Social Innovation

View of a mountain valley

Thriving Under Rapid Change

Social innovation is integrated into every aspect of our lives in the Kootenay region. Our social science-focused research is diverse, including rural economic development, climate change and adaptation, housing, homelessness, regional capacity building, innovations in teaching and learning, Indigenous-led research and 21st-century workforce development. 

We are increasingly faced with unique challenges and conditions of rapid change in the world we live in today. This especially rings true for those of us who call a rural place home. The question we ask ourselves every day at Selkirk Innovates is, “How do we foster resilience in our rural region?" It stretches across all of our areas of research.

Resilient Communities

The work we do in response to this question is meant to find solutions focused on human capacity, technology and social innovation, and infrastructure and services, so our rural places stay vibrant, and we are able to deal with increased rapid change while holding on to the values we hold dear.

 Our team includes the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development. Our work is focused on applied research in rural community resilience that starts at the community level but strengthens the region as a whole. The projects we take on are a response to the specific needs of our region. 

Selkirk Innovates' social science activities take place at the Applied Research and Innovation Centre (ARIC).

Research Spotlight

State of the Basin

The State of the Basin initiative monitors and reports on indicators of social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being in the Columbia Basin-Boundary Region. State of the Basin research is conducted by Selkirk Innovates and funded by Columbia Basin Trust.

The primary goal of the State of the Basin initiative is to provide access to data that Columbia Basin-Boundary communities and organizations can use to support evidence-based decision-making, leading to improved well-being in the region. Four objectives support this goal:

  • Inform citizens and organizations about the people, natural environment, communities and economy of the region by providing access to accurate, credible and timely information.
  • Encourage understanding of complex issues and trends over time, including future projections when possible.
  • Signal whether conditions are similar or different within the region, and compared to other areas, to highlight and celebrate areas of achievement and to identify significant issues, ideally before they become critical.
  • Motivate discussion, information sharing, strategic evidence-based decisions and collective action.
The State of the Basin initiative provides multiple resources.
  • A website: easy access to over 50 indicators of well-being for the Columbia Basin-Boundary Region.
  • Community profiles: summaries of community-specific State of the Basin data.
  • Snapshot reports: annual, graphic summaries of State of the Basin research.
  • Subjective well-being reports: results of a poll of Columbia Basin-Boundary residents focused on perceptions and behaviours.
  • Focus newsletter: a monthly e-newsletter highlighting State of the Basin indicators.
  • Remote data provision support: one-on-one support to provide State of the Basin research for use by your organization of initiative.
Economic development resources for communities

Economic development is consistently a top priority for communities.

Selkirk Innovates Resources

Exploring Options for Local Economic Development Delivery Models
This project responded to the questions of what models of local economic development exist, and explored different factors that influence success. Read the report.

Have an Idea for an Economic Development Research Project?
The Selkirk Innovates team is here to help, support and collaborate with communities. Connect with us to discuss your research ideas and needs.

Other Economic Development Resources

Economic Development Asset Network Map
Want to connect with local economic development professionals? The EDPN Economic Development Asset Map is a data-driven, interactive inventory system that provides information about key economic planning personnel within the Economic Development Practitioners network, as well as within the Kootenay/Boundary region.

Visit the map.

Selkirk Innovates is a member of the regional Economic Development Practitioners Network and is proudly featured on the map.

Addressing Rural Labour Shortages through Newcomer Attraction

(In collaboration with the University of Guelph; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; and the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation

This project askes the question: How can rural communities attract, support and retain new community members to help address rural workforce gaps and strengthen rural communities?

The project has five objectives:

  • To examine and evaluate innovative rural workforce strategies, plans and policies to address current and future labour gaps.
  • To conduct in-depth case studies to examine the key catalysts for success and continuation of innovative rural workforce strategies.
  • To provide insights for future policies and/or programs to support rural workforce development.
  • To facilitate knowledge translation and transfer to key stakeholders.
  • To deliver capacity building and skill-set development for students.

Check out the project findings.

“Viewpoints” on Reconciliation: Indigenous Perspectives for Post-Secondary Education in the Southern Interior of BC

In 2020, Selkirk Innovates was successful in securing a Community College Innovations grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This grant was used to conduct research to find out how post-secondary institutions can support reconciliation within our region. The result is the Viewpoints report.

Viewpoints presents diverse Indigenous community perspectives regarding the efforts needed to enable systemic change toward reconciliation within a public post-secondary educational institution in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. 

The main research question for this project was, “How does a community college respectfully engage in reconciliation through education with the First Nations and Métis communities in the traditional territories in which it operates?” 

