Ep. 4 - Building a Better Alberta

March 22, 2023

In this episode, we explore the topic of social innovation in the Alberta ecosystem. Jordana Armstrong from Innovate Calgary and Christine Spottiswood from AB Seed share their insights and experiences on how social innovation is being promoted and developed in the region—the importance of collaboration and partnerships and how these relationships can drive positive social change. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a social impact investor, or simply interested in learning about social innovation, this episode provides valuable insights and inspiration for anyone looking to drive positive change in their community.

Listen to this episode

Mar 22, 2023; Building a Better Alberta



Hi and welcome to this episode of the Responsible Disruption Podcast. My name is Monique Blough, and I'm the Project Director of the Social Impact Lab Alberta at the United Way of Calgary. And in today's episode, we will take an in-depth look at Alberta's social innovation ecosystem with two local champions of change. There is a movement in Calgary and across Alberta right now to work differently in the social sector and we have a front row seat. But before we get into it, I'd like to introduce our guest. Christine has been supporting the social enterprise and social finance ecosystem with AB Seed, which is the Alberta social economy ecosystem development for more than three years and prior to that, she worked in the nonprofit and small business sectors for a better part of 15 years. Her focus is on creating space for people and ideas to grow and flourish, to challenge the status quo. And she is bringing this approach to ecosystem development in Alberta.



01:18 MONIQUE: My other guest is Jordana Armstrong and Jordana is the Director of Social Innovation at Innovate Calgary. She helps provide strategic direction for researchers and entrepreneurs who seek to use market approaches to achieve impact within communities they serve. Jordana also leads Innovate Calgary's social entrepreneur programming and spearheads the UCeed Social Impact Fund. She embraces the principles of radical generosity and is committed to seeing capital work differently in Alberta. So just before we jump into the conversation and thank you so much for both agreeing to be our guest on today's podcast, it would be great for our listeners to get to know the both of you a little bit better. Both of you seem to be connected by a common thread that's investing yourselves in a sympathetic approach to how we look at systematic change in the Alberta social innovation sector. And here's the question I'm wondering what led you to the work you do today? Why don't we start with Christine?

02:26 CHRISTINE: I guess what brings me into this space, it starts honestly way back with my love of both the nonprofit sector and small business and entrepreneurship itself, right down to my education, which started in social work and then ended with an accounting degree. So I've always kind of blurred both those lines and tried to find a way to combine them so when I became well aware of the social entrepreneur space in the social economy, it seemed like the perfect fit for those two desires. I am really passionate about creating space for solutions, so specifically in that ecosystem role and in this space there's for me it's a great role to bring together the social aspect, the innovation aspect, the entrepreneur aspect. And which is kind of that practical side of me coming out in those solutions and innovations to emerge and thrive in this space as a space maker. So yeah, that's what brings me here.

03:24 MONIQUE: Thanks for sharing that, Christine. I feel like I want to dig into it but I'll let Jordana share what brought her to the work that she's doing.


Wonderful! Thanks, Monique. I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for having us share some of our voices today. So similar to Christine, my journey starts way back. I grew up in a household with a single mom and I also had we had support from my dad, but it took it didn't take me very long to start to notice that people end up where they are for various reasons and I started to observe systems and the impact of systems at a really young age, so it was hard for me to understand why my mom’s side of the family had such a hard go at it and my dad’s side of the family, they were entrepreneurs and they did quite well for themselves. And so observing that tension at a really young age around inequity and sort of how systems impact individuals was something that I experienced growing up and it led me to start to really explore why that would be the case.

And then the second thing that I'll add and I think you know the power of education, formal or informal, I had the opportunity to take a class on the social economy in my first university degree. And like Christine, I finally just saw under the hood and realized that there is actually an opportunity to create a career that actually aligns the perspectives I saw around challenging systems and systems inequity, but then also being able to do so in a sustainable way. And so I really fell in love with this space and started off my career in kind of the startup world, nonprofit startups, for profit, impact investing, startup think tanks. Who knew that those were even a thing and then found myself now at Innovate Calgary.

