Vol. 17 (2023): Community Innovation: A Place-Based Approach to Social Innovation

					View Vol. 17 (2023): Community Innovation: A Place-Based Approach to Social Innovation

Dear Reader,
We believe that communities drive transformational change. The Tamarack Institute is a Canadian charity with a history of advancing social innovation within communities. We were established 20+ years ago with two big goals. The first was to establish a learning centre that would provide research and document real stories, exemplary practice, and effective applications for community change. The second was to apply what we learned to end poverty.

These past 20+ years have shown that community change happens when individuals and networks have
the skills, knowledge, and intention to work collectively around a community goal and focus on impact.
This edition, curated by Tamarack, focuses on the evolving understanding and experience of social
innovation and the chance to profile inspiring examples of the ingenuity of communities. It is focused on
community innovation – defined as a dimension of social innovation that is anchored in communities.
We believe that the practice of social and community innovation is essential in order to meaningfully
impact the complex and interconnected issues confronting individuals, communities, and systems
throughout the world today.

It has been said that ingenuity in the face of adversity is something that humans have been doing since
the beginning of time, reminding us that the notion of social innovation in communities is not new. As
dynamic living ecosystems, communities are ideal environments for experimentation and social

At Tamarack, we recognize community innovation as one of five essential skillsets - along with
multisector collaboration, community engagement, collective leadership and evaluating impact –
needed to effectively mobilize and successfully achieve community and systems-level change. Our
approach is based on our understanding that these intertwined challenges can ONLY be resolved with
social innovation, which challenges us to think differently about HOW we think about these issues and, in
discovering, prototyping, and spreading novel solutions to address these challenging social issues.
Distinguishing community innovation within the broader practice of Social Innovation explicitly
acknowledges the importance of place and the reality that each community has unique characteristics,
strengths and challenges that must be considered in the development and implementation of

 It is easier to rebuild and strengthen connections, trust, and relationships between diverse
people who live in the same geographic area.

 Community-wide efforts offer immediate and meaningful opportunities for leadership by
persons with lived experience and inclusive approaches.

 There is a greater chance of addressing integrated economic social and environmental issues in
practical ways at the scale of community.

 People are typically more willing to commit to long term efforts to make change when it is
“their” community.

 Place-based efforts allow for greater flexibility, innovation and responses that fit the unique
nature of distinct communities.

1. Community Connections: Strengthen connections and collaborations between diverse people,
organizations, and sectors to grow and align our capacity to make a difference.
2. Place Matters: Focus efforts on places where people live.
3. Hope and Optimism: Focus on the possible and our collective potential for making positive
4. Equity and Inclusion: Engage and elevate the voice of those most impacted by issues who have
the greatest insight into possible solutions.
5. Courage and Learning: Ask difficult questions about the systems and structures which hold
people and communities back and engage in peer-to-peer learning to build our capacity.
6. Action and Impact: Emphasize action and focus on impact.

The articles curated for this edition of the journal explore many examples of the impact of place-based
approaches to social innovation focusing on four considerations:

1. Tamarack's role in advancing social innovation from a community or place-based lens
(community innovation)
2. How each article is advancing the approach of communities as learning labs
3. How each presented “solution” is distinct from what similar organizations offer and why the
model is successful
4. Case studies and examples to illustrate the "solution"

Our conversations do not exist in a bubble and are important parts of larger, intersecting global
conversations and discourses. We welcome readers into these conversations and hope that the articles
in this issue provide insight, share knowledge, and enhance conditions for deeper collaboration among
communities across the globe.

Sonja Miokovic, Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement, Consulting Director, Community

Nicholas Torres, Co-Founder Social Innovations Journal

Published: 2023-03-22

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