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Social Innovation Ecosystem
Origen: Ashoka

Inclusive Innovation at the Ryerson Diversity Institute

This article originally appeared on Stanford Social Innovation Review

Universities are a critical part of innovation ecosystems, but most measures of innovation assess their impacts in terms of doctoral students, scientific publications, patents, and the commercialization of technology. Why should we neglect the potential of universities to create value through social innovation? The UN Sustainable Development Goals—sometimes called “the world’s to-do list”—include gender equality and human rights, which, in turn, are linked to many of the other goals. By harnessing research and human capital towards inclusive innovation, universities have the potential to drive massive advances in social, economic, and environmental development.

At Ryerson University, the Diversity Institute (DI) works in partnership with diverse stakeholders to use research, deep knowledge of innovation processes, and talent to advance diversity and inclusion in employment, politics, health, education, and community. Since 1999, the DI has advanced practical strategies to drive change, for example, by shedding light on barriers faced by diverse groups (considered a “best practice” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission) and developing evidence-based solutions to drive change. The United Nations Global Compact named DI a best practice among business schools for its work translating research into action to leverage innovation processes to drive inclusion.

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Ashoka insight

The overarching lessons really surround the importance of ensuring the inclusion of diverse groups across all steps in the process of innovation, and at all levels. Beyond that, the Diversity Institute is an important case to show the opportunity for educational institutions to embrace their mission as drivers of social innovation, harnessing the knowledge, the talent, the credibility and massive resources they have to address social issues, including the need for diversity across the innovation ecosystem.