This research was realized by a team of six Indigenous researchers, representing distinct Indigenous Nations within the region: the Sinixt (Lakes), the Syilx (Okanagan), the Ktunaxa and the Metis Nation of BC.

It offers Indigenous perspectives, insights, and recommendations that can help guide post-secondary education toward systemic change. This research project was Indigenous-led within an Indigenous research paradigm and done in collaboration with multiple communities throughout the Southern Interior region of British Columbia. 

Read the report.

Housing resources for communities

Housing is a fast-growing challenge. Differences in demographic trends and housing stock mean that housing issues look different across rural communities. There are many existing housing resources that can help communities build on their housing needs assessments. Below are key resources that may be of assistance.

Selkirk Innovates Resources

State of the Basin: Regional Housing Indicators
The State of the Basin is home to many up-to-date analyzed data indicators, including seven related to housing:
2021 Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Applied Research Housing Project
As part of the Building Rural Economic Development Capacity Project, Selkirk Innovates completed four reports exploring housing in the Kootenay Boundary:

Have an Idea for a Housing Research Project?

Other Key Housing Resources

Columbia Basin Trust

University of Northern British Columbia – Community Development Institute
Provincial Government Resources
BC Healthy Communities Society 
Remote Controlled: The Impacts of Disruptive Technologies in the Canadian Mining Sector 

(In collaboration with the University of Waterloo)

Remote Controlled is a study that seeks to understand the ways technology is changing how the mining industry works in Canada. 

  • What are the emerging technologies that are disrupting the mining sector in Canada?
  • How is work changing as a result of these technologies and what drives the adoption within the mining sector?
  • How are mining communities impacted by these changes? 

These are the key questions driving the research towards a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities present as the Canadian mining sector enters an age of disruption.

Remote Controlled will look at four case study regions: Newfoundland and Labrador; Northern Ontario; the Kootenays in British Columbia; and the Yukon. Phase one is focused on identifying the technologies being developed and used in each of the case study regions. Phase two will focus on developing an understanding of how the Canadian mining industry is adopting disruptive technology. Phase three will focus on understanding of social and economic impacts as a result of technological changes. 

The Columbia Basin Climate Source

This website, developed in partnership with Columbia Basin Trust, is a one-stop source for climate change data and impacts information that is relevant to the Columbia Basin and Boundary regions. This climate information and resource tool is here to help to strengthen the adaptive capacity of rural communities in our region. 

The website includes Community Climate Profiles for municipalities and First Nations in our region; impact assessments of our environment, quality of life, economy, and infrastructure; case-studies of how regional organizations and businesses are taking climate action; and climate science learning modules.

Visit the Columbia Basin Climate Source.


Columbia Basin Trust logo
Columbia River Treaty Socio-economic Performance Measures

The construction and operation of dams associated with the Columbia River Treaty has had an immense impact on communities in the Columbia Basin. Negotiations to modernize the treaty are currently underway between Canada and the United States. In collaboration with the Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee, Selkirk Innovates is assessing and revising a set of performance measures that can be used to understand socioeconomic conditions affected by management of treaty reservoirs.

The performance measures will inform a modeling process that aims to evaluate how US proposals for treaty changes will impact the interests of Basin communities, and explores how the treaty can be modernized to increase flexibility and improve conditions in BC. Selkirk Innovate’s involvement in this project runs from August 2021 to July 2022. 

Get for more information.

Applied research at the Teaching & Learning Centre

The Teaching & Learning Centre does a variety of projects in collaboration with Selkirk Innovates. Currently, their faculty and students are involved in three applied research projects related to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Work Integrated Learning Hub Project

Selkirk College was funded by the Province of BC for the Work Integrated Learning Hub project. This grant provided course releases to instructors in eight schools to implement pilot projects related to work integrated learning. Guided by the Education Division and Selkirk Innovates, WIL School Facilitators will learn from each other and work collaboratively to share their learning with other instructors at Selkirk College.

According to previous research, there are common gaps in curriculum related to WIL, leaving many WIL students lacking in key work-readiness criteria on graduation. This has implications for the quality assurance, evaluation, and design of work-integrated learning placements. Using Smith, Ferns and Russel’s six curriculum gaps and six domains of employability as a framework, the proposed research will assess the impacts of the Selkirk WIL Hub project on WIL in the region. The research will include a student survey (pre and post school project intervention where possible) and interviews with WIL School Facilitators about their WIL Hub projects.

