Measuring Canada's culture of innovation

Measuring Canada’s culture of innovation

Ever wondered where the recycling blue box came from? Or the life jacket? Or Kids Help Phone? These are Canadian innovations that enhance — and in some cases save — lives every day. And they were born out of a culture that encourages and enables social innovation.

But we’re in unprecedented times. As we enter into a period of economic and social recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll need even more of this level of social innovation to help communities build back better. Are we prepared?

For its second annual Canada’s Culture of Innovation report, the Rideau Hall Foundation partnered with Edelman Public Relations to survey people across Canada. The Foundation gained a valuable understanding of how the country is faring on our culture of innovation — and, particularly, how this kind of culture could produce solutions to our most pressing, complex social problems.

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Future of Good partnered with Rideau Hall Foundation to bring you this breakdown of the report’s findings.

What is social innovation?

Social Innovation /ˈsəʊʃ(ə)l

New or improved social practices contributing to our success as a country, putting people and our planet first in a more effective or impactful way than pre-existing solutions.

What makes up innovation?

For the second year in a row, the report found that six factors in particular are most central to fostering a culture of innovation.




Risk Taking

Openness to Technology


What does a culture of innovation mean to Canadians?

In February 2020, Rideau Hall Foundation asked survey participants what their most valued outcomes of innovation are. They identified trends that can help us understand the way Canada’s innovation culture was developing before COVID-19, and the ways in which Canadians might be ready to use innovation for society’s recovery and regeneration post-pandemic.

Healthier people

Canadians say innovation is most useful for making us physically healthier. An example of this kind of innovation might be using 3D printing technology to quickly produce low-cost medical devices in communities with unreliable access to this equipment.


Happy people

Among the top five innovation outcomes most valued by Canadians was also happy people. An example might be an app that connects Canadians to mental health services.


Social mobility

Social mobility didn’t make the top five, but showed significant growth from last year in the number of Canadians who say innovation is valuable for creating tools and opportunities for improving social status. An example might be a program that provides people experiencing homelessness with professional clothing for job interviews.

Innovative values

The values that Canadians agree are key to a culture of innovation are also important for fostering social innovation in particular — something our country will desperately need in order to bounce back from the pandemic. According to the report, diversity and collaboration are some of Canadians’ strongest values when it comes to innovation culture. They also happen to be some of the most essential ingredients to creating solutions that improve people’s lives.

Core values

People across the country valued collaboration across disciplines and diversity of perspectives highest for fostering a culture of innovation.

Bar chart showing diversity and collaboration as top values to foster a culture of innovation in Canada with both at a 79 score. Risk taking (74), creativity (70), curiosity (60), openness to technology (57).

Do Canadians have the tools they need to create an innovation culture?

More good news: the next generation is well-equipped to foster a meaningful culture of innovation moving forward — and to use it to address the pandemic’s lasting social impacts.

Digital literacy

Millennials and Gen Z Canadians feel more comfortable with the digital world than the Boomer generation.

Bar chart showing that Boomers are 51% comfortable with the digital world, Millenials and Gen Z are at 62% and 68% respectively.

Education on innovation

Today’s students feel far more empowered by teachers to think in innovative ways than their parents did.

Infographic showing that 46% of students are empowered by their teachers to think in innovative ways.In contrast, only 25% of parents were educated to think in innovative ways.

Empowerment for the greater good

Students today also feel more encouraged by educators to use innovation to make a positive contribution to the world and their communities than their parents did.

Bar chart showing that 51% of students are encouraged by educators to use innovation for the greater good in their communities. In contrast, only 33% of parents were encouraged to do so.

When it comes to the digital world, young people are significantly more digitally literate than previous generations. And younger generations receive far more education about innovation — encouragement of innovative thinking and education on innovative people — than their parents and grandparents did.

What now?

As Canadians grapple with one of the most serious social challenges we’ve ever faced as a country, building and continually fostering a stronger culture of social innovation for years to come is crucial. Are we ready? According to the research, we just might be. A strong innovation culture in the North, a younger generation that’s ready to implement innovation in new and exciting ways, and an emphasis on diversity and collaboration will all be carried into a post-pandemic world, where a culture of

social innovation will be necessary to address the country’s toughest challenges and support those most impacted by the crisis.

Stay tuned for three more stories in partnership with the Rideau Hall Foundation, exploring innovation across our country and what some of the are key values are to approaching the most complex social issues.

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