In May 2018, MacEwan University opened the doors on Roundhouse, welcoming the community into a new coworking space and the home of the Social Innovation Institute.
“A lot of what we’ve learned in the last year has been about creating partnerships and helping connect MacEwan as a whole to the community at large,” says Dr. Leo Wong, the institute’s founding director and assistant professor in the School of Business.
Because the Social Innovation Institute’s goal is to contribute to the university's work around city building, community engagement and its role as a downtown university, Leo says they have made significant strides to demonstrate to the broader community examples of how MacEwan can be an active partner.
And active it has been. To get community partners engaged, the institute hosted a number of events in Roundhouse. The Enlightened Economy Summit, the first-ever event held in the space in 2018, returned this year with more than 50 speakers and panellists. Its aim is to bring people from multiple sectors together to talk about collaboration and ideas for an economy that can work for everybody.
Collaboration is a driving force for the Social Innovation Institute. In the last year, the institute has partnered with Recover (a City of Edmonton initiative focused on urban wellness) and with local businesses to support their efforts to be more socially and environmentally conscious by connecting them with academics, government, and nonprofit agencies.
Social Innovation Fellowship
Learning and research are also major parts of the institute's programming. The Social Innovation Fellowship is an opportunity for students in graduate studies at other universities to engage as “fellows” in an applied research project with a community partner organization, with the support of MacEwan students, who are engaged as junior fellows.
“It provides a bridge from undergraduate to graduate studies, and creates connections with community partners,” says Leo. “Those community partners are able to get support with some sort of applied research question they've had floating around and not necessarily had the expertise or the staff to work on them.”
The fellowship is currently operating as a pilot program with two graduate students working on applied research projects that came out of the collaboration with the city’s Recover initiative.
A good innovation-driven environment
Like any good innovation-driven environment, the Social Innovation Institute isn't afraid to test out new things.
“One of the things I've seen coming in as a new person is that the institute as well as Roundhouse, especially within the post-secondary context, have the ability to be pretty flexible and responsive to needs that we’re seeing, or to address opportunities coming up,” says Alexis Lockwood, academic lead for the institute. You can see this in the partnership-building activities it leads — student pitch competitions, workshops, design jams, and even a community-partnership “matchmaking” event.
What’s on at Roundhouse
Roundhouse was created as a point of contact for people in the community to engage with MacEwan University. Find out what’s going on and how to get involved.
One event, the Economics of Social Change, is a workshop series for people working in the community who encounter economic development or social enterprise issues and don’t know how to address them. It’s co-delivered by community and post-secondary members, but less formal than a traditional university program.
“It’s like giving them a community economic development 101 lesson and then building on that with topics like systems mapping and economic reconciliation with Indigenous communities,” says Alexis. Workshop on May 29 focused on financing social change.
“Developing collaborative partnerships and relationships takes time,” says Alexis. “But it’s important for innovation – we come up with more interesting opportunities, events and programs when we work with other people. So we make sure to demonstrate the importance of those relationships and partnerships through the work that we're doing and how we're doing it.”
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