Learning as Social Innovation


  • Julian Norris
  • Laura Blakeman


social innovation, positive deviants fellowship, complexity theory, developmental psychology, transformative learning


Learning drives social innovation. It is the desired outcome, the primary tool and the personal praxis shared by all social innovators. In this paper we describe a whole-person learning initiative that seeks to build social innovation competencies and capacities and we discuss the growing conversation between inner work and system change approaches. We offer a brief overview of the literature related to the interior qualities exhibited by effective social innovators along with the learning approaches required to cultivate them. We describe the program framework for a learning innovation called the Positive Deviants Fellowship that draws from complexity theory, developmental psychology and transformative learning, and articulate four core systems learning principles that shape its design by way of inviting further conversation with other social innovators.

Author Biographies

Julian Norris

Julian Norris, PhD, is a scholar-practitioner who has spent his life exploring the crossroads where human development and systems transformation meet. He is a faculty member at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business where he teaches courses in leadership and complexity and is a founding partner of the Wolf Willow Institute.

Laura Blakeman

Laura Blakeman is an experience designer and developmental leadership coach who draws from her unique trans-disciplinary background as an entrepreneur in the performing arts to create cutting-edge learning opportunities for leaders from across the corporate and cultural sectors. She is currently completing a PhD in psychology exploring the intersection of leadership and complexity and is a founding partner of the Wolf Willow Institute.




How to Cite

Norris, J., & Blakeman, L. (2021). Learning as Social Innovation. Social Innovations Journal, 5. Retrieved from https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/689



Social Innovation and Entreprenership