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Bridging the Gap - For Social Innovation

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Wikipedia defines Social Innovation as new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that aim to meet social needs with the goal to extend and strengthen civil society and includes open source methods and techniques and innovations with a social purpose. While social innovation has a long history, the term has recently gained popularity encompassing an array of social programs, initiatives and knowledge creation. New collaborations between governments, charities, not-for-profit, academia and the private sector are formed every day and the Canadian Government has established a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy in 2016/2017 to address persistent and complex social problems.

However, for traditional technology transfer and most funding mechanisms it still poses a challenge to determine TRL levels for social innovation. Springboard’s Innovation Mobilization Funding is geared for Bridging the Gap between TRL 1-3 (4) and TRL 5-7, addressing the crucial stage between moving from the initial prototype to commercial prototype to market. In Spring 2017, Springboard awarded the first Proof of Concept funds for social innovation knowhow (technology) to Dr. Clive Baldwin at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.

Dr. Baldwin’s research works towards establishing how transmedia (interactive storytelling) can be used for educational and social awareness purposes.  A transmedia story emerges and evolves through a reader’s engagement with materials on multiple media platforms, so the whole story does not appear on any single media but is developed and experienced through several platforms. For example, the reader might be introduced to the experience/story via a Facebook page, but would need to read a related blog to receive more background information. Then the reader would explore a computer game that introduces some of the issues, watch research videos on the topic to understand more of the experience and information provided, look at a related Facebook page to gain some appreciation of reactions and so on.  Further, the reader is also able to interact with the story/information provided and can receive a response back.  Therefore, each readers experience will be different, depending on how they react and interact to the provided information.

Transmedia story-telling is an emerging area of interest in the commercial world and all work is currently focused on marketing, branding and computer gaming. Yet the possibilities for transmedia story-telling are much broader. While there are a few 'how-to' manuals and training programs available, there is currently nothing that focuses on educational and social applications. The integration of pedagogical, social, and narrative theory will make transmedia story-telling more accessible and more relevant to educators, social workers, healthcare providers and tourism groups.

To develop the how-to-manual, Dr. Baldwin and Brandi Estey-Burtt (project co-ordinator) are using the example of transableism, which is a phenomenon that invokes a strong response (often a negative one) and requires an imaginative leap on the part of the reader to understand. With the use of the transmedia storytelling platform Conductrr, the how-to manual will provide step-by-step instructions on the creation of a transmedia story for educational/social/cultural purposes.  The manual will link the educational aspect with the storytelling process, using the experience gathered from the prototype project as the template.

While traditional TRL definitions and assessment do not include social innovation we think that an open mind will allow for its inclusion and we are looking forward to seeing where this project will go.