Making Social Innovation Work


Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably heard of a hackathon, even if you’re not quite sure what it is. Hackathons have become increasingly popular events challenging developers, innovators and changemakers alike to use their creative thinking, expertise and coding skills to solve a global or community issue, or develop an app.

Hackathons can tackle any issue. In 2015, the successful  TrafficJam event in Toronto  sought out solutions to the City’s ever-growing traffic problems; there was CODE, a national hackathon that challenged participants to use federal government data to build an app in 48 hours; there was <Br/eak>Poverty that asked developers to build scalable solutions in education, business and farming for people in developing countries; there are all the Startup Weekends, and many, many, more.

Hackathons are great for building communities of people that share a keen interest in a particular issue – including both socially-minded people, developers, experts and students (among others).A big issue about hackathons is that some brilliant ideas tend to die at the end of the event. While many hackathons offer a cash prize, there are still issues of making the app a marketable, sustainable solution. Hackathons also tend to focus on coders and developers, leaving out some very talented, passionate and smart people.

So how do we overcome these limitations and get these people out of the woodwork? What if we created a ‘design lab’ that doesn’t require tech skills (though they’re welcome, of course). We would draw out the passionate changemakers, innovative entrepreneurs, and our future leaders who want to make an impact on the world, and put them in a room together and present them with real-life challenges and ask them to dream up big ideas. We would provide them with the resources to bring those ideas to life and turn them into sustainable, thriving solutions. We would ask them to think bigger than just the solution, but to think about the impact of the solution on public policy, on our cities, on residents.

And yes, it’s possible there are those who work full-time for a corporate or government organization and have no interest in pursuing social entrepreneurship as a career, but are simply passionate about the cause. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring your social values with you. The League of Intrapreneurs, recently launched their Canadian Chapter;  the organization helps changemakers innovate from within their corporate organizations to develop scalable, sustainable solutions for the global issues we face today. Social intrapreneurs can absolutely make a difference in this world; in fact, some of them may work for some of the most influential organizations today.

So how can we, in York Region, taken advantage of these trends to help address our collective big challenges?   We’re calling on changemakers, social intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, developers and anyone who wants to leave a positive impact on this world to join us for Blueprint: Affordable Housing on October 15 & 22. We’ll look at affordable housing issues we face in York Region and challenge the teams to develop brilliant ideas with the goal of developing them into real solutions.

 This is amazing opportunity to get involved with your community while creating lasting impact –in a fun and dynamic way!  Learn more about communityBUILD’s Blueprint. 

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