Social Innovation Thrive by 5 Progress


January | United Way’s Leading Boldly hosted a 3-day intensive training on the Change Lab approach with 27 participants from United Way-funded agencies, Executive Directors involved in Leading Boldly and other local leaders. The training was facilitated by Reos Partners.

During the Social Policy Framework (SPF) engagement process, members from the SPF project team, Leading Boldly and United Way began discussions about how the SPF may provide a foundation or opportunity for collaborating on a social innovation initiative.

February | A project team and a core leadership team were assembled. The Core Leadership Team selected early childhood development (ECD) as a focus for the Change Lab, and the Strategic Policy Initiatives Branch of Human Services agreed to participate as co-lead.

April | The Core Leadership Team and Project Team convened to build a shared understanding of the overall objectives of the Change Lab and develop a design draft.

May | Reos Partners led a training session on dialogue interviews with the Core Leadership Team and Project Team focused on "understanding the system," which is a key objective in the early stages of the Change Lab process. Dialogue interviews were done with 25+ individuals identified by the Core Leadership Team for their experience in addressing complex system level issues or policy relevant to the ECD "system" in Calgary/Alberta.

thrive by 5 coverSummer and Fall | The Core Leadership Team conducted 40 stakeholder interviews with formal and informal leaders connected to Calgary's ECD system to gain a better picture of the current reality. Key themes from the interviews were synthesised into a short and compelling report that frames the nature of the challenges associated with Calgary's ECD system. Read or download the Thrive By 5 Synthesis Report here:

Thrive by 5 synthesis Report

Read the summary report   |   Read the full report



February | 25 change makers from the not-for-profit, government and business sectors convened for a three-day Thrive by 5 Foundation Workshop at the Banff Centre. Continuing the Change Lab process, the Workshop focused on finding new ways of working creatively and collaboratively with one another that would serve as foundational skills for the Thrive by 5 team to develop and begin implementing. The team began articulating the current reality of Calgary's ECD system and finding the possible leverage points for change. Read or download the Thrive by 5 Foundation Workshop Report here:

Read the executive summary     |     Read the full notes from the workshop

April | The next step in understanding the current reality of Calgary’s ECD system was to go on a Learning Journey to see and learn from other ECD systems that are positively influencing children in their early years. After researching game changing ECD systems and innovation models in North America, the field was narrowed down to the West Coast (San Francisco & the Bay Area), East Coast (New York & Washington, D.C.) and a US/Canada hybrid (Vancouver & Seattle). The Thrive by 5 team split into three groups and went on simultaneous Learning Journeys over one week and merged back in Calgary for a debrief and synthesis of learning. The Learning Journey report will be available soon.

May | An Innovation Retreat was held to clarify and crystalize insights from the Learning Journeys, provide structured space for participants to reflect on their individual and collective role in changing Calgary's ECD system and identify high leverage opportunities to begin making Calgary the best place in the world to grow up as a child.

Social Innovation Thrive by 5

Thrive By 5: Calgary Early Years Innovation Lab

United Way's Leading Boldly and the Province of Alberta’s Social Policy Framework project team have co-convened a multi-stakeholder change initiative, called Thrive by 5, focused on early childhood development.

Launched in spring 2013, the initiative is aimed at exploring the question, “How can all of us ensure that all children in Calgary grow, learn & thrive by the age of 5?” From there, the initiative is developing a robust and actionable strategy for positive change related to this question.

What is a change lab?

Thrive by 5 takes a Change Lab approach. This proven method catalyses change by creating an ongoing space to foster innovation, learning, leadership and capacity development. At its core, the approach focuses on convening and working with diverse teams of stakeholders and giving them the insights, tools and skills to inspire and drive change in a system.

Thrive by 5 is working with Reos Partners, who take a systemic, creative and participative approach to addressing complex social challenges. They frame their approach around Theory U, which is described as a purposeful detour to collectively arriving at a new understanding of wicked problems, establishing new commitment and capacities to work together, and co-creating new approaches to influence positive change via rapid cycle prototyping.

thrive by 5 Theory U 

Source: Presencing Institute: Otto Scharmer

Track our PROGRESS to see where we've been, what we've learned and what's coming up.

