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Facing Current Canadian SI/SF Ecosystem: Building understanding through systems mapping and thinking

Format: Papers, RSD12, RSD12 Papers Pre-release

Dilek Sayedahmed, Tara Campbell, Gryphon Marcus Jolan Loubier, Maryam Mohiuddin Ahmed, Sean Geobey, Katey Park and Sergio Nava-Lara
In today’s interconnected landscape, grasping the nuances of complex systems, especially within social finance, is crucial. As the Table of Impact Investment Practitioners (2021) illustrates, social financing aligns “social and environmental outcomes with financial returns.” Meadows (2008) emphasized that systems thinking enables the visualization of wholes and patterns. This holistic perspective inspired the Canadian government to allocate $755 million via the Social Finance Fund and an additional $100 million through the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to enrich the national social finance landscape.

The Canadian social finance ecosystem, marked by its intricate relationships and diverse actors, serves as a testament to systemic complexity. Grounded in systems thinking and systemic design principles, this study undertakes a comprehensive exploration of this dynamic. Central to this is the participatory research spearheaded by the Waterloo Institute of Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). It aims to nurture robust systems of self-governance (Ostrom, 1990) within social financing.

Stroh (2015) astutely remarked on the intertwined and culturally embedded nature of challenges in the social sector. Our approach resonates with this perspective, integrating systemic design, participatory system mapping, and principles-based evaluation (Patton, 2017; Norman, 2021). The strategy transcends mere governance restructuring, seeking to position social financing as a tool for iterative learning (Geobey, 2012).

Our insights reveal the Canadian social finance sphere as a sprawling nexus encompassing entities from Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) to investment groups. These stakeholders converge in a dense web of shared objectives and relationships. Despite its vitality, the ecosystem presents numerous navigational challenges.

Central to our findings is the ‘mini maps’ methodology. Echoing Meadows’ (2008) sentiment on understanding system structures for better behavior patterns, these maps, tailored for distinct needs—whether focused on funded projects or stakeholder collaboration—become invaluable in comprehending the vast terrains of the IRP and Canadian social finance.

In conclusion, this study offers both a profound academic insight and a pragmatic blueprint for stakeholders in the Canadian social sphere. By highlighting pathways for enhanced collaboration and system navigation, it anticipates a future of continual innovation in social finance.
Keywords: systemic design
systems probing & sensing
systems thinking
social innovation ecosystems

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Citation Data

Author(s): Dilek Sayedahmed, Tara Campbell, Gryphon Marcus Jolan Loubier, Maryam Mohiuddin Ahmed, Sean Geobey, Katey Park and Sergio Nava-Lara
Year: 2023
Title: Facing Current Canadian SI/SF Ecosystem: Building understanding through systems mapping and thinking
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/canadian-SI-SF-ecosystem
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD12

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