Innovate to Tackle Urgent Social Challenges

March 30 2020 | Systems Leadership programs at Banff Centre

Innovate to Tackle Urgent Social Challenges

Banff Centre Systems Leadership programs build the capacity of social innovators and system entrepreneurs to work creatively within complex systems in order to disrupt convention and foster meaningful change.

Since 2015, Banff Centre’s Getting to Maybe Social Innovation Program has invited remarkable change agents from across Canada to participate in an immersive program designed to renew their sense of self in an increasingly complex world, and to learn and apply new frameworks for real system change. Close to a hundred participants from all sectors have taken part in the program and are now working to address some of the most complex challenges in the country in radical new ways.

The initial objective of the program was for participants to experience the fractal nature of complex systems – to gain access to knowledge deep within the self in order to reveal and better understand truths about other scales across the systems in which they live and work.

The foundational insights upon which Getting to Maybe was designed continue to guide Systems Leadership programming at Banff Centre. However, the approach to learning about social innovation and systems change – and how to best cultivate competent practitioners who can make a lasting impact in the world - has continued to evolve.

What’s new: ‘Getting to Maybe’ returns in 2020

Getting to Maybe: A Systems Leadership Residency returns to Banff Centre this spring with a fresh design, updated format and new faces. After running four editions of the program, Banff Centre took a year to consider the current and future state of social innovation in Canada and reimagine how the program could best contribute. “It’s a mix of different types of curriculum and pedagogy. This time we’re reflecting on the experience of different folks, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC),” says Melanie Goodchild, a new member of the faculty team.

Melanie is the founder of the Turtle Island Institute, an Indigenous social innovation “think and do” tank that supports Indigenous change-makers. She was also a participant in the original edition of the program and saw first-hand what was valuable and what could be improved. “This new version is being built as a circle of learning, where the delivery team is in the circle with everybody else, and we’re co-creating this learning journey together,” she says.

Also new to the team is Syrus Marcus Ware, a community activist, visual artist, researcher, youth-advocate, and educator. His research focuses on the experiences of racialized and disabled artists in contemporary art environments. “Together with Cheryl Rose and Julian Norris—who have been a part of the faculty team for the first four years—Syrus and I bring a new perspective to the program,” explains Melanie.

With Syrus on board, the program will have a bigger emphasis on art as a method for social mobilization. “We want to think about how to work with artists and arts organizations to amplify the efforts of the social innovators, to spark their imagination and to help show us the way forward,” says Cheryl Rose, who helped bring the program to Banff Centre five years ago.

In 2020 Banff Centre is also launching a new 15-month Fellowship in Systems Leadership, which is described as an “uncommon learning journey dedicated to systems artistry”. Applications to participate in the Fellowship will be accepted until the end of March.

Find more information about the Getting to Maybe residency, the Fellowship and other Leadership programs on Banff Centre’s website: