Advancing Indigenous Innovation in Canada: Funding for Social Innovation Projects Announced

EDMONTON, November 9, 2016 – Creating the first Indigenous podcast network, expanding a local food economy in Northern Manitoba, an Indigenous Family Reunification Centre to reduce the number of children in care, and addressing the need for lower-cost food in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan: these are just some of 10 ideas that are receiving funding and coaching through the first cohort of projects supported by the Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund, announced today.

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation (McConnell), announced the recipients of the Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund (IIDF) at the 2016 Indigenous Innovation Summit earlier today. The recipients include:

  • Makoons Media Group
  • Sagitawa Friendship Centre
  • Cross Lake First Nation
  • Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health
  • Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre
  • Indian and Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert
  • Wachiay Friendship Centre Society
  • Skwachàys Lodge

The Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund is a direct outcome of the first Indigenous Innovation Summit, held last year in Winnipeg. Since it was launched in July of this year, the IIDF received over 70 expressions of interest from across Canada, highlighting the incredible work Indigenous communities are doing and their significant need for support. Ideas ranged from food security solutions, reimagination of the child welfare system, Indigenous hotel and food enterprises and using modern technology to spread traditional Indigenous teachings.

“There are many excellent ideas to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people in Canada that cannot be actualized due to limited funding,” said Erin Corston, NAFC Executive Director. “With IIDF we are able to provide the much needed capacity to make some of those innovations a reality. Congratulations to the successful applicants.”

Distributed in two streams, social innovators will receive funds and support for the advancement of their projects. ‘Coaching Stream’ recipients will benefit from between $10,000 and $20,000 for the development of Indigenous social innovation or enterprise projects. The ‘Implementation Stream’ awards up to $100,000 for the scaling of successful projects in order to share knowledge and support other Indigenous social innovation projects.

“We are so excited to finally provide our flagship digital media property, Indian & Cowboy, with the resources to strengthen its base and to build on its steady foundation of being the world’s only listener-supported Indigenous Podcast Network,” said Ryan McMahon of Makoons Media Group. “We are grateful for the grant and can’t thank the funding sponsors and partners enough for the support to tell Indigenous stories to a worldwide audience.”

“One of the key findings from the 2015 Indigenous Innovation Summit was the need for flexible capital and capacity supports to help advance the innovative ideas that were presented throughout the Summit,” said Stephen Huddart, President of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. “With the projects announced today, you can see Indigenous innovation is flourishing from coast to coast to coast. It’s inspiring, and should compel broad interest from funders and impact investors.”

For more information on the Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund, visit

About the National Association of Friendship Centres

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is a network of 118 Friendship Centres and seven Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTAs) from coast-to-coast-to-coast. For over 50 years, Friendship Centres have been the primary providers of culturally enhanced programs and services to urban Indigenous people living in urban areas.

About the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

Established in 1937, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation engages Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient society. The Foundation’s purpose is to enhance Canada’s ability to address complex social, environmental and economic challenges. From an endowment of approximately $600 million, the Foundation provides over $20 million annually in charitable disbursements. Its policy objective is to direct 10% of the endowment to impact investments (currently at 5%).  The Foundation helped establish and works closely with Canada’s core social innovation and social finance infrastructure through such initiatives as the Social Innovation Generation and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing (Toronto).

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Pamela Ouart-McNabb
Director of Research and Special Projects
National Association of Friendship Centres

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