What is the “Social Innovation Fund”?

Today both the Government of Alberta and the University of Alberta issued media releases about a new $1 billion “Social Innovation Fund.” The two releases describe the fund in very different ways. President Samarasekera’s description of the fund praises it as  a “third pillar” of funding that will “stand alongside Alberta’s other major research endowments, which support research in the natural sciences, health sciences, and engineering,” and makes it sound as if the fund constitutes a direct investment in “scholarship, creative activity, and knowledge translation across the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts [as] fundamental to the inspiration of human imagination and creativity, the education of leaders and global citizens, the production of art and transformational thinking.” (President Samarasekera’s emphasis) The Government’s release more vaguely refers to the fund as designed to support “world-class research on transformative approaches through knowledge dissemination initiatives,” and places its emphasis on the fund’s role in solving social problems “such as poverty and family violence.” It also notes that the fund may “support social entrepreneurship” by “identifying and testing new models” of “social finance.”

In one release the fund is about thinking; the other, applications of thought to social problems, including investment, it seems, in new financial mechanisms.

What exactly is this fund designed to support?

Global TV’s headline: “Alberta redirects $1.1B from Heritage Fund to fight poverty, aid agriculture”

The dollars, by the way, are not new. As the Government’s release makes clear, they will be drawn from the Alberta Heritage Fund.

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