Selecting our 2016/17 Partners
LEDlab is pleased to announce our 2016/17 cohort of community partners: Knack, The Binners’ Project, Hives for Humanity, Honest Bikes, and ReBuild. Read on to learn about how we selected our partners.
Selecting the LEDlab 2016/17 cohort of community partners was an organic process. Through our embedded work in the DTES community over the past sixteen months, we have built relationships with 129 community organizations, local businesses, academic institutions and public sector departments. Our project coordinators and the LEDlab Manager document relationship-building in an ongoing way through our developmental evaluation process. The strength of these relationships varied across projects. In some cases, relationships were deepened through the dedicated efforts of project coordinators, for example, in the case of the DTES Street Market with the Portland Hotel Society. In same cases, outreach and relationship-building was more business development focused, for example, where the Binners’ Events program secured seventeen public and private event contracts.
In social change work, Margaret Mead’s famous quote is often cited: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The relationships between LEDlab and our partners, and the relationships amongst individuals and organizations matter. Therefore, when recruiting the 2016/17 cohort a ‘Request for Relationships’ document was circulated. We emphasized that we were looking for partners that are action- and solutions-focused, and whose projects met the criteria that was informed by our community consultation phase, and our first year of work. The Request for Relationships document stipulated:
We partner on projects that demonstrate a combination of the following objectives and track records:
- Put money in the pockets of DTES residents
- Increase local ownership of neighbourhood assets
- Challenge mainstream narratives around work and livelihoods
- Enable the community to mobilize its own resources to affect positive social change
- Empower local networks to address systemic challenges
We then worked with potential partners to form a solid foundation for our relationship, and together scoped an appropriate internship opportunity for a graduate student project coordinator.
When choosing our 2016/17 cohort, we also screened potential partners based on project readiness. We learned through our collaboration with Carnegie Community Centre on the Connected Kitchens project that the projects we incubate, and the students we hire, will be more effective if the project is at a later stage of its development. You can read more about closing our Connected Kitchens project here. One framework that was informative in helping LEDlab select our partners comes from Frances Westley and Paul Born’s mapping of social innovation projects to the adaptive cycle (see image below). This work explains how ideas are born, developed, released, and established. What’s important about the different phases of an innovation’s life-cycle is that the needs of the innovation differ based on what phase it is in.
Through our first year of incubating community-based social enterprise we learned that we can contribute the most value when an idea is in the ‘reorganization’ phase, or when ‘the idea is developed’. We experienced the greatest success, and the greatest opportunity for a graduate student to excel, when the availability of funds, time, skills, energy and attention that a community partner can dedicate to a project is low. Also, experimentation and reflection are crucial to this stage of development – meaning that our approach, which uses lean methodology and developmental evaluation, is particularly well suited. To this end, LEDlab selected partners for our 2016/17 cohort whose approach to working embodied ‘start-up’ characteristics, but whose ideas were already somewhat formed, and where there was already organizational and community support.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, LEDlab is pleased to announce our community partners for our 2016/17 cohort: Knack, The Binners’ Project, Hives for Humanity, Honest Bikes, and ReBuild.
Each of these social enterprises aims to put money in the pockets of DTES residents and create new sustainable income-generating opportunities in the community. Each organization will receive a graduate student coordinator to take one of their new project ideas from the ‘developing’ idea stage to fruition. In some cases, like Knack, we are taking the project from version 1.0 to version 2.0 – making our contribution more about ‘scaling’ the innovation.
To learn more about each of the upcoming projects check out our posted position descriptions. And if you happen to know a current graduate student with an interest in social innovation and social enterprise, and who would like to participate in an active lab community, please forward on the opportunity.
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