DC’s Social Impact Hub leads the way with collaborative Collective Impact event

Durham College’s (DC) Social Impact Hub was pleased to host community partners, researchers, faculty and students at the Collective Impact: Shared Vision for Social Innovation event on Thursday, May 12. Held virtually, the event welcomed 127 attendees from across Durham Region and beyond, offering the chance to share social innovation research and partnerships at DC, identify challenges and opportunities for further collaboration and learn how to become involved in future initiatives.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and carried out in partnership with the Regional Municipality of Durham and the City of Oshawa, the event featured a presentation from Kiersten Allore-Engel, manager of community safety and well-being, the Regional Municipality of Durham, and a panel discussion involving community partners. Moderated by DC professor and researcher Crystal Garvey, who also acted as the event’s Emcee, the panel addressed a variety of important social innovation topics, including:

  • Indigenous perspectives: Chief Emily Whetung, Curve Lake First Nation
  • Black Mental Health and Anti-racism: Allison Hector-Alexander, The Regional Municipality of Durham
  • Human Trafficking: Krista MacNeil, Victim Services of Durham Region
  • Access to Justice Hub: Laurie Marshall, Durham College
  • Inclusivity and self-advocacy in the workplace: Jesse Dick, DC Alumni
  • Housing and mental health: Doreen Hume McKenna, Lakeridge Health

“As a leading post-secondary institution and applied research centre, we are dedicated to fostering new relationships with our partners in order to develop actionable solutions to barriers faced right here in our community,” says Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “Durham College is proud to play a role in social innovation, and together with our community partners, we’re leading the way to a better world for all.”

Following the presentations, attendees joined break-out sessions to further discuss the challenges and explore socially innovative potential solutions that could be leveraged in areas such as mental health and homelessness, supporting people with disabilities and victims of crime, experiences of racism, truth and reconciliation and more.

Social innovation refers to a process, initiative or product that seeks to address a societal challenge by improving upon or redesigning the systems that make up our society. This type of work involves collective action through community partnerships, leading to valuable outcomes that benefit groups of people, not just the individual.

As DC’s fifth applied research centre, the Social Impact Hub launched in June 2021, and aims to leverage faculty expertise, student talent and strong community partnerships, to identify creative solutions to complex social challenges through leading-edge social innovation projects and initiatives.

Events like Collective Impact provide an inspiring and collaborative space for our researchers to create meaningful partnerships and synergistic ways to engage with service providers, community agencies and students to develop ideas that can lead to a better world for all members of society,” says Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Ongoing projects at DC in this area of research include:

  • Social Innovation in Applied Research: Mobilizing Knowledge and Co-designing a Path Forward
  • Raising Resilient Families: Empowering Parents with Cognitive Challenges
  • Building Bridges Together: Co-production of Financial Empowerment Strategies with People Experiencing Low Income
  • Innovation Through Co-production: A Holistic Approach to Supporting Social Competency in Pre-school Children
  • Enriching Firefighter Training Through the Development of a Novel Virtual Reality Training Simulation for Personalized, Precision Skill and Resilience Training

For more information on the Social Impact Hub, please visit www.durhamcollege.ca/socialimpacthub or to collaborate or contact the hub, please email socialimpacthub@durhamcollege.ca.

ORSIE provides support for applied research through access to funding opportunities, faculty expertise, state-of-the-art research facilities, and student learning experiences. In partnership with industry and community agencies, projects are carried out by DC faculty experts and students and administered by ORSIE. Since its inception in 2009, ORSIE has undertaken 438 research projects and initiatives. To connect with ORSIE, please reach out online.


Durham College’s Social Impact Hub receives $25,000 Connection grant from SSHRC

Durham College’s (DC) Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) is pleased to announce it has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Connection grant for $25,000.

The funds will support DC’s goal of enhancing experiential learning opportunities through the creation of a student research assistant position, as well as increasing social innovation knowledge mobilization by hosting a collaborative event this spring. The goal is to demonstrate the recent successes and importance of social innovation applied research activities to identify and solve community challenges.

