Phase 2: onward we go!

By Aleeya Velji

In Phase 1, the inaugural Fellows (Kate, Lesley and myself) listened, laughed and attempted to uncover what’s happening in Alberta around social innovation.

I worked with strong, courageous ladies to begin understanding how to maneuver in complexity, be comfortable in uncertainty, work with diverse skills sets, and how to appreciate the value of relationships.

What we as a collective learned from the social innovation ecosystem has been expressed in our final report, summary report, and final presentation. 

That said, writing a paper doesn't mean the exploration is done and the journey continues as ABSI Connect is evolving into Phase 2. 

Phase 2 is our new chapter.

How do we put what we have learned into action and in service to the PROVINCE as a whole?  

We will continue supporting new and existing initiatives that are emerging within the social innovation space across Alberta by: 

  • Aligning and connecting known and unusual suspects;

  • Helping to link and bridge social innovators with thought-leaders and community groups as needed; and,

  • Continuing to look for, surface and share the powerful and daunting patterns that support or hinder social innovation in the province.

But we are also looking to act by:

Building deep partnerships around one or more of the common agenda items identified in Phase 1...moving a common agenda into common action. 

At the same time, I am testing out a new part-time Fellows model that we will be expanding this summer. 

As of June 1st, I started working with the City of Edmonton, in their newly launched Integrated Strategic Development Department. I am supporting the work of building a partnership centre, infusing systems thinking into the process of how we do work, and developing an understanding of how a new department develops and builds relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

Simultaneously, I am still an ABSI Connect Fellow! 

We are calling this part-time model the Phase 2 'Shift..."

...because we are shifting our own model to test out different ways of sustainably contributing to the social innovation ecosystem as a whole. Look for updates in the next few weeks for how, where and why we will be expanding this new model. 

What does this part-time model look like?

I devote my Fridays to implementing our Phase 1 common agenda, while continuing to support the social innovation ecosystem more generally. I hope to foster new connections with social innovators around the province and to infuse social innovation action through project work, including:

  • Serving on the core design team for an upcoming social change lab (The Edmonton Shift Lab), which focuses on the intersection of racism and poverty as part of End Poverty YEG;

  • Supporting the partnership that has created the SDX learning community; and,

  • Maintaining communications and continuing to democratize my journey through blogging, writing, and sharing what we are learning.

What is next?

I have the pleasure of sharing that we will be welcoming a new Fellow in July, the Northern Fellow, who will focus on indigenous innovation in Northern Alberta, based out of Fort McMurray. This role has been in the works for some months and we are excited to introduce her to you when she begins in a few weeks! The Northern Fellow will be the last full-time Fellow of 2016.

As the Northern Fellow explores her region, I will continue to support the already identified ecosystem and foster new relationships along the way.  

Last but not least, I would like to give a shout out to Kelsey Spitz. She has been supporting us as the ABSI Connect Administrator. She is animated, a great broker of partnerships, a communications genius, and a plethora of knowledge, constantly sharing resources and insights that help us navigate our journey.  

As we continue to explore, Phase 2 will bring about new insights and opportunities. Stay tuned! 

If you want to connect with ABSI Connect around presentations, workshops, or insights into the ecosystem of social innovation,  I would love to hear from you:


Aleeya Velji

Edmonton Fellow