I recently visited The Campbell Carriage Factory in Sackville New Brunswick, the lovely town where I live. On their seasonal opening day, I heard them talk about the felloes of the wheel. Do you know which parts are the felloes? On these old wheels, it’s the pieces of wood steamed and bent together, hammered into the spokes to make the outside circle of the wheel. Nowadays, I suppose we’d call it “Where the rubber hits the road.”
Having recently joined a “Fellowship,” I found this new-to-me terminology quite helpful.
I was called to join some movers & shakers at the illustrious Windhorse Farm a month ago. We gathered in the shades of the old growth forest to discuss what people engaged in systems change and social innovation need in Atlantic Canada: Newfoundland & Labrador, PEI, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
The meeting was called by Inspiring Communities, bringing 25+ “changemakers” into the woods to begin developing the Atlantic Canadian Ecosystem for Social Innovation. In their words:
“In early 2019, with support from the McConnell Foundation, we began working towards developing a supportive ecosystem to connect community changemakers in Atlantic Canada so that we can boost existing efforts, experiment with and scale good ideas, and learn from each other. What do we mean by changemakers? These are the individuals, groups and organizations that are “rocking the boat”. They’re challenging outdated ways of working and lines of command. They’re developing new approaches for tackling longstanding social issues. And, most importantly, they’re working towards a society that is designed to benefit everyone.“
We walked the forest, met by fireside and used non-hierarchal processes & collective impact frameworks to help shape what came next. People working in music, film, co-ops, homelessness, renewable energy, government, Indigenous communities, non-profits, elected officials joined us, all gathered around shared questions: “What could a fellowship look like? How do we help social innovation & affect positive changes in systems? What could a great social innovation ecosystem look like for Atlantic Canada?’
Some of these terms might sound strange to you. Like, what IS social innovation? Depending on your ear, it can sound pompous or just like annoying jargon. Well, social innovation is gaining popularity in Canada, as a term and as a worthwhile investment. Governments and organizations alike are seeking to deal with the roots of problems in our era. I like this working definition:
Our intention is to overcome old silos, and nourish our networks to feed social change. As Inspiring Communities states: “We know that social change efforts often remain disconnected and fragmented, so opportunities are missed to develop shared learning, pooled resources and a collective voice.” We’re so busy changing systems, we miss out on large federal grants, sharing proven practices and connecting with those who have some answers.
You know why I joined them in the woods? To change the story we tell ourselves about Atlantic Canada. We often talk about how we are “Have Not” provinces. But many of my colleagues and collaborators working in this field don’t see it that way at all. Social Innovation is part of our ancient history here, and if it’s your job to change systems and solve the biggest problems facing our region? You’ll never be out of work. We have all the pieces in Atlantic Canada to solve some of our most insufferable issues. In fact, if you look at our future as a Solution Economy –-we have so many problems that we could all be meaningfully employed solving those problems: It’s an abundance of opportunity.
And the need to shift and to solve is urgent.
But, with all these people working in the solution economy and social change– it could be a full-time job just connecting these networks. How do we best connect to really shift systems? How do we amplify the signal of social innovation and remind people it’s part of our Atlantic Canadian identity?
I’m eager to try and find out.
At Windhorse a movement started to take some shape, establishing some principles, familiarizing ourselves with co-created agendas and forming a “Yoda Council” (No, I’m not kidding. The force is strong with this one) and WeavEast was born.
Following meeting at Windhorse, there was a call-out for people to join a Fellowship: To diligently work together to connect people engaged in social innovation across our own provinces, put them on the map, bolster our collective impact and share their stories, struggles and needs. I answered the call, because connecting people is my jam.
As of June 2019, I am now officially part of the #WeavEast team. Jason Doiron and I were chosen to represent New Brunswick, and each province has at least two Fellows. I enjoy joining some amazing people from the Atlantic Provinces to share something I’ve always known was here:
Social Innovation is how we get ‘er done in Atlantic Canada.
Since long before the Antigonish Movement, rooted in Co-operatives and Credit Unions where Moses Coady held “Social Innovation Suppers” in church halls across Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canadians have been engaged in meaningful systems change. From the innovations and stewardship of Wabanaki Confederacy, from responsible government to freedom of the press…. many social innovations roots in eastern Canada.
How do you harness the power of networks for positive social change?
Meeting people and connecting them has always been a byproduct of the work I’ve done, and for it to be at the centre raises many questions: Where are there gaps in my networks? Who is missing? How do you capture the impact of introducing people? How do you use a network to share power and maximize impact? Who have I always admired from afar and never reached out to? What does social innovation look like here and how build it as part of our shared identity? As a white, anglophone settler living on the southern tip of my province– what extra care do I need to take to make sure my networks start to truly represent New Brunswick and Wabanaki territory? How do we invite people in?
Stepping into this work for nearly a month, I’m considering it an amazing privilege and opportunity to grow as a storyteller, writer, podcaster and sketchnoter. Most of my career, I’ve been telling the story of the organizations I’m with or promoting events, and now I have a space to start stepping into finding my own voice. It makes me really nervous, which usually indicates it’s very worthwhile. Hence, I’m writing on my blog again for the first time in years because it’s time for me to build my voice in service of the voices of Altantic Canada.
So keep your eyes & ears open: I’m excited to begin a partnership with CHMA, our local university radio station, to possibly release some podcast work, and share my sketchnotes, strengthen my voice, get more comfortable with making videos and knowing my own voice — but more than all of that, I’m excited to hear from YOU.
To bring it full circle, and because I wheely like puns , I will bring it back to carriage parts: I want you to be spokes people for your felloes!
Everyone in Atlantic Canada has different networks and access to different hubs. One person can’t possibly know them all, so I need to know: Who are social innovators in New Brunswick? Who should I be talking to?
I’m on a mission to map 50 changemakers and social innovators by November and I can’t do it by myself. The whole point is to bolster our collective awesomeness to make the world a better place, and to let people nationally and internationally know what we already know: We do things differently here. We just need to bridge the gaps, connect and level up.
So! If you have suggestions for who I should talk to or who the other #WeavEast Fellows need to know? We’ll literally be putting them on the map!! And it’s just the beginning. Get in touch, tweet, message, e-mail me and let’s get ‘er done!