Innovation for a new economy

Written by Centaine Tyler, Vibrant Communities Calgary

Innovation is at the core of doing business differently, which is why the Forum chose “Innovation for all” as the overarching theme for this year’s Soul of the Next Economy Forum.

“We don’t think oil is going to come back to what it used to be anytime soon, so we have to innovate and work differently in order to keep moving forward,” Franco Savoia, Executive Director of Vibrant Communities Calgary explains.

The Forum brings together people from across various sectors – government, education, business, and non-profit alike – for discussions on how each sector can work together to create a positive impact on society and the “next economy” in Calgary.

“It’s about those hot topics like corporate social responsibility and triple bottom lines,” says Franco. “But the forum is really about getting these topics discussed and getting those people that are trying to accomplish these things the opportunity to spotlight their successes and struggles.”

New this year, the Soul of the Next Economy Forum will run for one day only (instead of a day and a half) on Friday September 28. Franco explains that they made this decision in an effort to encourage more participation from the business sector while keeping attendees from giving up their weekend.

Vibrant Communities Calgary has been cohosting the forum for five years running, alongside Ambrose University – which has a robust poverty studies program and a socially-conscious focus in its business school curriculum and the Fig Tree Foundation that fosters local solutions and ownership to international efforts to reduce poverty.

As this year’s forum fast approaches, Franco is most looking forward to the keynote speakers: Lynda Kuhn, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Purpose Champion at Maple Leaf Foods; and Dr Éliane Ubalijoro, Executive Director of C.L.E.A.R. International Development Inc.

“Maple Leaf Foods has taken on a goal to end food insecurity in Canada by forming an institute to study it and fund initiatives across the country,” Franco explains. “So, they’re a business, but they’ve taken it upon themselves to solve a social issue.”

“Dr Ubalijoro’s keynote will have an international focus, looking at international development and assistance, and how you can do so with greater sustainable impact. Not bringing solutions to people, but working directly with those you want to help to come up with their own solution.”

“You really have to listen to people to help solve their challenges – and I think that applies here at home as well.” Tickets for the Soul of the Next Economy Forum are available now, with early-bird pricing until the end of August.


  1. Click here to purchase your tickets to the Soul of the Next Economy Forum. Save $50 if you buy before August 31.
  2. Click here to check out the speakers and workshops – including a presentation by REAP Founder Stephanie Jackman. She’ll be speaking about integrating market and social approaches through social procurement as part of the Innovations in Development workshop.
  3. Learn more about Vibrant Communities Calgary’s regular body of work here.
  4. Connect with Vibrant Communities Calgary on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
  5. Check out Vibrant Communities Calgary’s Sustainability Profile on the REAP website.

Looking forward: 10 ways organizations can incorporate CSR, and 5 points of caution


A review of the 2017 Executive Roundtable Session. The third and final round of the Executive Roundtable focused on what organizations are planning to do, in the coming year, in the area of CSR.

10 ways organizations planned to incorporate CSR after the Forum:

  1. Champions heroes
  2. Invest in safety
  3. Engage personally with organizations as opposed to simply investing money
  4. Help students engage in social innovation
  5. Encourage employees to volunteer on company time
  6. Create a community to share what they are doing with other entrepreneurs and learn from each other
  7. Build relationships through events
  8. Partner with indigenous communities, indigenous accelerators and indigenous companies
  9. Build capacity in volunteers
  10. Raise funds for non-profits in different ways including sponsorship, fees for service, selling products and government funding

At the same time, part of the discussion also focused on issues and areas of caution. Knowing that practices and policies can’t change overnight, and that micro-steps towards better CSR practices was the key, participants discussed how quick fixes typically create more problems.


5 points of caution:

  1. Not all employees value CSR or are not sure what the value of CSR is
  2. Sometimes it is difficult to gain interest and support for CSR from companies
  3. Many companies are still not making CSR mean something - it is just words or a pool of funds to them so that their stakeholders believe they are good citizens
  4. Not all groups have the tools to share stories around micro-enterprise - in particular those aged 30-50 years
  5. There are differences in how different age demographics react to issues and share stories

“There is a pressing need for the big transformative ideas that can dramatically move the dial and, at the same time, the more nimble ones that enable everyday change in the right direction.”

-Linda Coady

Chief Sustainability Officer, Enbridge Inc.

Moderator - Executive Roundtable


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People First: 6 ways companies can integrate responsible business practices


A review of the 2017 Executive Roundtable Session. The second round focused on the work environment, technology, and collaboration.

Corporate Social Responsibility is so much more than companies giving money and support non-profits. Companies have a responsibility to their own people.

CSR needs to be “less like a badge” and more woven into the fabric of the organization.

6 ways to integrate responsible business practices, and put people first:

  1. Periodic evaluations of stakeholder/employee performance against the mission statement
  2. Involve more people - this leads to better ideas, more acceptance and engagement
  3. Encourage employees to start their own initiatives
  4. Report and publish reports on the impact of CSR
  5. Improve the skills of people in the community where they operate - this benefits the company and the whole community
  6. Don’t just tolerate, rather EMBRACE diversity

What are other ways companies and organizations can practice their values to strengthen the work environment?


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Shifting the Conversation: 5 examples


A review of the 2017 Executive Roundtable Session. In the first round, we discussed ways that organizations have shifted the discussion of CSR to include sustainable business in social innovation, as well discussing changing practices or creative initiatives they have seen in their industries in recent years.

Why have there been shifts and changing practices?

  • Increased awareness of CSR and social responsibility leading to cultural shifts and changing expectations by job seekers, employees, communities investors and influencers
  • Seeing obvious benefits and impacts both financially and through work satisfaction, including positive mental health
  • Some organizations shifting to maintain or build their reputation/image and to improve accountability


1. The empowerment of workers and communities: City of Calgary and United Way providing funding to Poverty Talks!

2. Companies moving away from hand-outs (or short-term donations) and thinking of ways to have a more long-term impact: Enbridge establishing a CSR committee and entering the early phases of improving sustainability in their supply chains. Read Enbridge’s 2016 CSR & Sustainability Report.

3. The willingness of companies to give employees time off for volunteering: LNG Canada educating their workers about CSR and supporting employees as community volunteers.

4. Making giving back part of the way individuals make a living: BDC developing their “What Matters Most” tool and promoting businesses involved in social entrepreneurship.

5. Increasing diversity and listening to multiple voices in the community: CRIEC working on programs that aim to retrain rather than replace immigrant professionals and implementing mentorship programs.

Has your organization shifted its discussion of CSR to include a purposeful emphasis on sustainable business and social innovation or is it still primarily about philanthropy and compliance?


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