Social innovation symposium to showcase innovation at Alberta colleges

Bow Valley College researchers as well as Ken Steele and Jesse Brown will be among speakers.

Bow Valley College is hosting the Social Innovation Research in Alberta: Reports from the Field 2018 Symposium on October 26 and 27. The symposium will highlight how Alberta colleges and their partners are making a difference in our communities through research and development of social innovation initiatives. 

“Bow Valley College wanted to organize and host the symposium in the spirit of social innovation,” says Russ Wilde, Dean, Research and Innovation. “We’ve invited people from other institutions who received grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Community and College Social Innovation Fund to a forum where we could all present our work and demonstrate the great value provided by the Alberta college sector by promoting our innovative applied research.”

Russ explains that throughout its history, back to its roots as one of the Alberta Vocational Centres, Bow Valley College has focused on social innovation through access and inclusion.

“Before social innovation was a word or even a thing, we were deeply engaged in it. It’s the heart and soul of this institution — the very fibre of the place,” he says. “More recently, we have very actively pursued larger applied research initiatives around social issues as key component of our research agenda.”

In addition to Bow Valley College’s history and its applied research work, most recently, three college teams have received grants from the Community and College Social Innovation Fund. Part of that funding was for knowledge sharing and Russ and his team organized the symposium for that purpose. The Bow Valley College researchers will be three of the seven presenters, in addition to two keynote speakers: renowned higher education expert, Ken Steele; and Jesse Brown, the founder of Canadaland, the crowdfunded media outlet.  

Hosting the symposium helps further Bow Valley College’s leadership in the Comprehensive Community College sphere in North America. 

To explore the impact of social innovation in an evolving provincial environment, register for the symposium

Or, if you’d like a sample of what you can expect, check out our Q & A with Jesse Brown below. 

Story by Anne Georg, photos by Chris Bolin and Radiant Photography

Q & A with Jesse Brown 

Jesse Brown, a startup entrepreneur and news journalist, will conclude Social Innovation Research in Alberta by sharing the inside scoop on where digital culture is headed and on the importance of applied research in a world in transition. We asked Jesse a few questions to get his take on social innovation. 

Bow Valley College: What is the most significant social innovation you have observed in your work?

JB: When I asked people to voluntarily pay for news that they get for free and thousands of them did so. 
Bow Valley College: Has the rise of network and information technology been a net positive for society?

JB: Yes, but that can be hard to see at the present moment. We are in the midst of a massive change. But it's because everyone suddenly has a voice. I can't conceive of that as a bad thing, even if some of the results are negative. 

Bow Valley College: How can we best adapt to the social challenges that come with a rapidly changing technology and communications landscape?

JB: By being as thoughtful and honest as possible about who we really are and what values we want to bring with us, wherever it is that we're going. 

Bow Valley College: What do you consider to be the most pressing social challenge of our time? What do you hope social innovators will do about it?

JB: There's an urgency right now to take practical action on very abstract problems. How we deal with privacy? How do we deal with compulsive technologies? These are formerly academic concepts that suddenly have real-world impact. What we need is not a technological solution from a saviour-genius, but a widespread cultural forum on what matters to us and what we want to do about it all. Innovators will play a role in empowering this conversation and making it tangible. 

Bow Valley College: What role can higher education play in helping people adapt to change and create a more fair, just, and humane society?

JB: The humanities are needed more than ever — history, philosophy, literature. We need to re-invest in liberal arts, but modernize the way they are taught. 

Posted on October 2, 2018


This symposium is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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