05:12 MONIQUE: Thanks Jordana! I really appreciate you both sharing kind of the journey of what brought you here because one of the things we're really trying to share with our listeners is that we all have a different path to how we landed where we are today. Whether that's our experience is growing up, whether it's blending social work and accounting and finding an opportunity there. I think they're all such a unique way of approaching how we work and in fact, when we think of design right or we think about systems lens and systems change, it’s bringing all these diverse voices with diverse experiences to the table, so I really appreciate and value that. So why don't we jump in, Christine? Because as a project specialist with AB Seed, you are in fact a key player in stewarding the social economy ecosystem in this province and could you give us a bit of an overview of what we mean when we say social economy, social innovation ecosystem? These are concepts that we're still trying to figure out what they mean and we'd love to hear what your perspective is.

06:23 CHRISTINE: Thanks Monique. While we are still trying to figure out what we mean by social economy as everyone is. So we have a rule of thumb that we avoid the word, definition, generally and try not to define it, but so depending on where people are at the general description, I’ll give for folks on the social economy space specifically is, a place where we're trying to blend the business or operation models with social impact and financial sustainability, which is a very broad description at best. When we look at the ecosystem space, we're looking beyond the support to a direct social entrepreneur or an entrepreneur themselves, or an innovator, and we're looking at creating space in the broader coordination within the broader space, so across Alberta and coordination between the different parts. So whether that's a capacity builder or somebody providing services, some of the organizations that Jordana mentioned, the funders, the policy makers, the nonprofits in the sector, the entrepreneurs themselves, the consumer who might purchase from a social entrepreneur, we try to at an ecosystem level, we're trying to coordinate, and support the work to work together within that broad space, around businesses or innovations that that take, that dual lens of social impact in the work that they're doing as well as financial sustainability, it's not quite a charity in where it's primarily social impact, but also not just that business where it's primarily profit and revenue driven.

08:00 MONIQUE: I'm curious if you could just share because having been in the province for the length of time that you have and having worked in many areas, what do you think is changing when we think about the social economy today, this lens of... yeah, go ahead.

08:19 CHRISTINE: Yeah. Ironically, I think that people are moving away from identifying as a social enterprise as being a distinct and unique ecosystem, and we are getting... I  don't want to generalize, but with some of these younger generations coming up just a more intrinsic desire to have a social impact and not just be profit driven and I think that's a really unique opportunity to see this stop being a social enterprise or social economy ecosystem and just be the economy and be the ecosystem, so less of having to convince people that there's value in social impact and shifting more towards supporting those in the space to do it effectively and in a way that they can leverage both and be helpful in both. So not just providing business support or social impact support, but helping them balance the desire to have that balance is a shift that I think is happening.

09:15 MONIQUE: Jordana, I see you.  Our guests, our listeners don't know that I can actually see you nodding your head. But I'm curious because of course with all the work that you do with Innovate Calgary. When we think about strengthening the resilience of communities, this lens of what does it mean to be thinking about social innovation across our ecosystem in Calgary and the province. Do you want to add some color to what Christine has been sharing with us?

09:44 JORDANA: Sure, I'd love to. I think for me I think Christine is exactly right. There's a trend towards, on both sides. Historically, social impact focus organizations thinking about concepts like sustainability, revenue diversification. There's some examples that we could talk about and then there's also a shift for industry to move away from shareholder primacy towards stakeholder primacy. And I don't know if folks saw a couple of years ago, Larry Fink, who's the Chief executive officer for the largest asset manager in the World, Black Rock. They've got $10 trillion of dollars that they deploy, money that they invest into organizations. He wrote an open letter to CEO's and he said, “We can't just focus anymore on the bottom line. We really need to be thinking about businesses that create more sustainability and more resilience in our, in our society and in our economy.” And so this blend of social and economy is starting to happen more on both sides of the coin, I think.

And so I would just echo everything that Christine said, and I think it's a trend that we need, not only to embrace, but to continue to amplify because we're not going to be able to solve our most complex problems with the thinking that we use to create them, to paraphrase something that is often attributed to Einstein, and so it requires more diverse voices, as you said earlier, Monique, more diverse perspectives and also it requires us to stop thinking in certain industry verticals or sector silos and start to really see those worlds blend.

