Co-development of a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy for Canada

In June 2017 the Government created a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-Creation Steering Group (SG) to provide recommendations for a Strategy. Based on a year-long process the SG developed 12 recommendations.
In response, the Government announced the Strategy’s foundational elements in November 2018 including a $50 million Investment and Readiness program to build the capacity of organization to access social finance and a $755 million repayable Social Finance Fund.

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In 2015, the Prime Minister mandated the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to jointly oversee the development of a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy for Canada. Stakeholders and government had been discussing social innovation and social finance for a decade and this clear public commitment signaled the Government’s intention to advance a social innovation and social finance agenda.
The project’s key innovation is the way in which government and stakeholders worked together. Federal departments, led by Employment and Social Development Canada, and reporting to the two Ministers named above, worked to engage external stakeholders. Key to this engagement was creation of a 16 member Steering Group of sector leaders, selected through a transparent public process, to inform and guide policy development in this rapidly emerging public policy space. The engagement approach encouraged broad consultation with key stakeholder networks, and was supported by an inclusive Steering Group selection process which made efforts to balance linguistic, gender, regional representation and experience along with established networks and to ensure minority and Indigenous voices. In an effort to mirror the diversity found throughout Canada, this inclusive engagement approach generated recommendations for an SI/SF Strategy that reflects the interests and preoccupations of various sectors including charities, non-profit organizations, co-operatives, and private businesses advancing a social or environmental mission. This approach served to guide government in its policy development and ensure that a clear snapshot of the state of Canadian social innovation and social finance emerged.
One federal official from Employment and Social Development Canada served as the Steering Group Co-chair, and officials from many federal departments including Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Public Services and Procurement Canada, Privy Council Office, Finance Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, and Indigenous Services Canada took part in the regular Steering Group working sessions.
The goal was the co-creation of meaningful and inclusive recommendations to guide development of policy which reflects diverse views and builds consensus across a range of diverse sectors and stakeholders who do not traditionally work together.
The ongoing co-creation process strengthened the Steering Group understanding of the inner workings of Government and built trust and understanding among participants in the process. In addition, the process itself forged a powerful and enduring Canada-wide network of allies across sectors most of whom had not previously worked together to advance a future vision of Canada. For example, in the Province of Quebec there is the presence of a mature ‘social economy’ which is an important socioeconomic driver supported by more than 7,000 collectively owned and managed organizations that generate approximately $40 billion in revenue and 215,000 jobs. In the rest of Canada the ecosystem is more nascent and not yet formalized.
Major beneficiaries of a national Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy will include charities, not-for-profits, social purpose businesses, co-operatives, foundations, social entrepreneurs and researchers working with vulnerable Canadians and who have difficulty getting access to capital to advance innovative approaches to tackle social and environmental problems.
In August 2018, the Government published the Steering Group’s report, Inclusive Innovation: New Ideas and New Partnerships for Stronger Communities, which included its 12 final recommendations for government to guide development of a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy for Canada.
The first steps in building a Strategy were announced by the federal government in its Fall Economic Statement (2018) – the intention to establish a $50 million investment for social purpose organizations to build their capacity to access social finance capital and a $755 million repayable Social Finance Fund over 10 years to provide access to capital for social purpose organizations. Budget 2019 reaffirmed these investments and directed $50 million of the Social Finance Fund to an Indigenous Growth Fund, and committed to devoting $100 million towards projects that support greater gender equality. The government direction generated a positive response from across the sectors engaged and Canada was publicly hailed as going from “from laggard to leader” in the social innovation and social finance space.
Going forward the Government has signalled an ongoing commitment to co-creation in the implementation of a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy.

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