On January 7th Prime Minister Harper announced a series of national and regional awards that honor individuals, (particularly young adults), non profits, businesses and social enterprises who are improving the well being of their community and supporting social innovation.  The language of the Prime Minister reflects that used by leading non profit, voluntary sector, government and business leaders including my colleagues at Social Innovation Generation (SiG).  This heralds an important shift in thinking for our federal government. 

Aside from the awards themselves, the Prime Minister's announcement should 'bless' and give lift to the innovative ongoing work of federal public servants and increase their capacity to respond to the innovative solutions that are emerging throughout Canada.

The awards will:  highlight best practices in community leadership and encourage partnerships across sectors. The goal of the awards is to inspire Canadians from all walks of life to find new ways of making a difference in their communities.  All recipients must demonstrate how they have made a difference in their community (providing those facing social challenges with the support, knowledge, and/or information they need to maintain their well-being and actively participate in society.)

Here is the description of the new Regional Award for Social Innovation:

Nominees in this category are not-for-profit organizations that use new and innovative ideas and approaches, including the adoption of business practices to improve their ability to respond to social challenges. Social innovators are organizations that develop new ideas or use existing ideas in new ways to address complex social challenges that help build stronger communities. These innovations take many forms: creative approaches to programs and services, developing and delivering new resources and building relationships that all result in creative solutions that respond to unmet social needs.

And the Regional Award for Business Leader: As well as providing support for social innovation in not-for-profit organizations, businesses can encourage and support their own employees to contribute to social goals, give financial support for new and ongoing community initiatives or start activities that have a benefit or make a difference to the community.

Nomination guidelines and forms will be available from the federal government website as of April 10, 2011, during National Volunteer Week.  Nominations will close June 17th.  Winners will be announced in December 2011.They intend to post updates in the weeks ahead so bookmark this site.

I will write more about the implications of this development in the days ahead.  In the meantime if you like the direction the federal government is moving in do let them know.  We are more likely to criticize than compliment our governments but this is a move in the right direction and it should be acknowledged. There will be time enough to question the details.

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