changing the conversation

Revitalizing the Non-Profit Sector is a new series of e-dialogues hosted by the Canadian Council on Social Development, in collaboration with our colleagues from Community Research Connections at Royal Roads University. Together, we are launching Changing the Conversation, a new open source space available to practitioners, non-government organizations, civil society groups, researchers, the private sector and communities to engage in civic dialogue around critical social issues.

Governed by the principles of Socratic dialogue, this space will host virtual real- time e-Dialogues and lead virtual peer-to-peer learning exchanges through the use of the most modern Web 2.0 technologies. In addition, it will serve as a repository for learning, best practices, tools and methodologies – a collaborative space to learn from each other, share insights and practices, and collectively build more sustainable communities.

Our vision is to change the conversation and increase civic literacy by developing a new “collaboratory” model, both place-based and virtual, to convene diverse sectors and groups of citizens in creative and evidence-based environments. This space will provide the opportunity to rethink and reframe current problems and challenges relevant and of priority to Canadian communities, and co-create innovative and scalable solutions. Reframing the issues is critically important to the identification of novel solutions and social innovations.


Revitalizing the Non-Profit Sector looks at critical developments in the nonprofit sector serving communities across Canada. Non-profit organizations are a vital part of every Canadian community. They provide a wide range of essential services and programs that touch virtually all aspects of our society: social justice, safety, human rights, environment, health, sports, faith, arts and culture. Taken together, nonprofits and charities generate upwards of $176 billion in income, employ two million people and accounts for more than 8% of Canada’s GDP.

At the same time, the sector continues to fly under the radar. The public continues to highly value charities and nonprofits, but remain unaware of the profound challenges undermining the capacity of non-profits to serve their communities.

Revitalizing the Non-Profit Sector brings together sector leaders to tackle four critical questions:

  1. The State of the Art: Where have we come from and where are we headed as a sector?
  2. The Future of Work & the Social Secctor: What will it look like?
  3. Social Innovation: What do we need for scaling out and up?
  4. Non-Profits in the 21st Century: What do we need for revitalization?

1 - State of the Art: Where have we come from and where are we headed?

This conversation took place October 29th, 2014. Transcipt available here.

The non-profit sector has seen a great deal of change over the last 15 years as it has grown and matured, carving out a unique identity and role in communities across the country. But what hasn’t changed is the critical importance of sector relationships with its constituents, its funders and the broader public. It is the strength of these relationships that is key to success in affecting change and having impact.

This session will explore where we have come from and where we are going. It will look at a range of drivers and considerations that now challenge the community sector, including growing inequality and societal diversity, the speed of technological change, and conflicting demands resulting from the contracting out of public services and heightened scrutiny with regard to quality, outcomes, and impact.

The continuing viability and impact of the sector will depend on the extent to which nonprofits can rise to the challenge of keeping pace with our rapidly changing world. Where does Canada stand?

e-Dialogue Discussion Leader
Professor Ann Dale
, Trudeau Fellow Alumna (2004), School of Environment & Sustainability, Faculty of Applied Social Sciences at Royal Roads University

Expert Panel
Tim Brodhead, Senior Fellow, SiG National, former President & CEO, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation
Janet Austin, CEO, YWCA Metro Vancouver
Jodi Mucha, Executive Director, BC Healthy Communities
Ryan Kadowaki, Senior Program Coordinator, Science and Policy, David Suzuki Foundation
Mary Herbert-Copley, Executive Director, 1125@Carleton
Peggy Taillon, President & CEO, Canadian Council on Social Development
Katherine Scott, VP, Research & Policy, Canadian Council on Social Development

Join the discussion at
Platform goes live one hour before the discussion for registration and sign in.


2 - The Future of Work & the Social Sector

This conversation took place January 29th, 2015. Transcript available here.

