Diagnosing the Social Innovation Challenge in Universities


  • James Stauch Mount Royal University


social innovation, universities, changemaking, social impact learning, social R&D, systems thinking, higher education


This opinion piece emerges from a talk given at the Ashoka Changemaker Education Research Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September 2022, in response to an invitation for researchers, practitioners, and students to share experiences highlighting cultural, geopolitical, and structural barriers to social innovation. Premised on the urgency of profound and cascading global social challenges, the article is a practice-informed reflection on what components universities struggle with in delivering strong social innovation learning – including interdisciplinarity, systems thinking, changemaking orientations, and deep community engagement. The evolutionary layers of the human brain are used as analogs for the evolutionary layers of the university, from monastic cloisters to modern market-oriented, research-driven institutions. Informed specifically by the Canadian public university context, this article concludes on a hopeful note, musing about how nascent efforts to decolonize and indigenize the academy potentially hold the most promise for reforming and retrofitting universities to be substantially better equipped to nurture social innovation learning.

Author Biography

James Stauch, Mount Royal University

James Stauch, Executive Director, Institute for Community Prosperity, Mount Royal University 




How to Cite

Stauch, J. (2023). Diagnosing the Social Innovation Challenge in Universities. Social Innovations Journal, 16(1). Retrieved from https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/5378