In 2011, Duane Elverum and Janet Moore of Simon Fraser University co-founded CityStudio, a learning hub in Vancouver that connects students, instructors, city staff and community members aiming to co-create solutions to real-world problems facing their city.
In February, organizations like CityStudio that are leading the way in the province in the area of social innovation will be coming together for the BC Summit on Social Innovation and BC Social Innovation Youth Awards. The summit is helping to raise awareness of innovation across all sectors within the province of British Columbia.
“The point of CityStudio is to provide context for the skills the students are learning. It’s an innovative space where people can interact,” Elverum said.
Elverum and Moore had been teaching at the university level for 15 years each and were finding that students wanted to get more in-depth understanding of the theoretical concepts they were tackling. Students also wanted experience and skills before leaving university. The pair had a strong vision, but putting together something that hadn’t existed was a big challenge.
Six years later, not only has CityStudio engaged with over 3,500 students and helped over 200 projects get off the ground, but its idea has spread across the country as far as Corner Brook, NL. Five new CityStudios have opened their doors, each tackling its own specific issues.
In Victoria, the location of the second CityStudio, Mayor Lisa Helps sees the innovation hub as part of the city’s economic action plan.
“CityStudio courses build civic capacity, give students learning opportunities that make a contribution and have an impact in the community and can lead to meaningful employment in the region after graduation. It’s really exciting to see the potential, creativity and insights that students bring which enrich the urban fabric of the City,” Helps said.
Derek Masselink, associate faculty at Royal Roads University, taught the first Royal Roads University course at CityStudio Victoria in October 2016.
“It was a great learning opportunity for everyone involved. The students were able to engage directly with city staff members and the councillors really seemed to appreciate the fresh perspective the students brought,” Masselink said.
This echoes what Elverum has consistently found.
“When faculty and staff are invited together, there is lots of energy. They collaborate on experiments and prototypes to create a desired future,” Elverum said.
Projects in Vancouver have focused on such themes as access to nature, active living, clean air or water, climate leadership, local food, transportation and more. The projects make the city more livable, sustainable or simply more joyful. CityStudio work has garnered a number of awards and recognition including being recognized as the first Canadian recipient of the Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Award in 2013.
“The BC Summit on Social Innovation is a terrific opportunity to highlight social innovation within British Columbia,” said Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. “Organizations like CityStudio are addressing social issues in unique ways, complementing the work we are doing in the province. Together, we are creating a better future for all British Columbians.”
- CityStudio was founded in Vancouver in 2011 and is now in development in six cities across Canada, including Victoria; Brantford, Ont.; Waterloo, Ont.; Hamilton, Ont.; and Corner Brook, NL.
- CityStudio Vancouver’s educational partners are: Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Langara College, University of British Columbia, and Native Education College. CityStudio Victoria is partnered with Camosun College, Royal Roads University and University of Victoria. The City of Vancouver and the City of Victoria are key partners.
- A government-funded study on B.C.’s social venture sector found the sector has grown by 36% over the last five years, generates an estimated $533 million annually and employs more than 12,700 people.
- As an active member of the BC Partners for Social Impact, government works with social innovation leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors to promote and support social innovation and enterprise throughout the province.
To nominate an outstanding youth for the BC Social Innovation Youth Awards by Jan. 20, 2017, visit: www.radiussfu.com/bcyouthinnovationawards
Learn about the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation: www.sdsi.gov.bc.ca/social-innovation/index.htm
Explore B.C.’s online social-innovation tool: www.hubcapbc.ca