Connecting with stakeholders will serve to raise awareness of socially innovative applied research activities led by DC’s Social Impact Hub and to share the knowledge and insights gained through previous and current projects. To enhance knowledge sharing, Public Relations, Video Production and Journalism – Mass Media students will create a promotional social media campaign, as well as supporting material, such as video clips and interviews with researchers, to be presented at the collaborative event. Leading the students is a group of DC faculty members who, as co-applicants on the grant, have contributed time and expertise to the project’s various components. Faculty members include Teresa Goff and Jennifer Bedford from the School of Media, Art & Design; Lorraine Closs from the School of Health & Community Services; and Nicole Doyle, School of Justice & Emergency Services.

As the college’s fifth applied research centre, the Social Impact Hub seeks to identify creative solutions to complex social problems through leading-edge projects and initiatives. Launched in June 2021, the Social Impact Hub has tackled a number of pressing issues facing the community, including enhancing virtual mentorship to reduce social isolation of youth, addressing issues that impact parents with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, co-creation of financial empowerment strategies with individuals experiencing low income and the unique co-design of a youth-led housing hub.

Hosted in DC’s innovative Rotary Global Classroom, in partnership with the Regional Municipality of Durham and the City of Oshawa, attendees will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions to:

  • Identify social challenges in the surrounding community.
  • Share social innovation expertise and research activities at the college with the broader community.
  • Create new partnerships and synergistic ways to engage with stakeholders.

By increasing awareness, the Social Impact Hub can leverage faculty and stakeholder expertise and resources to support the exploration of further collaborations and contribute to shared community goals.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Connection grant,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, ORSIE. “This event will strengthen Durham College’s commitment to innovation while identifying collaborative strategies for sharing social impact research activities in order to address the gaps and inequalities that exist within our society.”

To learn more about the Social Impact Hub, visit www.durhamcollege.ca/socialimpacthub.

Durham College is pleased to once again be named one of Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges for 2021 by Research Infosource Inc. As the facilitator of all applied research at DC, ORSIE provides support through access to funding opportunities, faculty expertise, state-of-the-art research facilities and student learning experiences. In partnership with industry and community agencies, projects are carried out by DC faculty experts and students and administered by ORSIE. Since its inception in 2009, ORSIE has undertaken 411 research projects and initiatives. To connect with ORSIE, please reach out online.


Durham College receives more than $106,000 in funding to support first-ever postdoctoral fellowship

Durham College’s (DC) Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) is pleased to announce its first-ever postdoctoral fellowship, thanks to a Mitacs Accelerate grant totaling $106,666, including a contribution and collaboration with the City of Oshawa’s Fire Services through TeachingCity Oshawa.

Working with principal investigator Dr. Michael Williams-Bell, professor and research coordinator in DC’s School of Health & Community Services, Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. David Brian Copithorne joins the ORSIE team for a two-year term to support an innovative new project using virtual reality to simulate uncontrolled fire scenarios and improve training for firefighters and other Public Safety Personnel using immersive, life-like simulation.

“It’s an honour to be chosen as the college’s first postdoctoral fellow,” said Dr. Copithorne, who received his PhD from the University of Western Ontario. “The work we are undertaking using novel virtual reality simulation training is really going to enrich the firefighting training experience.”

Thanks to technology found in DC’s Mixed Reality Capture Studio, the physiological and psychological responses of firefighters that often occur during uncontrolled fire scenarios will be elicited. This will allow participants to be better prepared by learning to manage stressors and optimize their performance and well-being in real-life emergency situations, without the risk of injury, an outcome the City of Oshawa is looking forward to.

“We congratulate Durham College on its first-ever postdoctoral fellowship and we are excited to partner on this collaborative project,” said Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter. “The virtual reality simulations developed by DC will complement real-life training scenarios and help Oshawa’s firefighters master their skills.”

The grant has also funded two undergraduate intern positions, which are being overseen by Dr. Williams-Bell.

“The Ontario government is proud to support initiatives where the talent and expertise of Ontario’s PhD graduates is being leveraged to solve real-world problems through research and innovation,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “By investing in research internships, we are preparing the next generation of talent with the experience they need to get good jobs after graduation. We’re also supporting employers, who are looking for students and graduates with hands-on experience so they can make an immediate impact in the workforce.”

The addition of a post-doctoral fellow is one more way DC is expanding its applied research innovation and reach. “This is a very exciting opportunity for the college,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, ORSIE. “As with all of our projects, faculty and students benefit from hands-on experiential learning, working to solve real-world challenges, while our partners are able to take advantage of our expertise and technology.”

