SFU is designated as the first Ashoka U Changemaker Campus in British Columbia

Simon Fraser University’s commitment to social innovation leadership has been recognized with its designation as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. SFU is one of just over 40 global institutions to pass this rigorous process, and is the first university in British Columbia to be designated.

The Ashoka U Changemaker Campus Network is a dynamic, global network of leading colleges and universities committed to advancing social innovation and changemaking across their institutions and beyond. From curriculum and research, to operations and community engagement, these colleges and universities set the bar for social innovation education and action. As a member of this network, SFU will contribute to the growing body of work and best practices in social innovation education and research.

The changemaker designation acknowledges SFU’s university-wide innovation strategy—SFU Innovates—which encourages students, faculty and staff to work with social innovators and business community leaders to devise solutions for a sustainable, just and healthy society. As part of this process, the University engages young people as leaders and problem-solvers, both inside and outside of the classroom; works with those immersed in the problems, and helps find new models to improve the economy and society.

Shawn Smith is SFU’s director of social innovation and co-director at RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society), a social innovation lab based in the Beedie School of Business. He has helped lead a group of more than 30 SFU changemakers during the nearly two year Ashoka U Changemaker Campus designation process.  

“There is something special about SFU’s culture and community, with an incredible number of people, programs and policies dedicated to addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges facing our communities and society,” says Smith. “From students and staff to faculty, senior leadership and partners, it’s a place people come to because they want to work on problems that matter.”

Also co-leading the designation process were Annette Santos, SFU’s director of student engagement and retention, Candace Le Roy, director of SFU’s sustainability office, and Stephen Dooley, executive director, SFU Surrey campus.

Below are just some of the many examples of SFU’s changemaking and social innovation leadership.


·       The Health Change Lab, in partnership with the City of Surrey – a 10-credit studio-based course, in which students work in teams within the community to understand local community health challenges, and devise venture concepts to help address them.

·       SFU students won the 2017 Oxford Global Challenge with an impressive analysis of the systemic challenges and intervention points for reducing medical waste in Vancouver.

·       CityStudio Vancouver – an innovation hub where City staff, students and community co-create experimental projects to make Vancouver more sustainable, livable and joyful. During the one-semester course, students trade the classroom for the studio, working directly with City staff to research, design and implement projects while also developing their own job, teamwork and networking skills.


·       Judith Marcuse, founder and co-director, international centre of art for social change, and an Ashoka Fellow, is conducting research in the field of art for social change.

·       Our Community, Our Voice – a community-based research project that trained recent refugees as research assistants for a program investigating innovative responses to refugee services in Surrey.  

·       Stephanie Bertels, Beedie School of Business professor, was awarded the 2016 SFU President’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability, recognizing her efforts to advance the cause of sustainability both within and beyond the University. She is the research lead for the Embedding Project, which helps global companies embed sustainability intrapreneurs from across industries and around the world.


·       RADIUS Ventures RADIUS’ upcoming Slingshot Accelerator Program to help entrepreneurs move beyond the start-up phase, will be the first social incubator in Canada to offer direct, redeemable equity investments (worth $25,000 each) to every successful venture participating in its program.

·       Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab) – RADIUS worked with Ecotrust Canada to create the LEDlab, which aims to help create a more dynamic and inclusive inner-city economy in Vancouver. The program has developed a replicable funding and program model for Canadian community-university social innovation partnerships.