Social R&D Request for Proposals

To Support the Delivery of the Social R&D Ecosystem Mobilization Initiative
by Hosting Communities of Practice and Convenings

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About Us

The Social Innovation Institute is an affiliate of The Centre for Social Innovation, sharing its mission of inspiring, supporting and catalyzing social innovation to create a world where people and planet come first. 

As a registered charitable organization, SII’s helps organizations tackle systemic social, environmental and economic challenges. We do this by providing inclusive social innovation education and training, building connections, and providing affordable access to coworking spaces for those facing economic barriers. Our programs include Social Innovation Canada, the Social Innovation for Systems Change Curriculum and the Social R&D Ecosystem Mobilization Initiative. 

About The Social R&D Ecosystem Mobilization Initiative

The Social R&D Ecosystem Mobilization Initiative is part of Employment and Social Development Canada’s Investment Readiness Program (IRP). The IRP is a two-year program, launched in Spring 2019 developed to accelerate the ability of communities to develop, finance, measure and scale new solutions to pressing social problems. The IRP aims to improve shared understanding of the most effective approaches to building the social finance ecosystem and to establish or expand initiatives that address ecosystem gaps. The IRP is an important stepping stone towards ESDC’s Social Finance Fund, a 10-year commitment that will contribute $755 M into the social finance ecosystem.

Social R&D informs and drives social innovation, generating new ideas, novel institutional arrangements and testable hypotheses for improving outcomes – through such things as social enterprise incubation, policy innovation, and service design. It draws upon a growing number of group processes including solutions labs, scenario planning exercises and human-centered design – as well as more quantitative methodologies such as behavioural economics and data analytics. 

The Social R&D Initiative will support Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) in understanding and applying social R&D methods and approaches through an integrated program including: demonstration/keystone projects connected and supported by a network of Social R&D coaches; hosting communities of practice that build knowledge and strengthen relationships among practitioners and hosting a series of convenings bringing together IRP partners, practitioners, policy-makers, and corporate changemakers; the development of Social R&D knowledge products (i.e., tool kits, train-the-trainer workshops, case studies and research); and connecting and communicating innovators through a new digital platform and other shared storytelling opportunities. 

Program Objectives

  1. Increase awareness and appreciation for the importance and impact of Social R&D approaches among SPOs, the public sector, foundations, and the private sector.
  2. Increase the ability of Canada’s social purpose organizations to select and apply innovative tools and processes in their work across a broad spectrum of social challenges, such as economic inequality, Indigenous reconciliation and preventable chronic disease, codifying and disseminating established and emerging methodologies; and
  3. Develop the emerging Canadian social labs field by increasing the number of leading Social R&D practitioners in Canada and encouraging broader take-up of Social R&D practices among SPOs, municipal governments, universities and other stakeholders.

The Social R&D Initiative presents the opportunity to build the capacity of those working to address systemic challenges to learn from emerging tools and approaches for making change possible, to supporting the development of this learning at a broader ecosystem level, and to foster learning among practitioners at different stages of their careers, helping to build the next generation of those advancing and Social R&D practices. And we are looking to build an amazing team to make this possible.

Roles of the Collaborators

The Social Innovation Institute is delivering the Social R&D Initiative in collaboration with the McConnell Foundation

  • SII will act as the primary liaison for the Social R&D convenings, capacity building, knowledge development and communications work, integrating activities into the broader national network building work of SI Canada and the Systems Change Curriculum. SII will provide overarching Program Management as well as manage consultants and subcontractors leading select program activities.
  • The McConnell Foundation and Innoweave will support Social R&D demonstration projects through funding a select number of both larger keystone projects and microgrants, and connecting the work of coaches to these projects.

Scope of Work

SII is seeking the services of a qualified consultant or team of consultants to support the delivery of the following elements of the Social R&D Ecosystem Mobilization Initiative:

Communities of Practice

  • Expand the existing 80-member Social R&D Community of Practice to include, among others, those engaged in the IRP, new practitioners developing tool kits, leading research, etc. and those working with intermediary organizations to help them in the use of Social R&D practices;
  • Establish a new Community of Practice comprised of those involved in the Demonstration projects (coaches and grant recipients);
  • Support sub-committees that may be formed around specific methods as well as domains (potentially aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals);
  • Facilitate regular (i.e., bi-monthly) conversations with each Communities of Practice;
  • Produce a findings report compiling insights from these CoPs that contributes towards the overall project findings report (including identifying social finance ecosystem gaps and how these can be addressed); 
  • Develop presentation of Social R&D findings for a minimum of two gatherings of the IRP partners, as appropriate, and share/disseminate CoP insights/Social R&D tools and approaches with appropriate partners and stakeholders; and
  • Provide a minimum of 12 update postings from the CoPs to the digital platform that reflects current learnings and insights and further raises awareness and engagement of this work among SPOs.


  • Develop agenda and lead facilitation for two annual practice gatherings that bring practitioners together to exchange learning, share best practices, reflect on persisting gaps and barriers, and identify opportunities for collaboration; and
  • Develop agenda and lead facilitation convening two Social R&D Roundtables between practitioners, policymakers and funders to advance discussions on creating an enabling environment and incentivizing Social R&D;


SII is open to proposals from individual and teams of consultants. The qualified consultant(s) will bring demonstrated subject knowledge and experience in:

  • Demonstrated applied social innovation and social finance experience, knowledge and networks
  • Knowledgeable in Social R&D and/or social innovation systems change methodologies, theories and approaches
  • Prior experience convening Communities of Practice or learning circles
  • Prior experience facilitating and convening workshops, practice gatherings and roundtables
  • Excellent report writing, synthesis and analytical skills
  • Strong collaboration skills and demonstrated track record convening multi-sectoral groups towards shared goals.


This project will run approximately 16 months, commencing late 2019/early 2020 and completing by March 2021.

Proposal Submissions

Your proposals should include:

  1. Proposed methodology: how you would approach this work with particular thought on what conditions allow for the most effective collaborations and how this can be accomplished using digital and other communication platforms;
  2. Your expertise and experience that will make you excel at this work
  3. Fee structure: including per diem rates and expected time allocation
  4. Note: SII will provide program management and administrative support, including event logistics.


Proposals should be sent by email to:

Seana Irvine, Chief Operating Officer
Centre for Social Innovation
192 Spadina Avenue, Suite 201
Toronto, Ontario


January 6, 2019, 5pm EST. Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis.