The Local Economic Development Lab is modeled on social change labs worldwide. This is a longitudinal ‘think and do’ initiative concentrated on understanding the conditions required for inclusive and sustainable economic development in disadvantaged urban communities, and building ground up solutions engaging stakeholders from across the system. The Lab brings together a diversity of perspectives and professional capacities, it is experimental by nature, and it is focused on affecting systemic change.
We anticipate that projects associated with the Lab will focus on such issues as:
- understanding the patterns of economic activity that occur in informal urban economies;
- supporting innovations to strengthen informal or ‘grey market’ economies;
- developing inclusive and sustainable venture or program based models;
- facilitating necessary problem-solving and solution building among service providers;
- finding ‘safe’ ways to bring capital to, and build capital within, inner city alternative economic development.
In our inaugural year, we have connected talented, creative and motivated graduate students with local organizations to accelerate community-designed and driven social enterprise. We then work with the students, our community partners, and subject experts in a ‘social innovation lab’ format to develop shared skills and knowledge, collaborate and change the economic system in support of this community over time.
1. Increase personal incomes of DTES residents
This is the primary metric of concern to our community partners – Are we putting more money in the pockets of DTES residents?
2. Create new income generating opportunities for DTES residents
Emerging literature suggests that low-barrier employment can provide an important anchor for vulnerable communities and individuals. Vancouver’s Local Area Plan (LAP) for the DTES sets the ambitious target of creating 1500 new local jobs by 2025. We propose to make a contribution towards this target by activating high potential economic alternatives to create ~45 low-barrier income generating opportunities in Phase 1 through 4 unique projects with cross-cutting themes.
3. Enhance the capacity of local people, organizations and networks
Our society does not adequately see or value the importance of networkers, connectors, linkers and facilitators. The Lab will create and hold a formal space for co-learning and collaboration to take place, and document the impact of this function as it relates to change-making.
4. Develop graduate student talent for social innovation in Canada
A suite of learning objectives will develop the capacities and talents of graduate students as Team Members in the Lab, supporting a next generation of leadership in the field of social innovation and social entrepreneurship.
5. Prototype new models of community + university partnership
As a deep collaboration between Ecotrust Canada Capital, RADIUS SFU, Mitacs Accelerate Canada, and a growing number of community partners, we will explore the university’s role in supporting and enriching community-led economic innovation.
We create and hold high trust environments where people’s ideas are valued and validated
We recognize that as a community, we are stronger when we work together, and that we rarely have all the answers. We constantly ask our partners, How can we add value? What can we do together? Is this meeting your needs?
By focusing on the ‘bright spots’ we explore where there is potential for breakthrough. Complex systems offer multiple points of entry, and often surprise us. It is necessary to keep our awareness and actions focused on ‘the possible’.
Through human centred design, we keep a consistent focus on those with lived experience at the core of what we do.
Ecotrust Canada + RADIUS SFU Partnership
The Local Economic Development Lab is a unique partnership between Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU. Ecotrust Canada is a registered charity with mandate to design and demonstrate economic solutions that benefit people in places they call home. RADIUS SFU is a Social Innovation Lab and Venture Incubator at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.
Based on principles of mutual interest, mutual respect, and trust, the initiatives marries Ecotrust Canada’s 20 years of community development practice, and the venture and talent incubation characteristic of RADIUS SFU in service of improving the lives and livelihoods of inner city communities over time.
Under the banner of a 3-year Memorandum of Understanding, both parties are committed to:
- Designing, deploying and developing innovative solutions to complex social and economic challenges;
- Promoting examples of an economy that balances financial, environmental, and social interests;
- Supporting a next generation of leadership in the field of social innovation and entrepreneurship; and
- Reporting, publishing, and speaking on the subject of social innovation to advance the field of practice.
Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU have co-hired a full time Lab manager, who is accountable to and participates equally in both organizations.
Relationship to the wider Simon Fraser University community
LEDlab represents a new model of community-university partnership. The Local Economic Development Lab inverts the traditional research lab model and places community needs at the centre of the research agenda.
Our vision is one wherein meaningful university-community partnerships serve and enhance community-led solution building and not the other way around. Our theory of change posits that multi-sectorial collaborations between academics, non-profits and the public and private sectors, will indeed build better solutions to adding complex problems.
Graduate Student Interns
Over a 3-year period (2015-2018), LEDlab will be providing 30 fulltime, 4-month paid internship opportunities for graduate students able to advance our work in strategic ways. Students are supported through training, mentorship, and a peer-based learning program.
Graduate students supply research and prototyping support to our various projects, while adding rigour to our analysis of what works, and what can be shared. This model helps to responsively add capacity to community-led projects, while addressing a talent gap in Canada’s social economy through training and development opportunities paired with real world community experience for high potential graduate students.
There is no other experience quite like joining the LEDLab! Meet some of our current team members by clicking through the photos below.