Change lab participants

Alisah Devji | Program Officer | Norlien Foundation
Barbara Schleifer | Social Planner | Family and Community Support Services, The City of Calgary
Brenna Atnikov | Consultant | Reos Partners
Blythe Butler | Network Weaver | First 200 Days Network
Christopher Smith | Assistant Executive Director | Muttart Foundation
Dawn Leonard | Managing Director | Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary
Dawne Clark | Professor & Child and Youth Studies Director, Centre for Child Well-Being | Mount Royal University
George Ghitan | CEO | Hull Services
Holly Charles | Director of Operations | Catholic Family Services
Janice Iverson | Director of Social Innovation | United Way of Calgary and Area
Jenny Konopaki | Director of Active Lives | Winsport
Jerilynn Daniels | Sr. Manager, Community Investments & Marketing, Public Affairs | Royal Bank of Canada
Joe McCarron | Partner | Reos Partners
Launa Clark
| Community Coordinator | Early Child Development Mapping Project (ECMAP), University of Alberta
Leann Wagner | Executive Director, Strategic Policy | Government of Alberta
Leslie Barker | Healthy Parenting Coordinator | Alberta Health Services
Lindsay Mitchell | Executive Director | Bridges Social Development
Lori Gammell
| Manager | Suncor Energy Foundation and Community Investments
Marg Cutler | Acting Associate Director | Calgary and Area Child and Family Services, Government of Alberta
Mariam Elghahuagi | Social Innovation Coordinator | United Way of Calgary
Monica Pohlmann | Senior Consultant | Reos Partners
Phil Carlton | Former Director | UpStart
Rick Thomas | Creative Director/Partner | Juice Creative Inc.
Robyn Sheedy | Healthy Parents, Healthy Children Initiative Team Lead | Alberta Health Services
Sheryl Fricke | Executive Director of Early Childhood Development Priority Initiative, Human Services | Government of Alberta
Steacy Collyer | Executive Director | Calgary Reads
Talia Bell
| Evaluations and Operations Manager | United Way of Calgary and Area
Tim Fox | Coordinator, FNMI | Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary

Co-convened By:

2014-united-way-logo-update    Alberta-government

 Proudly Supported By:


View Thrive by 5 Progress

Social Innovation Leading Boldly Resources

Leading Boldly Resources

This Leading Boldly Toolbox contains key findings, background information, workshops, case examples and presentations to support ongoing collaborative social innovation. The Toolbox is updated regularly - so check back often for more great resources.

#1 What is Social Innovation?

#2 What is Collaborative Social Innovation?

#3 What is the Process of Collaborative Social Innovation?

#4 What is Prototyping?

#5 What is Reflection-in-Action?

#6 What is the Peer Input Process?

#7 What is Developmental Evaluation?


Bold Videos

Cheryl Doherty, CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary shares her experience as a member of Leading Boldly.

Cheryl explains the Leading Boldly Network

Cheryl explains ideation

Cheryl explains collaborative social innovation


Bold Processes

Click on the "U" below to view details of the Leading Boldly Network's process for collaborative social innovation.



Bold Presentations

United Way's slideshare page is home to presentations from Leading Boldly. Visit or click the following links to access them:

Using Developmental Evaluation to Support Prototyping: A workshop


On social innovation

The following are research and active experimentation in social innovation that inspires our work:

Design Thinking for Social Innovation by Tim Brown & Jocelyn Wyatt, Standford Social Innovation Review Winter 2010

Designers have traditionally focused on enhancing the look and functionality of products. Recently, they have begun using design techniques to tackle more complex problems, such as finding ways to provide low-cost healthcase throughout the world. Business began to embrance this new-ish approach - called design thinking - and nonprofits are begining to adopt it too.

Innovation Obsession Disorder by Daniel Ben-Horin, Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog, April 11 2012
As a counter point to all the enthusiasm about ‘innovation’, this article puts into context the equal importance of propagating good ideas in new environments, arguing that often the problem is not the pace of innovation, but rather the pace of propagation.

Open Book on Social Innovation
"The Open Book on Social Innovation" is over 200 pages long and describes hundreds of methods and tools for innovation being used around the world.