11:23 MONIQUE: God, I love everything you said because I completely agree for this view that if we're going to look at active innovation as a collective group, we can no longer think of it in a siloed approach or as individual group solving a piece of the puzzle, when in fact it's a giant puzzle that we all need to be working on together. Jordana, could you share a bit about how you see this shareholder primacy versus stakeholder primacy for our listeners.

11:54 JORDANA: Yeah, I mean, if we just think about basic design principles, who is at the center of the focus. And I think when we think about shareholder primacy versus stakeholder primacy, we're recognizing that for a business to be sustainable, just like for an organization to be sustainable, there are multiple different stakeholder perspectives that need to be considered. So if we're only focusing on the distribution of profits, we're actually missing the focus on the customers who actually generate the revenue that then gets translated potentially translated into profits, depending on the business model and so this idea of stakeholder primacy, is looking at environment as a stakeholder. How do we think about sustainability of our world and our natural resources? Take it or leave it, but Coca-Cola has some really interesting or for better or for worse, I should say Coca-Cola has some really interesting water sustainability initiatives and that's because water is a #1 input into their business model. And so if we take that idea forward in terms of not just focusing on profitability, but we're thinking about what do we need to do as organizations to support thriving individuals, thriving communities, and then that actually has secondary and tertiary benefits to our business in the long term. Then we're looking at the full picture of the full system. So I think for me that shift is really folks taking that design user centered design principle and going back to who actually are our key stakeholders and how do we have to value them in our business model to ensure that this organization not only exists in the next five years, but maybe in the next 7 generations.

13:31 MONIQUE: So, Christine, when we think about the organizations that we interact with and that you're interacting with... do you see them leaning into this shareholder view or stakeholder view? Like what has shifted from your perspective?

13:48 CHRISTINE: I well, I think those in that we kind of use a bit of a concentric circle model at AB Seed of those that are kind of in that core of the ecosystem and then those are a little bit more on the outer circles. It was actually … I'll go back a little bit because I was thinking about when Jordana was talking about us being able to move forward with these shifts, we are in this place where we still have some people where they've never heard the term social enterprise and or entrepreneurship and don't even understand what that is all the way to the spectrum of we have other organizations who are removing it from their definition because they've moved past the use of the word social.

So we have two groups who don't use the word social entrepreneurship, who are on complete polar opposite ends of the spectrum and I think  because we work at that ecosystem level similar, you're going to find the same; some that are at that end where they are making that shift and then some who are still just at those very beginning stages. But I think we are seeing, for lack of a better term, an awakening or an awareness around, between environmental impact, between profit and sustainability, especially as we come into recessions and the issues around that between the shop, local movement and the outsourcing of pieces between AI and technology and losing jobs as a result of that. And then wanting to invest in community, regardless, people are being forced into considering a broader perspective than just, I provide a service or a good and I want to make money on it cause nothing is that simple anymore and social entrepreneurship is just one aspect and I see Jordana very excited. So Jordana, I'm going to let you have it.

15:31 JORDANA: I love that Christine and I just wanted to add. And when we think about cross sector, cross industry collaboration, I think often, unfortunately we think maybe, maybe not, but sometimes you hear that resonance: Oh, you need to add someone with a finance background to your board. You need to add someone with accounting to your board in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits have a lot to learn from business. And I actually think when we look at this intersectionality and state this concept of stakeholder primacy, here's a lot that social service and nonprofit sectors actually bring to the conversation around thinking about a much broader view of stakeholder and a different view of sustainability that businesses haven't always considered. And that's why I think we really need that cross sector collaboration if we're going to think about moving away from treating our economy and our social service as a separate, if we're really going to think about value creation for society. We need that intersectionality in multiple different directions. And so I think in terms of our collective action groups, in terms of our boards and our committees, are we making sure that we have diversity of perspective in a multifaceted way.

16:45 MONIQUE: Yeah, I really appreciate that both of you. I mean, I knew when we started this conversation that there'd be so many, not rabbit holes, but areas we could really dig in on. And I think when we think about the systems level, the ecosystem level and this view of, kind of the collective power that might exist to support a flourishing social impact environment. It drives me to start to think about how do we create partnerships and where does collaboration fit into this, because these are all elements that start to drive positive change, but what's the importance of it and how do we do it? Christine...

