The Learning Exchange as social innovation

What does the evolution of the Learning Exchange reveal about how social innovation happens and how change becomes institutionalized? How does the social innovation discourse shape efforts to change social systems and structures?

Living systems as guiding metaphors

Living systems as guiding metaphors

From the beginning, I and other members of the staff team used systems imagery to describe the Learning Exchange. Every time we did a visioning or planning exercise where I asked people to represent the present or future state of the Learning Exchange...
Moving along the innovation arc

Moving along the innovation arc

The Learning Exchange is considered by some to be an instance of social innovation because it is unusual for a mainstream university to try to establish connections with a distressed, marginalized community like the Downtown Eastside. But UBC did not s...
Moving along the institutionalization arc

Moving along the institutionalization arc

In the early years at the Learning Exchange, we were flying by the seat of our pants. There was a daredevil quality to what we were doing. It was exciting. Gradually we learned what worked and what did not. Some aspects of our work became routine; there...
From the margins to the centre: Community Service Learning

From the margins to the centre: Community Service Learning

When the Learning Exchange was created, no one at UBC was doing Community Service Learning (CSL). By 2011, more than 2,500 UBC students were engaging in community projects or placements through our programs every year. More than half of these students...
From the margins to the centre? The storefront

From the margins to the centre? The storefront

It was not as easy to bring the Learning Exchange storefront in from the margins as it was for Community Service Learning (CSL). Community Service Learning was relatively unknown in both the university and the community, so we did not have to overcome...
Planning, action, and reflection

Planning, action, and reflection

When I worked for a provincial government department in the late 70s doing a policy research project, I worked under a deputy minister who was a “Management by Objectives” enthusiast. I learned to do work plans every quarter that specified goals, obj...
Making decisions

Making decisions

Three aspects of decision-making at the Learning Exchange are especially relevant to the practices of social innovation and community-university engagement: how we were guided by input from people external to the team; how we made decisions within the...
Taking risks

Taking risks

The need to take risks was inherent in the existence of the Learning Exchange. The politics in the Downtown Eastside are complex and volatile. The university's reputation was endangered when local people tried to resist UBC's entry into the neighbourhood. Th...
Doing Developmental Evaluation

Doing Developmental Evaluation

I did my first two degrees in Psychology in the 1970s when behaviourism was the dominant paradigm. I was trained to think in terms of linear, cause-effect relationships between singular variables. I was socialized to believe that if something is not tangible...
Institutionalization: Holy Grail or dead end?

Institutionalization: Holy Grail or dead end?

When I started working on UBC’s Downtown Eastside initiative, I was excited by the potential to change how some things worked in the university. UBC’s leaders wanted to change the way the university related to the external community. They also wanted to ...
Drawing on the world of commerce

Drawing on the world of commerce

When I discovered the field of social innovation through reading Getting to Maybe , I got very excited. So much of what I read in that book about complex adaptive systems resonated with my observations about how the Learning Exchange was unfolding. In...
The system is the Tao

The system is the Tao

When I first read Getting to Maybe , I was struck by the similarity between what was being said about complexity theory and social innovation and what I understand to be the fundamentals of Taoism, a philosophical tradition I have been exposed to in...

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