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Innovation at Our Doorstep

Vancouver’s inner city neighbourhoods may seem a far cry from the rural, resource-based communities in which we typically work. But when Simon Fraser University approached us to partner on an urban economic development initiative, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring our community-focused approach to the community just outside our door.

The Urban Economic Innovation Lab is a place-based program designed to support agencies and entrepreneurs alike as they generate and scale innovative ideas that contribute to a vibrant and inclusive local economy.

This partnership between RADIUS SFU and Ecotrust Canada will use the energy and talents of 30 graduate student interns over the next 3 years to provide capacity and spur economic development where it is so urgently needed.

RADIUS (RADical Ideals Useful to Society) is a social innovation lab and venture incubator within SFU’s Beedie School of Business. Formed to help SFU and BC step forward as leaders in building the New Economy, RADIUS strengthens impact-focused businesses and the ecosystem that supports them, develops and tests new ideas for an economy that prioritizes people and planet, and builds a pipeline of emerging social economy leaders.


Kiri Bird is a recent graduate of SFU’s Resource and Environmental Management Program. Kiri was the first intern in the Urban Economic Innovation Lab, laying the initiative's foundation. Now at its helm, Kiri is seeing that early hard work come to life.

"We’re building a new generation of leaders who understand the need for deep innovation in our social, environmental, and business practices and institutions."


So far, most support services in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been offered in isolation. But where these little stepping stones of relief have been placed, we want the Urban Economic Innovation Lab to help pave a solid path. By encouraging coordination and collaboration between service providers, we hope to eliminate the gaps, bring greater consistency, improve efficiency, and help residents move toward economic independence on their own terms.

I have to confess, we do have an agenda. Not only do we want to build solutions for one of Canada’s most stymying challenges, we want to train tomorrow’s leaders in the compassionate creativity and community-driven innovation that have become hallmarks of Ecotrust Canada’s work. With your help, we want to build an economy where environmental, economic, and social wealth are given equal weight.


With thanks,