The Church That Turned Itself Into An Innovation Lab

The United Church of Canada is preparing for the future, with social innovation as its focus

Why It Matters

Faith-based institutions have a rich history of community-building. Given this history and their presence, United Church properties have the potential to become the first cross-Canada grassroots network of community-based social innovation centres.

Many faith communities are property rich but cash poor because of shrinking congregations.

The United Church predicts that 1,000 of its 3,000 congregations across Canada will need to repurpose their properties over the next decade.

EDGE, a ministry responsible for preparing the United Church for the future, is showing faith leaders options to convert under-utilized places of worship into innovation hubs.

For one church, it meant turning part of its structure into an incubator.


In 2016, when Reverend Katherine Selby of St. Andrew’s United Church in Markham, Ontario was approached with the idea, she had never heard of social enterprise.

“I had no idea what any of this was,” she admits. “I just said: sure, let’s try it! Sounds like a great idea

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