A Social Innovation Journey: Starting Within

Andre Vashist has been accepted into the Getting to Maybe: A Social Innovation Residency at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in collaboration with Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience at the University of Waterloo. It is a 28-day intensive designed for change-makers with a deep readiness to fuel a personal calling to work for positive change in very complex contexts.


I am leaving my family, my colleagues, and my home for a month for a Social Innovation Residency, and want to share my social innovation journey with you.  I believe that you and I are alike, we care about the future of the Earth, our society, our pursuit of happiness.  The first and second post will discuss two elements of that journey: 1) the change happening within me and 2) the exploration of change around me. 


Our experiences root the most prominent joys and traumas in our lives resulting in a perspective on the world and its potential future. The foundation of this perspective begins in our journeys as children and rooted in intergenerational experiences, where we learn about ourselves and the world around us. Recently my first child turned one, as a new father I began to realize that I wanted him to have similar and different experiences than I did growing up.  I wanted what many parents before me wanted, to be give him a better future.  

This moment re-activated many of the hopes and dreams I yearned for growing up as a dreamer, optimist and hopeless romantic. It accentuated the need for me to be a better human, not only for my work in the world, not only for my son and family, but most importantly for myself - a desire I have held most my life.  I needed to become my best-self and the person I think I am.  It was now or never, because I wouldn’t be able to hide from my son and I couldn’t keep hiding from myself.  

“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor”

- Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer

The first step in my social innovation journey was approaching the foundation of my humanity: Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do I get there? (Deep stuff, I know.)

The Social Innovation Residency program is “carefully designed for change makers, people called to solve complex and important problems… that’s why we focus this experience along two parallel journeys: the inner, personal journey and the external, outer journey of our work.” See diagram from Social Innovation Residency curriculum:


I am finally learning how to invite this journey of self-discovery, vulnerability, and growth into a daily practice through the following:

Wisdom: One of my first contacts in London has become a mentor and advisor and said to me “Having a child doesn’t change your mission, it enhances it” - which meant for me: I am still myself, and it is time to be a better self. I have opened myself to new wisdom to exercise this desire: Indigenous knowledge, Getting to Maybe: How the World is Change, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Essentialism, Good to Great, etc.

Ego to Eco Symposium: This event exposed me to the importance of the self in the system by learning about Theory U (worth the 10 min read). These two days were a catalyst to this journey!

Mental Health: Meditation, and resulting mindfulness, has been huge for me through Apps like Headspace and Calm. They are like gym memberships for the mind.

Physical Health: Working out with a friend, a membership at the YMCA, and running group have all contributed to a renewed focus.  This resulted in me completing a 10k run last weekend which was a goal I had set in 2012.

Growth mindset: My closest friends are those who share the desire to challenge ourselves to be better human beings.  Alongside this, I have family and colleagues that provide incredible support and encouragement that refresh my confidence to keep going.

Hardest part:  Facing my biggest weaknesses and my biggest traumas.  Through this, I am discovering the strongest love for self, resulting in acceptance that is experienced as a calmness within the emotional turbulence that surrounds me.  I have learned to stand still and witness the burning forest around me. In that stillness, combined with acceptance, I am attempting forgive that pain.  This is helping the fire subside and I am gaining a great appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me. Literally, my senses are heightened and the world feels like it is in High Definition!

“And the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Eliot via Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed

I have felt like I wanted to make a difference since I was young and have followed that calling among many paths during my lifetime.  I am here again, and it feels new, it feels powerful, it feels like I am on the threshold of facing the impossible… and I am not alone.

by Andre Vashist


In the next chapter of this journey, Andre will be sharing his project and desire to influence systems.

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