17:34 CHRISTINE: Oh, I might need a minute for that one... Well, the first answer that comes to mind, and I hope I'm OK with my answer, cause I'm just talking now. When Jordana was talking, I was thinking a lot about that. What she said about the nonprofit side, which I've always known and that's where often can be at that end of the spectrum, where don't know what the word social entrepreneur means, but have that impact down. And so there's a gap in getting that group to talk meaningfully with the other group and I was thinking that through. And I think we sometimes get really bogged down in really simple things that get in our way that are just intrinsic: policy, governance, definitions, language, accountability, structure. All of these things that are really important structures to the not for profit sector to the business model sector that create barriers because they don't talk the same language in the same way, even though I've said at many collaborative table where as the facilitator like kind of the ecosystem person, I can see that we're all talking the same thing but not the same language are not in the same way but the values and the intentions are there.

And I've seen it stop forward movement. I've seen it get in the way of progress in that, in that bringing those people. Like if we can bring the nonprofits in because I think we sometimes forget that the nonprofits have so much to bring to the table to support the social economy. And I hear it a lot and like all the nonprofits have to figure this out, the nonprofits have to learn. The nonprofits have to come to the table, and it's... I don't know that I hear enough how much they have to bring to the table and that we also need the other stakeholders. And I don't wanna see the other side cause it's not dual, it's all the other stakeholders to also listen to what they have to say and I'm kind of losing my train of thought here, but I think we fall into these traditional ways and the way we've always done things and the language and the pieces that we use. And I just, I think it gets in the way. I think the lack of just genuine conversation and moving away from some of that process gets in the way and honestly a fairly risk adverse culture when it comes down to it. There's lots of talk around risk and play and experimentation and sometimes you'll get a little bit, but anytime there's any kind of scale to it or any sort of actual umph to it, I find people, they tend to pull back. So Jordana, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

20:19 JORDANA: I don't think I have a huge amount to add, Christine. I think it was beautifully said and I agree with you. I don't think the notion of our risk aversion would have come to mind immediately, but I'm glad that you named that because I think you're right. And I think in addition to that, we need to think differently about organizational design as well. I think organizations develop inertia and they can sometimes lose track of what agnostic to how they're incorporated for profit, non-profit, cooperative, whatever. You can lose track of what that mission really is. If we go again thinking about user centered design, but if we go back to who are we really trying to serve and what's going to benefit them best, especially for those of us who are in the quote unquote ecosystem working to support communities, working to support social entrepreneurs, working to support innovators. If we think about what's best for those folks, it's for them to not move between organizations, but to sort of be able to move between them smoothly or not even notice that they're moving between organizations because someone was meeting with Jordana and then they were meeting with Christine and then they were meeting with Monique.

And we actually really understand each other's roles in the ecosystem well and so we know how to help those folks navigate that ecosystem and that's again thinking about that user centered perspective. I also think we have to think differently about our metrics. I did a little exercise while I was moving through our ecosystem and asking all of our ecosystem partners, what are your metrics and what is your mandate? And I asked that question mandate in the context of not just what it says on your website, but who are your current funders? What are your current priorities? What does your leadership currently care about? What energizes your staff? And I think when we go back to those first principles, what you're talking about, Christine, instead of getting too bogged down on language, what is it that we're actually here to do? We can start to understand each other's work better and then know when and how we can lean on each other. And I think if I were to jump ahead a little bit and sort of challenge ourselves, how could we work together as an ecosystem or actually a broader team? What if we saw each other as other team members? Other departments? In this movement towards cultivating more solutions to society's most pressing problems and frankly, we can't not do that because we're not getting better at solving problems. They're becoming more complex and they're hitting us faster.

22:46 CHRISTINE: I don't want to lose what Jordana said about when and where to lean on each other because I think that was actually a really...I want to just highlight that, like everything you said was, but I really want to highlight that because I think the sole business model is a very competitive capitalistic model and there isn't that instinct to lean on each other when we're competing. And so I just wanted to bring attention to that idea of being different departments in the same economy really struck me when you said that and I want to highlight that.

23:27 MONIQUE: Thanks for doing that, Christine, because I completely agree. I think it's something that we get so caught up in our own processes, our own mandate or value prop that we lose sight of the opportunity of what it actually means if we operated collectively. And I think the system in which the structures in which we need to operate have created the system right and so we need to be challenging and I love that language, Jordana. We need to be challenging ourselves as we look at the ecosystem and the players within that ecosystem, how can we bring collective power to actually start to think about change and supporting that ecosystem? And I love that challenge. I think that's a great challenge for us.