This is the third Mitacs Accelerate grant the college has been awarded. “We are proud to support Durham College’s first postdoctoral fellowship and its commendable dedication to driving research and innovation in Canada,” said Mitacs CEO Dr. John Hepburn. “Dr. Copithorne’s virtual reality research will improve training for firefighters and safety for workers. We are very pleased to leverage provincial and federal funding to drive innovations that improve the lives of Canadians.”


DC’s new Social Impact Hub receives more than $300,000 grant from the College and Community Social Innovation Fund

Durham College’s (DC) Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) is pleased to announce it has received a SSHRC College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF) Grant for over $300,000.

Awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the funds will support DC’s recently launched social innovation applied research centre, the Social Impact Hub, in developing a model of support that is proactive and addresses the social issues that impact parents with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (ID/DD).

Designed in response to their needs, the project will identify and remove barriers for children, youth, and families impacted by ID/DD by seeking their feedback, along with input from key partners to create a model that addresses the obstacles they face, while building the capacity of the service providers supporting these families.

The project is being led by DC professors Kay Corbier and Amanda Cappon, who both teach in the School of Health & Community Services.  “Parents play a critical role in child development, especially in the early years,” said Amanda Cappon, project co-director. “As individuals with ID/DD and cognitive challenges become parents, they may require individualized supports to learn skills such as diapering, feeding and bedtime routines, to foster a safe and healthy environment. This in turn helps avoid removal of the child from the family home. Unfortunately, research has shown skills-building supports are not always appropriate or available to these members of our community.”

This research project also directly supports the redesign of the Child Welfare System in Ontario. By incorporating the voices of parents with ID/DD challenges, and then creating a model that service providers can use to address those barriers and deliver assistance, trauma can be avoided by preserving the family unit.

“We are very grateful for the support of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the CCSIF Fund,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, ORSIE. “This project is a prime example of why we launched the Social Impact Hub – so Durham College can leverage faculty expertise, student talent and strong community partnerships to identify creative solutions to complex social challenges through leading-edge social innovation projects and initiatives.”

To learn more about the Social Impact Hub visit www.durhamcollege.ca/socialimpacthub.


Durham College launches fifth applied research centre, the Social Impact Hub

It’s been estimated that Canadians are paying more to ignore Canada’s housing problem than they would to fix it, inflating costs related to health care, justice and other taxpayer-funded services. So, how do we fix an issue that is costing both those experiencing homelessness, and those that are not? The simple answer is through social innovation.

Over the last several years, through funded collaborations with community partners, Durham College (DC) has developed a distinct cluster of 14 valuable applied research projects focused on social innovation, receiving $1,324,544 in overall funding. These projects tackle everything from homelessness and mental health, to equity and accessibility, training and more.

Last week, following the successful launch of DC’s four previous applied research centres, the Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) announced the opening of its new Social Impact Hub at a virtual event alongside numerous DC researchers, President Don Lovisa and John Henry, chair and CEO of The Regional Municipality of Durham and project partners.

“As a leading post-secondary institution and applied research centre, we are committed to exploring and developing solutions to the barriers our communities face,” said Don Lovisa, president, DC. “The applied research being completed at Durham College underscores the importance of innovation and ingenuity, and I am incredibly excited to see how the Social Impact Hub will help address the gaps and inequalities that exist within our society through this lens.”

Social innovation refers to a process, initiative or product that seeks to address a societal challenge by improving upon or redesigning the systems that make up our society. This type of work involves collective action through community partnerships, leading to valuable outcomes that benefit groups of people, not just the individual.

“Our researchers are passionate and committed in their drive to impact the lives of people in our community,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, ORSIE. “I’m very proud to be launching the Social Impact Hub, to recognize their work and create a forum for ongoing dialogue and meaningful partnerships that lead to change.”

By leveraging faculty expertise, student talent and strong community partnerships, researchers at the Social Impact Hub will continue their work to identify creative solutions to complex social challenges through leading-edge social innovation projects and initiatives.