BC Social Innovation Council — Action Plan Recommendations to Maximize Social Innovation in British Columbia, March 2012
The Council was established in January 2011 to make recommendations on how to best maximize social innovation and assist the BC government in seeking new and innovative ways to help BC communities tackle the most intractable social challenges of the day. Linked to this initiative is ‘BCideas’ ‘a community of action, whose success depends on British Columbians to identify, convene and bring forward the best social innovations that the province has to offer.’

Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, 2006
“Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.” Margaret Wheatley and her Berkana Institute have been key thinkers and do-ers in this space and this is their proposed theory of change for how local changes can materialize as global systems of influence.

What is a Change Lab/Design Lab? by Frances Westley, Sean Geobey and Kirsten Robinson; Feb 2012.    
While the jury is still out on the best method for collaborative social innovation, Change Labs are among the most often cited newer approaches. Change Labs provide a physical and intellectual space designed to encourage and facilitate cooperation and the co-creation of meaningful and innovative solutions to complex problems.

Creating High-Impact Nonprofits, by Heather McLeod Grant & Leslie R. Crutchfield
Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2007
How to scale up the impact of NGOs, based on his experience in doing so with both Habitat for Humanity and in his current role.

Innovative Intelligence - A road map for harnessing creativity - The Globe and Mail, Harvey Schachter
An overview of the book “Innovative Intelligence” by David Weiss as summarized in the Globe and Mail.

Embracing Failure
This article highlights some of the dynamics of the ‘renewal loop’. It also emphasizes that “success is a process and failure on the way is an opportunity. Successful individuals, groups, and organizations fail well.”

Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work
This follow-up on the popular “Collective Impact” article provides updated guidance, including reference to two Calgary examples. The principles/conditions of collective impact share a lot in common with the principles of the constellation network model we have been discussing.

David Whyte – Life at the Frontier: The Conversational Nature of Reality (part of TEDx Puget Sound on the theme of Dream out Loud: Transform Ideas into Action; 19 minutes)
Poet and management consultant David Whyte asks “how to live at the ‘live edge,’ at the frontier?” He suggests that we change the world by meeting it, by beginning a conversation, by our attentive presence and listening and argues that this is the sort of leadership most required to create the future we want.

On Not Letting a Crisis Go to Waste: An Innovation Agenda for Canada's Community Sector, by Tim Brodhead, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation
Brodhead argues that we are in a period of transformation and should not expect a return to business as usual when present financial strains ease. Governments, business, and the rich diversity of community organizations will have to collaborate to address the large-scale challenges facing us. While the sector contains many highly innovative organizations and individuals, the price they pay in terms of burnout, frustration, and initiatives curtailed before they can demonstrate proof of concept is unacceptably high. By unleashing opportunities to act in common and unleashing commitment to innovate, collaborate and celebrate, the community sector will be in a better position to demonstrate enduring value.

Intentional Innovation: How Getting More Systematic about Innovation Could Improve Philanthropy and Increase Social Impact
W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched an investigation, in partnership with the Monitor Institute, into innovation in philanthropy. What would it mean for philanthropy and the social sector to develop and manage innovation more systematically? How can you nurture and promote innovation in philanthropy? How can you get innovation to happen more reliably? While aimed at funders, the article outlines a helpful framework for thinking about innovation in philanthropy, opportunities and roles in the innovation process. Their research leads to a simple, but important insight: being deliberate about innovation can ultimately produce more and better ideas for positive social change.


On networks

The following are research on networks that inspires our work:

Networking a City by Marianne Hughes & Didi Goldenhar, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2012    
In Boston (2004) it was recognized that the pressure to compete for limited resources often pitted the city’s nonprofit leaders against one another. In the face of this, the Barrs Fellows Network was initiated based on the hypothesis that by recognizing talented leaders and connecting them in meaningful ways, a more collaborative culture might emerge. Eight years and 48 fellows later, this article reflects on what they have learned and what has been achieved.

Leadership and Networks: A Preliminary Framework
A useful primer on how leadership within networks is different and what the benefits may be.

Catalyzing Networks for Social Change
The article provides a network lens on grant making, a better understanding of work funders are already doing to catalyze networks, and new opportunities for harnessing network potential. The article also outlines what it means to work with a network mindset, how to cultivate networks, and assessing and learning about network impact.