadership, their organizational capacities, entrepreneurial possibilities and knowledge of their community system, the Niagara Community Foundation thoughtfully explored most promising next steps to support social innovation in the Niagara Region. 

2) This profile focuses upon a Community Foundation’s role in nurturing a diverse set of relationships, at multiple scales, in order to support social innovation. It documents the Foundation’s encouragement of a community-led, volunteer driven, networked approach to developing a cross-organizational initiative in response to an identified community need. Impressively, the initiative is supported by a funder collaboration that not only collectively invests financial resources but also has agreed to integrated reporting structures, as well as a developmental approach to evaluation. 

Vancouver Case Study (PDF)


The Oak Ridges Moraine as a social innovation - strategic vision as a social ecological interaction


The Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) case describes how an environmental policy was enacted during an era of far-reaching, neo-conservative, political economic trends toward smaller government and a market-based ethos. The authors have constructed a conceptual model or heuristic of social innovation titled “vision as social interaction” that describes the innovation process as happening in dynamic tension between the evolution of an agent’s vision and the evolution of relevant social structures or opportunities/constraints afforded by the broader system. This case surfaces the value of a networked approach to systems transformation. The model clearly articulates six potential stages of the interplay and relation between the action of individual agents and the relevant context or system. In the case of the ORM, an initial, catalytic vision to save the moraine was legitimized by influencing several government studies. The vision was then articulated and eventually enacted through two multi-stakeholder, collaborative government committees that defined the ORM as a planning entity. This resulted in an embedded vision of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act and Plan, which has been routinized through over a decade of ORMCP implementation. This conceptual model and its application to the ORM case offer to those interested in influencing linked social-ecological systems an interpretive and diagnostic tool for understanding how innovations occur. 

The Oak Ridges Moraine (PDF)