I know that you know, we are all three of us, you know, our AB Seed and Innovate Calgary and the social impact level Alberta constantly exploring how we can collaborate and find opportunities to ensure that we're creating a path that might become clearer and the more we work together. But I am curious about how do we look at resources or other players that we may not know about, right? Like how do we start to broaden our view and bring in the not the usual suspects and how can we challenge? I'm going to start using that today in today's episode. How do we challenge ourselves to do that? Jordana, why don't you start with that?

25:00 JORDANA: Sure, there's a concept that I want to introduce that I learned about in the kind of system social innovation world. It's called positive deviance. So who are the folks in your community that agnostic to where they're from the resources they've had access to. Who have been able to really make positive change in their community through their work and their advocacy, their innovation, whatever it is and once you're able to identify those folks. And I know Monique, part of your question was like, how do you find them to begin with? But I think you find them through networks and you find them through being intentionally observant of when people are doing things a little bit differently. And then you identify those folks. How do you bring them into your organization? How do you bring them onto your committees? But also how do we just learn from what they're up to?

So I think there's a major opportunity to be really observant and to take a look in our communities and not just look about at what's not working, but what's actually already organically working. And then why and who are the people behind that and we found in our own work, identifying some of those folks and bringing them into our team has helped us now broaden our community in terms of who we can work with and who we can serve because they know their people, they know their community. And so I think that's a big thing. So the second thing that I want to say is, when we're you're working with unusual suspects or the folks that haven't been historically near programs or services or you haven't worked with before. It's not just about inviting more diverse folks to the dinner table, it's also about being intentional about what you're serving them, and so things that we've learned are creating a culture of celebration.

But what are the other things that we haven't learned yet or what are the things that you need to learn about the unusual suspects in your own work in terms of what they actually need to show up at the table. What they actually want when they get there and I think that's the one thing that I have seen missing. It's not just about opening the door. As I said, it's actually about thinking about what have been the historic barriers. And it's not just the barriers around access. That is one thing, but it's also about what kind of culture are we creating and are we deeply listening to the people who haven't been at the table.

27:25 MONIQUE: Leads me to that notion of intentional design and the experience, right? And thinking of the whole. The whole person, right? Or the whole organization or whatever it might be. Christine, where might you source or where do you look when you're thinking of a non-usual suspect? Like, what are places of inspiration?

27:45 CHRISTINE: So true and I just really appreciate everything Jordana had to say, and we'll add one little component that I would say in addition to thinking about what you serve, I would say also being open to their invitation to their snack party was just the one little thing like we don't always need people to come to us. Sometimes I think equally important, we go to them. As an aside though, and then true to AB Seed’s nature, my answer would be in the relationship building and I'll elaborate on that in valuing and resourcing the time needed to build relationships and trust within our community. And that means allowing for conversations. It means moving away from convenings that are just agenda focused, with no time to converse.

I still have trouble in some conversations and convenings convincing people to leave time in the agenda for an opening round table. That's still something I'm having to convince people to do, never mind actually moving away from an agenda and building trust. The online world has had many benefits for inclusivity and access, but it's had many detriments, too. And I always say the pre and post meeting and lunch conversations are one of the biggest losses, I think that we've experienced and Jordana, I really wish we were all there with you at the Social Impact Lab and so I'll give an example because this is how we've got our usual our unusual suspects. So Namada, our online resource navigation tool, we get those resources by doing a generative interview process and that's very intentional. And one of the things that we get out of that process is because we have conversation with every resource that's listed on that tool, and we always end with can you refer someone? We've had this connection of referring people to and then meeting some of these unusual suspects, which come from really keen people within other organizations that are not so typical.

