What’s Your Legacy?

Is it ending poverty in Canada? Or helping newcomers find meaningful employment, or ensuring that all children have access to healthy food? My legacy wish is to be a catalyst in my community to spark collaboration across sectors with a shared vision to solve each of these super complex issues. My wish is to no longer have to sponsor a fundraising stair climb, or host a food bank drive, but to shift entire systems to empower residents in my community to be architects of their own solutions.

That’s where the principles behind social innovation including social entrepreneurship can play an instrumental role in our communities. “Social Innovation refers to initiatives, products or processes, that profoundly change the beliefs, behavior, cultures, power dynamics, basic routines and / or access to resources of any social system in the direction of greater equity, productivity and resilience. Successful social innovations have impact, scale and durability.”(1)

“Social entrepreneurs are relentless team-builders and problem solvers who set new norms in their fields of work. They are practical visionaries – practical in that they are highly attentive to the nuts and bolts of making things work, and visionary in that they often reframe the problem, build roles for others to participate, and cast a long term view for change at least at the national level.”(2)

To help illustrate this definition, Ashoka founder, Bill Drayton, refers to the following analogy – to give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Well social innovation changes that conversation to, you give a man a fish, well that’s good; you teach a man how to fish – that’s a little better; revolutionizing the fishing industry – now that’s where real leverage comes in. His philosophy believes that we need entrepreneurs just as much in business as we do working on social issues.(3)

In a recent report released by KPMG Canada and Social Innovation Generation, entitled Breaking Through: How Corporate Social Innovation Creates Business Opportunity, it states that “in Canada, our natural environment, economy and society are confronting challenges such as:

  • accelerated climate change,
  • an aging population, and
  • the requirement for substantial investment in infrastructure.

New forms of innovation are required to shift progress to overcome these issues and build a new economic operating system that will strengthen Canada’s resiliency.”(4) We now know that the charitable sector alone cannot solve some of Canada’s most pressing issues. We need thought leadership and great minds from all sectors to come to the design table with their diverse and inclusive set of talents, expertise, and innovative problem solving skills to work with communities striving for economic and social prosperity.

Social innovation provides a platform to unlock value across an entire system and incorporates an entrepreneurial spirit, strategic corporate partnership, smart philanthropic investment, new market opportunities and policy changes to foster an interconnectedness among stakeholders striving towards a shared vision. With the introduction of these new solutions into communities, it’s also instrumental to help build capacity from within. By combining capacity building with strategic resources, communities will be able to address old problems in a new way.

As an AFP Inclusion and Philanthropy Fellow, I believe that as the next generation of leaders in fundraising, we need to understand that social innovation is not a trend, nor is it a new shiny object for charities to invest in. It’s not about galas, cheque presentations, or sexy social media fundraising campaigns. It’s not about a handout, or even a hand up, but rather it’s about a fundamental shift in how we build communities that utilize inclusive job creation mechanisms, build on local talents and expertise, increase asset ownership, achieve local environmental goals, and strive for local economic stability.(5)

It’s a profoundly different operating model where the path forward is anchored in community resiliency and overall community wealth building.

…so what’s your legacy going to be?



  1. http://www.sigeneration.ca/home/resources/primer/
  2. http://usa.ashoka.org/about-ashoka-united-states
  3. http://usa.ashoka.org/social-entrepreneurs-are-not-content-just-give-fish-or-teach-how-fish
  4. https://www.kpmg.com/Ca/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/5441-KPMG-Social-Innovation-Report-FY14-web-Final.pdf
  5. http://community-wealth.org/content/what-community-wealth-building-why-it-so-important