New Community Impact Labs in Barrie and Muskoka

Nov. 15, 2022

Our goal at Georgian’s Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation (CCSI) is to support individuals and organizations to build flourishing communities and economies. Now, we have two new spaces where students, employees and community members can discover how to make a meaningful difference for causes they are passionate about.

Community Impact Labs were created this year at the Barrie and Muskoka campuses supported by a grant from SUNCOR Energy Foundation in 2021.

Adam Dagenais, Multi-media Lab Co-ordinator for CCSI, says the new labs are part of Georgian’s community impact lab network, which includes the flagship lab space at the Orillia Campus. Future plans include having labs at every campus. Adam adds they’re working on Owen Sound next.

The labs are an important touchpoint where students, employees and community members can share resources and work together on changemaking projects.

– Adam Dagenais, Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation

Adam coordinates student, staff and partner use of the labs – all of which are identical and stocked with innovation tools and resources like 3D printers, virtual reality (VR) tools, design thinking tools curated as “canvases” and hybrid collaboration software. These resources make exploring regional solutions to the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals possible. 

Adam Dagenais checks out the new 3D printer in the Community Impact Lab at the Muskoka Campus.
The new Community Impact Lab at the Muskoka Campus.

“The canvases are used to help take users through different design thinking frameworks and processes that include things like empathy maps and fast idea generators” says Adam.

How students use the Community Impact Labs

The Community Impact Labs support a Social Innovation design team consisting of Social Innovation Fellows and students who are doing their iCo-op with CCSI. Innovation Co-ops (iCo-ops) are where students from diverse disciplines work together within communities to explore innovative or new services to support the community needs to flourish.

Tanush Sharma, a Research Analyst student, and Jashan Dihot, a student in the Human Resources Management program, are doing their iCo-op as part of the team. Jashan is focused on learning human-centred approaches in design work. Tanush is learning about the different community-based data frameworks used in the labs to evaluate project outcomes.

Tanush Sharma (left) and Jashan Dihot working in the Barrie Campus Community Impact Lab space.

Social innovation Fellows

There are several Social Innovation Fellows who support projects at CCSI. Fellows are subject matter experts on systems thinking, foresight and climate, sustainable business models, community development and design thinking for social innovation. They support and guide students, employees and partners to leverage social innovation tools to facilitate positive change in our communities.

Irena Pozgaj-Jones is one of the Social Innovation Fellows on the Changemaking Team. She’s a double graduate of Georgian – Environmental Technology (Class of 2001) and Research Analysist (Class of 2003) – who brings more than 18 years of expertise leading social and community services’ research projects within municipal government.

As a Social Impact Fellow, Irena supports the evaluation design of community-based research projects and the engagement of both student and community partners in the research. Currently she’s working with the Fellows team to onboard the County of Simcoe as part of a new Affordable Housing Lab to address UN Sustainable Development Goal #11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Current changemaking projects

Right now, the Community Impact Lab Network design team is supporting a Social Innovation Lab exploring the barriers to engaging specialized older adult populations who experience social isolation in our communities. The Lab project, Connect Us, is piloting pairing students with local older adults to build digital literacy to connect with seniors. At the same time, they learn how to navigate rapidly changing technologies. The lab spaces’ tools and resources support a community working group to code this pilot with community stakeholders.

In July, #ChangeTheNow, an experiential learning program out of CCSI, used the Muskoka Campus lab to support the Ontario Skills Camp Program for Grade 7 and 8 students to explore the UN Sustainable Development Goal #11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities – t hrough a placemaking experiment. Adam and the team took the campers through a VR prototyping and design experience to help them design an inclusive outdoor space for their age group using wooden furniture that they manufactured in a carpentry shop on campus.

Grade 7 and 8 students working on their Ontario Skills Camp project at the Muskoka Campus.

Lab locations and hours

  • Barrie: A216; Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Muskoka: BR109; by appointment
  • Orillia: A105; Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Students and employees can book all lab spaces through RoomBookings.

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