When Charlie Leadbeater visited British Columbia earlier this year he commented on three strategic social innovation advantages BC has compared to other jurisdictions. One is the presence of First Nations leadership connected to a heritage of resilience, creativity amidst adversity and wisdom. The other is Vancity Credit Union - a mainstream financial institution prepared to innovate to address social and environmental challenges Finally he referenced the political leadership of BC's Provincial Secretary for Social Innovation, Gord Hogg.
Gord represents the best in what we want from an elected official. Curiosity - continuously open to new ideas. Gord was reading speeches by Bill Drayton the founder of Ashoka's Global Fellowship for Social Enterprise into the BC legislature as far back as 2004. Intensity - a willingness to study, to learn, to pursue an idea through to its practical application. Aside from devouring any references many of us send his way, he is also working on a PhD in social innovation. Courage - prepared to take positions far in advance of political consensus. He has worked tirelessly to bring the promise and practice of social innovation to the attention of his political colleagues on both sides of the house. And finally political smarts - an understanding of how to negotiate through the competing priorities of a governing political party. He established a government caucus committee on social innovation which eventually led he and fellow MLA's to recommend the establishment of the BC Council on Social Innovation.
Many of us believe the willingness of BC's Premier Christy Clark to champion social innovation is in part the result of Gord's regular meetings with her. Consider this communiqué on social innovation from a recent western Premiers meeting.
Their statement has the western Premiers all interested “in new approaches that will enable the non-profit sector to fully realize its potential.” Its potential is seen to lie in greater partnership with governments, and involves both “creative and entrepreneurial” aspects. The Premiers said they want a strong non-profit sector.
Their joint statement said: “This includes removing barriers and ensuring non-profit agencies have the tools and vehicles they need to pursue innovative initiatives. Sharing strategies will help drive innovation across western provinces and territories.” Equally worth noting: social innovation was grouped under the overall heading of “Growing the Economy,” thus ending the artificial separation between the economic and social agenda of governments.
The Council of the Federation (13 provincial and territorial Premiers) is meeting in Halifax July 25th - 27th. It is expected that social innovation will surface on their agenda. Not surprisingly the Social Innovation Council's Action Recommendations have been sent to the Premiers in advance. And I know Gord has already spoken with four Premiers personally.
I'm not sure he's been invited but I'd like to make a case for Gordon Hogg's designation as Canada's ambassador for Social Innovation. We could use more political leadership like his to complement emerging business and community leadership in the social innovation space.