Ready. Set. Experiment.

When was the last time you took a risk? Tried something just to see if it could work? Were encouraged to experiment and maybe fail? Received resources to do some early research and development (R&D)? It doesn't happen a lot in social change work – we believe it should happen a lot more often.

That's why we were excited to host a learning journey for 32 social change experiments across the country.

Read the full report

Across Canada, people came forward with innovative experiments to test new ideas for the future of our communities and our country. Jointly funded by the McConnell FoundationCommunity Foundations of Canada and the Government of Canada via the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th anniversary, this initiative was all about experimentation and early stage R&D: Taking risks, testing new ideas on the ground, gathering evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and sharing those results so that promising approaches and interventions can be scaled.

These experiments included projects in seven provinces and two territories. Fifteen took place in large urban centres, and 11 were based in communities with a population of less than 35,000. The cohort included experiments that:  

  Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS)  Participant feedback at the development and launch stages of the LUX (Low Barrier Income Generation Hub) in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS)
Participant feedback at the development and launch stages of the LUX (Low Barrier Income Generation Hub) in Vancouver, British Columbia.

  • Tested a closed-loop plastic transformation model for remote communities in Nunavut to collect plastic waste and transform it into commercial goods

  • Piloted a gender and innovation learning network and gender lab

  • Adapted a UK model where community members host youth at risk of homelessness in their homes in York/Durham Region

We expected some of these experiments to fail – and some failed courageously! While results and impact are important, they’re never guaranteed. The point of this exercise was for those who undertook these projects to develop new skills, create partnerships with unlikely allies, strengthen their capacity to deliver results through learning and experimentation, and support R&D that can unlock new innovations. And in this, it was a great success. 

  Food Matters Manitoba  This experiment at a food skills program in Winnipeg, Manitoba, aimed to equip immigrants and refugees with the tools they need to overcome barriers to a healthy lifestyle as they transition to life in Canada.

Food Matters Manitoba
This experiment at a food skills program in Winnipeg, Manitoba, aimed to equip immigrants and refugees with the tools they need to overcome barriers to a healthy lifestyle as they transition to life in Canada.

As part of this learning journey, CKX hosted a series of virtual peer-learning circles for the cohort and pulled together data and stories to identify patterns and lessons about promising approaches.

We shared lessons with Employment and Social Development Canada’s Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-Creation Steering Group, the Social R&D Fellowship, community practitioners, academics and funders who are interested in learning about the value and importance of funding early stage R&D projects.

The following organizations and groups took part:

Alberta Recreation and Parks Association
Binners Project
Canadian Blind Hockey
Central Urban Metis Federation Inc.
City of Surrey
Community Living Parry Sound
Dene Nahjo
Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS)
Exeko
Hives for Humanity Society
Inspire Nunavut Inc.
Institut DesÉquilibres
Jack.org
L.I.N.C. (Long-term Inmates Now in the Community)
MetaLab
Manitoba Food Charter Inc.
Motivate Canada
Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal
New Dawn Community Development Educational Foundation
Pépinière
Powered by Data
Raising the Roof/Chez Toit
Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia
Simon Fraser University
Sustainability Network
Teach For Canada
The Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation
True Sport Foundation
United Way of Perth Huron
Vivo for Healthier Generations
Water First Education and Training Inc.
West Neighbourhood House

  Jack.org  This experiment worked with youth advocates in Toronto, Ontario to develop an assessment tool to evaluate post-secondary mental health promotion activities and services with a goal of driving systems change in mental health.

Jack.org
This experiment worked with youth advocates in Toronto, Ontario to develop an assessment tool to evaluate post-secondary mental health promotion activities and services with a goal of driving systems change in mental health.