The Social Innovation Research Group

The Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG) is a Taiwan based think tank studying how and why social innovation entities succeed or fail. To understand the trajectory of social innovation, we’re interviewing organizations, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to develop a series of social innovation case studies. We will then analyze these studies to identify common factors influencing achievement and which models of innovation work in particular contexts.

SIRG was founded by Melinda Jacobs, Remi Kanji, Reza Mirza, and Wendy Pan, four graduates from the University of Toronto. Each of us writes from a different perspective. Remi Kanji is interested in measuring social impact and enabling organizations with a strong and focused social mandate to achieve financial sustainability. Melinda Jacobs focuses on leveraging innovation capacity by looking at the ecosystem supporting innovators across sectors. Wendy Pan would like to categorize social enterprises by how they serve marginalized groups and analyze why a social enterprise’ particular model works in a specific sector. Reza Mirza is fascinated by identifying the role the ecosystem plays in the success of a social enterprise – from the accessibility of social venture capital to local levels of enthusiasm for social innovation.

We’ve chosen to research Taiwan because it is home to organizations that are newly considering and implementing social innovation. This gives us access to many first-mover organizations, starting projects and businesses that creatively address various social and accessibility challenges. Taiwan is also an entrepreneurial hotbed – an energetic environment from which social innovation ideas can emerge. Finally, we believe that Taiwan and Canada share a number of similarities – close proximity to a much more powerful neighbor, an aging population, and pockets of underserved individuals in an otherwise privileged environment. These similarities will mean that many of the lessons we learn in the Taiwanese context will ideally also be applicable in the Canadian context.

We’re doing this research because we hope the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit—will have a defining impact on the future of businesses and non-profits. We believe that blended value needs to be ingrained in all organizations, for and non-profit, and that sustainable social services will rely on the development of new and innovative models. While this vision certainly represents an ideal, we nevertheless believe that critically examining case studies of social innovation will provide change making organizations the tools and ideas to innovate effectively.

We are currently working with a variety of different organizations to achieve our research objectives. The Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and Trinity College currently funds our work. We partner with the Asia Pacific Foundation and the Asia Pacific Reader. If you’d like to read more of our work, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter at www.sirg-taiwan.org, or read our published work at the Guardian Social Enterprise Unit and SocialFinance.ca.

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