By September 19, 2017Change Lab, RADIUS Edu

What is Civic Innovation Change Lab?

Change Lab programs have been running at SFU since 2011. These unique, once-in-a-degree studio programs are intensive opportunities to hone your skills at developing practical solutions to real-world challenges.

Civic Innovation Change Lab is the newest addition to the Change Lab portfolio. Civic Innovation refers to a method that improves the lives of citizens, the functions of cities, the practice of citizenship, or the state of community affairs. This course weaves together advanced knowledge in Civic Issues, Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, with the core practices of Dialogue, Design Thinking, and Business Model Development to allow students to become capable of producing impactful social innovations in cities.

Urban Economic Resilience

The 2018 cohorts will focus on the theme of Urban Economic Resilience. The economy is more than just business: it represents the full breadth of livelihood strategies that our residents pursue on a daily basis. However, many urban livelihoods are increasingly vulnerable to a wide array of challenges such as automation and AI, gentrification, climate change, “Uberization”, and unjust social policies. This rapidly changing landscape is dramatically altering how people of all classes and backgrounds plan for and meet their basic needs, which in turn exacerbates issues such as gender and racial inequality, social isolation, generational ineqity, and the growing gap between the rich and poor.

Students projects will respond to these and explore community-orientated solutions that engage citizens and build local resilience. Topics and questions that students are encouraged to consider within the theme of Urban Economic Resilience include:

1)     The Future of Work:  What is the future of employment and business creation? What is the connection between vulnerability, stability, and the gig economy? How do we keep young people in the city? How do we create diverse and vibrant work opportunities for all residents?

2)     Economic Segregation and Isolation:  How do we better integrate vulnerable populations and those with barriers into the changing economy? How do we provide livelihood opportunities for people who may not fit within traditional work categories and structures?

3)     Entrepreneurial Resilience:  How do we protect the fabric of our commercial districts from threats like gentrification and climate change? How do we maintain the livelihood functions of neighborhood businesses for surrounding residents?

The Civic Innovation Change Lab is co-hosted by SFU BeedieRADIUS SFUCityStudio Vancouver, and SFU Semester in Dialogue. Local partners include the City of Vancouver and a network of leading community organizations. Change Lab is generously supported by Scott Shaw.

What will you learn and do?

Participants work in teams to understand a Civic Innovation-related challenge as presented by City of Vancouver staff at CityStudio Vancouver, then develop and test an innovative, venture-based response. Teams will present to partner panels for feedback mid term, and be given the opportunity to connect with community and City partners and leaders to help build ideas connected to the realities of our communities, and possibly to see those ideas proceed in the real world. Sessions are a mix of hands on workshops, coaching by instructors and experts, limited content lectures, guest speakers, and open work time in your teams to advance your ideas.

Personal learning and leadership:

Ideal Change Lab students come in with keen curiosity and a willingness to explore and deepen their own leadership skills. Individual reflection and journaling are part of the course. Participants will be challenged to both give and receive feedback from peers and instructors. Openness, vulnerability, and the ability to listen deeply are highly valued.

The workload:

Commensurate with 9 credits, you should expect this to be an intensive experience. Many students have described the program as the most transformative of their undergraduate degree – but you have to be interested in and committed to:

  • developing and testing real ideas,
  • getting out of the classroom and talking to people, and
  • taking responsibility for the direction of your learning during the term.

There isn’t a lot of mandatory reading or information to memorize – you work with us to figure out what you need to learn to effectively advance your project.

The content:

Some of the topics you will learn about are social entrepreneurship, systems thinking, civic issues, public and user engagement, dialogue, business model development, personal development, effective teams, and more.

The specific credits that you are awarded are:

  • BUS 453 (Sustainable Innovation) – 3 credits
  • BUS 494 (Iteration and Prototyping) – 3 credits
  • DIAL 461 (Field Placement in Dialogue & Engagement) – 3 credits

The cohort

You do not need any past business or civic innovation experience to thrive in this course. Expect your changemaking peers to bring a variety of perspectives from departments and faculties across the university, a breadth of experience from their own lives, and a shared passion for social and environmental issues.

While we value experience in social change, leadership and project creation of all sorts, we also encourage anyone excited about the description here to consider applying.

Pre-requisites (may be waived at discretion of instructors in extenuating circumstances):

  • 60 credits
  • 2.67 GPA
  • Some relevant work or volunteer experience

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