Social Innovation Approach

We knew RECOVER needed to apply a different approach and invite a new way of working together. Our search for a way to deal with the complexity of urban wellness led us to a process called social innovation. 

Social innovation is about creating and testing solutions to difficult problems and bringing a diverse group of voices together. It has been used in other communities with success and we were optimistic that it can help us with the complexity of urban wellness.

We believed it had the potential to work here in Edmonton, but we had lots of learning to do. It stretched our way of thinking and doing, but those on the RECOVER journey have been willing to leap in together, collaborate and see where this will take us.

Central to social innovation is collaboration, but collaboration only moves at the speed of trust. In neighbourhoods that have historically experienced significant tensions, it was important to acknowledge the conflicts and work through them together. Fostering trusting relationships takes time. We knew that the small and big solutions we were looking to develop had to be created alongside the people that would be most affected. This was one of the first steps to heal and build important relationships.

Over 1000 Edmontonians participated in this project in the last ten months.


With so many people and groups involved, we needed to create a structure for everybody to contribute and able to voice their opinions and ideas. We were hopeful that the development of a framework would help us in not only bringing together residents, businesses, social agencies and governments, but also actively building solutions to problems. With only a year to launch and test this approach, we knew we had a narrow window for action.  

Three committees were formed to help guide RECOVER:

1.  Community Advisory Committee – comprised of individuals representing neighbourhood residents, community leagues, business associations and social service agencies.

2.  External Partners Committee – comprised of individuals representing the public sector, social sector funding organizations, provincial ministries, and post-secondary educational institutions.

3.  Integrated Corporate Team – comprised of City staff from various departments.

RECOVER is also part of the Bloomberg Harvard Cross Sector Collaboration Program along with two cities from the U.K. and seven American cities.


The Cross Sector Collaboration program is part of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership initiative that was launched in the summer of 2017. A cohort of 40 mayors from around the world and their top staff attended a four-day session that focused on collaboration. During this session, the mayors raised the importance of forging partnerships to tackle complex city problems. The Bloomberg Harvard initiative brought 10 cities together in March 2018 to learn how to collaborate better.

The City of Edmonton's participation in this international initiative is helping us to tackle this complex issue of urban wellness and supporting the intentional partnerships we need to move this work forward.