Like if you you're not going to get the Calgary Economic Development Unit or some of these big institutions that might be doing some of this really cool stuff by Googling it or by searching it. It's not in their name and it's not in their events but it doesn't mean they don't have a strong commitment to a social economy or social innovation or social impact, and the only way to find those people or, I don't want to say the only way... the best way for us and the work that we do has been through taking the time to build relationships, build trust. And as Jordana said, listen to what people have to say. That's the part that I feel we are losing and it's so hard to resource it. Workloads are not manageable and so people don't have time for coffee, chat and coffee chatter. Even if you do host a session for conversation, which we do every other Friday, it doesn't mean people can commit the time to come when they've got all these other things on their plate. So we really got this productivity focus and leaving time in workloads, resource capacity in, in meetings and in agendas for just to connect and chat. Because without trust, it's really hard to lean to know when to lean on each other, as Jordana said earlier.

31:05 MONIQUE: Yeah, completely agree. And I think we can learn a lot from the First People on this land, right? As guests on this land, how do we take time to make relatives and making relatives means being intentional in those conversations. The pre and post and the coffees. By taking that time we start to build the foundation to then start to think of each other as a team. And you know, as a collective working towards impact together. So true Christine, completely agree. I'm fortunate in the Lab, I would say we have the opportunity to intentionally design for that, but it doesn't mean that we don't have the pressures to still want to get results and speed up and to do all of those things and so it becomes this blend and balancing act that we need to respect.

31:57 CHRISTINE: And I'll pop in and then I’ll pass it off to Jordana. Can you imagine if every agenda we wrote was designed for trust instead of productivity and action items? I just think that would be such a big shift in how we design them.

32:11 JORDANA: I think that's absolutely right, Christine. And I would just add in in mentioning metrics. I think then as leaders and funders, how we evaluate doing work in this sector is a really important opportunity and it's important signal that yes, we believe that trust is important. And so I think that would be jumping a little ahead here. One of the calls to action if you're a leader or a funder listening to this and you have the opportunity to shape that within your own organization. How do you design for both? And I think oftentimes we think well, we can't do it. We're too busy and we have external pressures and I know we all feel that a lot of times, but if we don't try to and we don't use our imagination, we won't ever get there. So if we just say that we can't, we won't. But if we try, we might get somewhere that's different than we are today.

33:00 CHRISTINE: We could even argue that maybe we're too busy not to design for trust because I think we'd get a lot further, a lot faster if we had it and that little bit of move slow to move fast probably would actually get us a lot further along.

33:15 MONIQUE: I concur with that statement. I would offer the same goes with this idea of how often do you prototype and test something. People get afraid of doing that, right? It's that same kind of, if you spend the time doing the work, the results in the end will be much better. So when we think about each of your organizations, Innovate Calgary and AB Seed. You are part of this ecosystem. We all are part of this ecosystem, but I'd be curious as to what your vision might be for working together and if you've considered that. Jordana, do you want to start us off? I know you're working together.

33:56 JORDANA: We are, we are.

33:57 MONIQUE: I should actually classify that. We are. We're exploring this. This is why we're all here.

34:02 JORDANA: Yeah, I mean, we are all working together.

34:02 MONIQUE: How do we dig into that?

34:04 JORDANA: Those of us on the call and many, many more folks. Harkening back to something Christine said earlier, for us in launching the Social Innovation Hub and the building out of the social innovation portfolio at Innovate Calgary, we've really tried to put relationships at the center of everything that we're doing and in some ways, it's almost because we have to. Of course I want to. I'm a very relational based person, but to Christine's point around us being too busy not to. We have some pretty audacious goals and a vision to build Alberta to be an inclusive economy. And there's no way that work can be done alone, so I think in terms of the rationale for working together, I think it's important for organizations and individuals to have big goals.

I think in Canada sometimes we can think a lot smaller. I just came back from a conference in Austin. That was the one key take away is that a lot of our peers in the in the US, both in related sectors and even just friends that I met down there, they think really big and I think it's an opportunity for us to think big, think big in terms of the impact that we can create. Think big in terms of the future systems that we can design or I should say that differently. The future systems that we can help cultivate, because systems aren't necessarily designed but and we have to do that together we have to do that in relationship and so collaboration is not just I think a trend, but I think it's a mainstay in terms of how we work in systems areas.