Ongoing projects at DC in this area of research include:

  • Building Bridges Together: Co-production of Financial Empowerment Strategies with People Experiencing Low Income
  • Innovation Through Co-production: A Holistic Approach to Supporting Social Competency in Pre-school Children
  • Enriching Firefighter Training Through the Development of a Novel Virtual Reality Training Simulation for Personalized Precision, Skill and Resilience Training
  • Enhancing Virtual Mentorship to Reduce Social Isolation of Youth
  • Support for Parents with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

DC researchers have also completed a number of projects, including the unique Co-design of a Youth-led Housing Hub: Developing a Unique and Scalable Housing Model for Youth Living on Their Own in Durham.

For more information on the Social Impact Hub, please visit www.durhamcollege.ca/socialimpacthub or to collaborate or connect with the hub, please email socialimpacthub@durhamcollege.ca

ORSIE provides support for applied research through access to funding opportunities, faculty expertise, state-of-the-art research facilities, and student learning experiences. In partnership with industry and community agencies, projects are carried out by DC faculty experts and students and administered by ORSIE. Since its inception in 2009, ORSIE has undertaken 360 research projects and initiatives. To connect with ORSIE, please reach out online.


DC researcher leads co-design of youth-led housing hub model for youth living on their own

Old enough to live on their own but too young to receive social assistance directly, Ontario’s Trusteed Youth (TY) face challenges no child should.

Through a two-year research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through the College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF), Durham College (DC) researcher Lorraine Closs found that TY often face precarious housing situations and homelessness, food insecurity, mental and physical health concerns and more. These issues are largely due to the challenge of navigating a complex and overburdened social services system and lack of safe and affordable housing options.

TY represent a unique and particularly vulnerable population, relying on a community agency to act as their “trustee” so they can collect Ontario Works assistance. They live alone without the opportunity to approach independence in a gradual and supported manner, and lack suitable role models and guidance that would generally be provided in a family setting.

Established in partnership with the Regional Municipality of Durham, Durham District School Board, Durham Mental Health Services, Boys and Girls Club of Durham, and the John Howard Society of Canada, the DC applied research project, which concluded in December, has resulted in the development of a ground-breaking alternative housing hub model co-designed for youth, by youth. It has also provided valuable insight into how the system can best meet the needs of TY while informing future policy recommendations for supporting youth living on their own.

“By directly involving trusteed youth in the development of this housing hub, we were able to support their needs, while also helping them improve their knowledge of the service system and increase their sense of personal competency and possibilities for the future,” said Closs, who also teaches at the college in the Social Service Worker program. “It’s our hope that the insights and recommendations developed as a result of this valuable research will help inform service design and delivery here at home and across the country, and that this project will become a catalyst in ensuring brighter futures for our trusteed youth.”

During the project, Closs gathered survey feedback from 43 current TY, as well as 30 service providers from 22 agencies across the region to better understand the obstacles facing both groups. With this data, she hosted three in-person co-design sessions and a virtual consensus building session with community service providers and TY. At these sessions, they co-designed the youth housing hub model and strategized policies that would improve the coordination and collaboration of services for youth living on their own.

“The Region of Durham is committed to ending chronic homelessness in our community,” said commissioner of social services, Stella Danos-Papaconstantinou. “We know that the needs of youth who experience precarious housing and homelessness are different than those of adults. This research amplifies the voices of vulnerable Durham youth and the service providers working with them to co-design a transitional, supportive housing model.  We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Durham College on this applied research and bring data, rigor and the voice of youth to proposed housing solutions inspired by their experiences.”

Other recommendations that came out of the research include:

  • Bundling services for youth by creating school hubs.
  • Creating drop-in style supports to by-pass complex referral and waitlist processes.
  • Intervention services for landlord disputes and funding incentives for landlords who rent to youth.
  • A designated case worker assigned to TY to help navigate the service system.
  • Flexibility around communication options for youth to access service supports.
  • Access to free transportation for youth.
  • Affordable, safe transitional housing options to prevent the onset of chronic homelessness.
  • Improved process for changing schools without parental consent.
  • Life skills guidance for the seamless transition from adolescence to adulthood.
  • Inclusion of youth in the development of youth services.

The full research report, including key findings, implications and recommendations are available to view online, in addition to a short film that was produced to disseminate the findings of the research.

This project was proudly supported by DC’s Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE). ORSIE provides support to social innovation projects through access to funding opportunities, faculty expertise, state-of-the-art research facilities, and student learning experiences. In partnership with industry and community agencies, applied research projects are carried out by DC faculty experts and students and administered by ORSIE. To connect with ORSIE, please reach out online.