According to last August’s Labour Force Survey, Canada experienced the highest monthly increase in self-employment observed in the last 40 years, a rise of approximately 87,000 self-employed positions. Although this was a record high, it is reflective of a larger overall trend of increases in the country’s ‘do it yourself’ economy that we have seen in recent years. Some interpret this trend as a symptom of troubling economic times, signifying that job opportunities are scarce and more initiative is needed for people to find ways of supporting themselves. However, this can also be related to the growing possibilities and opportunities presented to younger generations through Web 2.0 technologies, increased access to ‘big data’ through the worldwide Internet, and enhanced ability to communicate and work remotely.

Our modern day tools have allowed a higher number of people to start and work in businesses and consultancies without necessarily being restricted to ‘conventional office settings’. Coincidently, the co-benefits of working from home may become even more important in the long term, for example, reducing transaction costs of commuting in large urban centres and decreasing GHG emissions, while simultaneously reducing physical place costs. We live in a world where work space and place are collapsing, and we are less bound by the traditional office workplace.

What will the future look like?

e-Dialogue Discussion Leader

Professor Ann Dale, Trudeau Fellow Alumna (2004), School of Environment & Sustainability, Faculty of Applied Social Sciences at Royal Roads University

Expert Panel

Karen Kun, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Waterlution
Giovanna Mingarelli, CEO and Co-Founder MCrowdsourcing (MC2) Inc
Michel Frojomovic, Lead, Community Data Program Canadian Council on Social Development
Caroline van Bers, Program Manager, The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS)
Craig Bennell, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Carleton University, Academic Director, 1125@Carleton
Rebecca Foon, Urban Planner and Director, Sustainability Solutions Group
Yuill Herbert, Founding Director, Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG)
Chris Strashok, CRC Research Associate and Royal Roads University Associate Faculty Member


3 - Social Innovation: What do we need for scaling out and up our impacts?

This conversation took place on April 15th, 2015: Get the transcript here

In this turbulent age of constant change, we are coming to recognize that many of the social and economic systems we have inherited are mal-adapted to new realities. Too many are unsustainable, unjust, or inefficient. Social innovation offers us, according to Stephen Huddart from the McConnell Foundation, “the means by which to re-imagine, recalibrate, and introduce greater resilience in our institutions.”

The term itself covers a lot of ground. It comprises not only “new ideas that work” but also new ways of “seeing, thinking, and working.” A good deal of the literature has been focused on developing new tools and processes for building the capacity of individual organizations and the sector more broadly. These include:

  • new forms of funding and financing;
  • new organizational structures;
  • new approaches for determining individual and collective impact, and
  • social process tools for fostering collaboration and learning within and across organizations optimizing Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies.

It is fair to say that at this juncture that we are at the beginning of a new chapter in social innovation in the non-profit sector. Fuelled by the revolution in information technologies, Canadian non-profits are exploring how best to achieve their goals and to serve their communities in the 21st century. Social innovation is is impossible without collaboration. What are the new tools and models of organization for collaboration? The critical question – as always – is how to scale up and out social innovations from the sector?

Moderated by

Research panel


4 - Non-Profits in the 21st Century? What do we need for revitalization?

This conversation took place on June 23, 2015: Get the transcript here

In Dialogue 4, we will explore how organizations are navigating difficult funding challenges. What are the new funding models?

Canadian charities and non-profits rely on many sources of revenue. Nearly half of revenues for non-profits (excluding hospitals, universities and colleges) come from earned income sources such as the sales of goods and services. Indeed, the pressure to expand earned income continues to grow in the face of fierce competition for individual and business donations and declining government support. Fifteen years of short-term, project-based funding, with slim to non-existent margins for critical infrastructure, has taken a huge toll on community organizations, and significantly reduced capacity for public communication and research. The inherent instability and power imbalance of Canada’s funding regime has led to a growing divide between large and small non-profits, between non-profits engaged in service delivery versus those involved in the traditional activities of civic engagement and advocacy, and between national and provincial/territorial jurisdictions. What new ways of organizing and funding models are possible for the social sector?

Moderated by

Research panel

Changing The Conversations



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