And so that would be the one thing. We're starting to test how we work together and it differs between organizations because all organizations have their own inherent culture and their own inherent approaches, but it's something that we can't not do and just very, very practically, I think it starts by shifting your mindset to that team. So I don't see external organizations as separate. I refer to them as my colleagues. I'm sure a lot of us on the call do that already and I try to really understand what they're accountable to in their own roles, so that I know that when I'm taking an opportunity to them, it's gonna add to what they're doing. It's not necessarily gonna be an ask just because it's something that I need. And so how do we understand each other's work really deeply? And then you just gotta roll your sleeves up and try to work together. And it's bumpy. And it takes time, as Christine said. But not only do you produce better outcomes and better work, but you also have a better time doing it, I find.

36:39 CHRISTINE: Jordana, you said one thing on there that reminded me that this isn't about getting the right people in the room and putting on the agenda that we're going to solve X problem and then having a discussion and trying to come up with a plan to solve said problem. And one of the things I love about the way we work with Innovate Calgary and there's lots of touch points between Innovate Calgary and AB Seed’s work, but it was one of the situations where AB Seed was hosting and every other week, Friday conversation and a colleague of Jordana’s had wanted to host something similar. Found out we were doing it and it's been one of my favorite partnerships as we just came together to host one ecosystem conversation and then out of that...

Actually, alongside that, I actually don't remember which one came first. We co-hosted the Social Enterprise World Forum and out of that, Meredith and I have had several conversations and are looking at some other opportunities to deepen and build that relationship both between the two organizations but also bringing others in. And it can sometimes seem like that low hanging fruit or that really fun small opportunity to collaborate maybe seems trivial, but those are the foundations for designing for trust, and that is how we have casual conversations … I think my thing is, we need to stop talking about the problems we want to solve and I'm a big advocate of let's just try it. Let's just do something together and we will learn a lot about each other along the way and we will have conversations and we'll learn how each other works and then we'll discuss problems and we'll come up with slightly higher hanging fruit along the way, and then we'll get at that higher hanging. We'll bring more people in.

I've got an analogy going here and it's gonna go somewhere weird, but it involves a ladder and lots of people and fruit that’s really really high that only giraffes can reach. But it starts with a couple of people in that low hanging fruit and valuing that and I think we just sometimes become so outcomes focused and that outcomes is important. But to Jordana's earlier point about what those outcomes are and what we value, just many small things is probably more valuable than one big conversation with one big agenda and maybe some solution that nobody can reach, so that's all I got.

38:58 MONIQUE: I really appreciate that comment. Many small things... if we think about how do you eat an elephant, right? You do it one bite at a time. When I think of this province and the opportunities that are ahead of us. We can't do it in one big swoop even if you bring us all together. The collective power is much stronger as we start to think about all these small pieces having impact, right? A little bit at a time. I'm really excited that the Social Impact Lab Alberta is collaborating with both of you. Exploring and working on the design cafe with AB Seed and then our collaboration, potentially Jordana, as we look at Inspire, right, trying to create a path to success for nonprofits and social enterprises and thinking about how do we start to create a road map that starts to connect all of all of those that engage with each of us in their own unique way so that they don't feel like it becomes this one stop shop instead, we have this kind of road map of what it might mean to work with all three of us and how that can help them, social enterprises, nonprofits, individuals that have great ideas for how to improve things, how that helps them get to where they want to be.

40:20 JORDANA: Yeah, Monique. From one stop shop to no wrong door.

40:25 MONIQUE: I love that no wrong door. So I think we have an opportunity to now consider what is the hope. What's the hope for our ecosystem? And I'd like to give you each an opportunity. So Christine, what is your hope for the Alberta ecosystem?

40:42 CHRISTINE: I think I'll actually circle back to what I said before that that we don't have a social enterprise ecosystem anymore and that's similar to being environmentally conscious. It's just the norm. It's not a separate standalone ecosystem. And I think we're shifting there and I want to add that we can... This is my own personal hope that we continue to embrace this mentality of play and experimentation and fun that I think will help us get there.

41:19 MONIQUE: I think that aligns so well with this notion of if we think about designing for trust, but if we think about play. Wow. What if we actually brought play into how we how we work and how we think and how we collaborate? If we were intentional again with that word. Jordana, what about your hope for the Alberta ecosystem?

