Georgian, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka want your help with community belonging project

The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka and Georgian College are collaborating to explore how local organizations can innovate together to create a greater sense of belonging in the community.

They will form a Community Impact Lab, which will include high levels of participation from each organization and the community and will be run by Georgian’s new Social Innovation department – a pillar under Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the college.

Three people sit at a table covered in colourful papers.
The project will include high levels of participation from Georgian, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka and the community.

In a strategic move aligning with their three-year ‘Forward, Together’ plan unveiled in July 2022, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka is focusing on participatory innovation as a key priority to propel its mission forward and fortify its legacy for generations to come. This collaboration represents one of the significant initiatives stemming from this strategic effort.

This collaboration represents a major stride in advancing community well-being and a sense of belonging, seamlessly aligning with our ‘Forward, Together’ strategic plan. We are excited to collaborate closely with the Georgian College Social Innovation department to create enduring positive change within our community.

– Jill Tettmann, CEO, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka

Outcomes of the Community Impact Lab will focus on:

  • elevating community engagement,
  • supporting sustainable community innovation, and
  • ensuring how community services need to evolve to enable well-being and belonging that represent the future local landscape.

Project working with $300,000 investment

This initiative has been generously funded through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Mobilize grant and the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s Innovation Fund, culminating in a substantial $300,000 investment into the project.

A person stands against a colourful mural.
Nicole Norris is the Director of Social Innovation at Georgian.

Georgian’s Social Innovation part of broader college strategy

Georgian’s Social Innovation Community Impact Lab model uses community-based participatory action research to explore what it means for communities to flourish. This model is part of a broader strategy at Georgian, as Canada’s first and only Ashoka U changemaker college, to engage students, staff, faculty, and community partners to innovate together to address the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Georgian’s work on flourishing communities and economies is a powerful example of how post-secondary institutions can play a critical role in supporting local communities and driving positive change. The approach provides a platform for diverse collaborators to partner on solutions for complex community challenges, promoting inclusive and sustainable communities.

Georgian’s commitment to launching its first department dedicated to social innovation is a growing understanding that healthy innovation ecosystems must include supports for community to create fit-for-purpose innovations. The Community Impact Lab model was developed to enable organizations like the YMCA with the ability to partner with Georgian and innovate in ways that are aligned to unique context of community.

Nicole Norris, Director of Social Innovation, Georgian College

The collaboration will start with its first community workshop on Dec. 8 at the Sandbox Centre in Barrie. Partner organizations and potential collaborators are more than welcome to join and participate in the session.

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