41:41 JORDANA: I would say yes to everything Christine said. AYsolutely. And I would like to see Alberta really build... .would like to see us be leaders in building an inclusive economy so folks on the call may or may not be aware that Calgary economic development has a goal to have 1000 tech companies grown out of Alberta by 2030.  Sorry, grown out of Calgary by 2030 and so if we look at what has happened in places like San Francisco, these are major tech hubs. Housing has become an issue. The most marginalized are getting pushed out, and then you have the experience of COVID, where service businesses and other types of SME's. As small and medium-sized businesses that we're serving those big, big tech companies in downtown cores are now faced with the fact that a lot of workers are working remotely.

We know that COVID is not going to be the last major health crisis that we have. And so I think remote work that blended work is here to stay. So when we think about how we're designing our cities and our ecosystems for a future proof kind of world. I think we really need to think about the most marginalized as an important part of that conversation. So yes, let's continue to innovate. Yes, we can build a tech ecosystem. Yes, we can have diversification in life science. And we need to have voices from the social services and from the nonprofit sector for us to think about how do we do that in an inclusive way? Because I would love to have Boston, San Francisco looking to Calgary and to Alberta to say look what they did there. They not only built a really robust economy, but they also have this massive opportunity to make sure that it works for everyone and so most importantly, just keeping the average Albertan, all Albertans at the center of that goal.

43:43 MONIQUE: Thank you. So just as we wrap up, the goal with the Responsible Disruption podcast is to provide a platform for champions like yourselves, right, like those that were surrounded by that are working to make Alberta communities better, right? Improving the lives of Albertans, so I'm curious if there is a call to action or something you'd like to share with our listeners.

44:07 CHRISTINE: I can get us started on that one. I want to reiterate Jordana's call to action for leaders and policymakers and funders to value and think about the outcomes that they're looking for and that they value that low hanging fruit and that designing for trust. That's definitely one. And then my second call to action would be to just take a look at where you are on that spectrum of social economy and social impact and social innovation. And I encourage you to, regardless of whether you are learning the term for the first time or are very embedded in it to push yourself to move one step further, one step out. I think it's easy to become a social enterprise or be an impact organization and then become complacent that while we're doing it and as we've talked, things are changing quickly. Mindsets are changing. And so wherever you are on that spectrum, no matter how good of a job you may currently be doing, I would encourage you to look at what that next step along it is so that we can move the whole system along this whole theories around that bulk part and if we can move them down then the rest just naturally move with them, so don't be complacent and play.

45:27 JORDANA: I think Christine really hit the nail on the hammer of most of the points that I was going to make and I love that you added play, Christine, cause that was sort of the only thing I felt like adding on top of what you said, which is, I think we've talked about a lot of things to do and we've talked a lot about like ambitious goals and there's a lot of work ahead of us to get there. And I would like to encourage us as individuals and organizations and organizational leaders to also take a step back and create culture that recognizes that people are people and humans are humans. We have technology that can help automate a lot of the things that humans can't do, but at the end of the day, we need to be sustainable as individuals. We need to be sustainable as organizations to create more sustainable systems because your internal system is reflected in the world around you.

And so I would just encourage people to rest. If you're not familiar with the podcast, rest is resistance. It's beautiful. Learn about your polyvagal nervous system, and let's start to design culture, organizational cultures that recognize that people are people and sort of anti-grind culture, anti hustle culture. WY can still be innovative and generative and probably would be more innovative and generative if we just gave our brains sort of time to rest and to be creative.

46:54 MONIQUE: I think we need to do a podcast on the four day work week and what the province of BC is doing and what we can learn from other countries like great innovation, right? Let's look around us and see how we might be able to learn and adopt for the better. Wow, I really enjoyed this conversation and I want to thank you both for your time. I appreciate your willingness to share your experiences, both personal and professional, and to share your insights with our listeners here on Responsible Disruption. For our listeners, I am always grateful that you've decided to spend time with us and please do keep an eye out for our next episode where we'll be taking this discussion from the macro level to the micro and we'll be looking specifically at rural community co-design.

[Outro music]

That's all for today's episode of Responsible Disruption. Thank you for tuning in and we hope you found the conversation valuable. If you did, don't forget to follow, rate, and share wherever you get your podcasts. To stay up to date on future episodes and show notes, visit our website at the Social Impact Lab dot com or follow us on social. And until next time, keep on designing a better world.