Pivoting to Inclusion: Designing Ancillary Open Educational Resources in a Collaborative Cross-institutional Environment

From 2020 to 2022, Theresa Southam, the Teaching & Learning Centre coordinator at Selkirk College, along with College of the Rockies, will implement and measure the effect of Hockings (2010) Principles of Inclusion for 4–6 Open Education Resources (OER), asking:

  • What difference does the application of inclusion principles make to instructional design when instructors are designing and using ancillary OER in an online environment?
  • Do students perceive ancillary OER (e.g., videos, podcasts, formative assessments, collaborative peer-based learning, and homework) in an online environment as inclusive, and if so, how? If not, why not?
  • If staff are asked to make institutional changes to be more inclusive in the online environment, how do they react? What is their perception of the importance of the principles of inclusion?

According to Theresa, students utilizing the open educational resources (OER) in this research project will be asked to reflect on the inclusive nature of OER in their course (e.g., the original intention and their perception of the success of inclusivity or the lack thereof) so that the research pays attention not only to principles of inclusion from the research, but to the voices of students.

Academic Integrity

The Teaching and Learning Centre is creating an effective learning community at Selkirk College with academic integrity as the foundation. Academic integrity is defined “as a commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.”[^1]. It is important for Selkirk College students, faculty, staff, and researchers to uphold the values of academic integrity to maintain “value and credibility.” To this end, Selkirk College has assembled an Academic Integrity Task Force to conduct research on the student experience, to create an institutional education campaign, and to provide recommendations for improving Selkirk College Policy #8618: Cheating and Plagiarism.
[^1]: International Center for Academic Integrity (2014). The Fundamentals of Academic Integrity. Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) 


Courageous Dialogues: Moving Beyond Polarization

Communities in BC, like many around the world, are today deeply divided around a multitude of social and political issues. Public opinion seems to be polarizing, and the moderate middle ground is shrinking. There is a tendency to greater close-mindedness, more fear of “the other” and less willingness to interact with anyone holding different beliefs. Politics has become as much about identities as it is about issues and policies. This social dynamic threatens our individual and collective wellbeing and also impedes collaboration on vitally important issues – e.g., COVID, racial justice, climate change – at a time when we most need to come together to deliberate carefully, problem-solve, and seek solutions.

This research will bring together three BC post-secondary institutions and partnering local non-profits to

  1. Gauge the level of polarization within selected sites in our communities.
  2. Identify a variety of capacities necessary to transcend polarization.
  3. Determine what tangible and intangible supports (interventions, skill development, tools etc.) we can provide to offer to help people in our communities come together in greater understanding.
  4. Adapt/develop, field test, and evaluate effective, replicable, context-sensitive tools/methods that can build the skills and attitudes necessary to bridge our differences. Building on existing research and practice we will be able to apply this learning to realms where important (and sometimes divisive) work is underway in our institutions and organizations (e.g., equity, diversity and inclusion). We will innovate by adapting what already exists, developing anew, and applying our own critical evaluation to create practical tools for helping bridge invisible social gaps in our communities, before they grow wider.

Our research will ultimately make space for, and invite participation from, the diverse voices and perspectives that are needed to co-create inclusive, equitable solutions to the challenges we face.

Learn more about Courageous Dialogues: Moving Beyond Polarization.

Past Projects

Digital Readiness: An Evaluation of Rural Broadband Delivery Models in British Columbia

This project occurred from May 2021 to May 2022.

Focused on better understanding rural connectivity, this project is identifying and exploring the different pathways that local governments can take to improve connectivity in their communities. 

The main objective of this project is to identify, interpret, and evaluate existing approaches to connectivity in rural British Columbia. This will be accomplished by developing a classification system for the existing approaches, as well as an evaluation method to assess the range of factors contributing to the successes and challenges of each approach. Both the classification system and the evaluation method will be tested and refined by identifying and evaluating two existing examples. 

These evaluations will highlight the impact and effectiveness of different connectivity approaches and are intended to be used as a guide by local governments in decision-making processes related to improving connectivity. 

Read the project reports.

Building Rural Economic Development Capacity
Funded by the Province of BC’s Rural Dividend Fund in 2019, the Local Government Economic Development Research and Capacity Building program is a regional-scale economic development initiative focused on business attraction, land development and economic resilience. A total of $500,000 from the Province of BC was matched with $250,000 from Columbia Basin Trust and the Regional Districts of East Kootenay, Central Kootenay, and Kootenay Boundary. The Regional District of Central Kootenay applied on behalf of partners. Selkirk Innovates is administering the program on behalf of the collaborative partnership. The program includes training, student internship opportunities and direct research to support local government economic development decision-making. 
Research and Strategy 
  • Readiness assessments were conducted, and strategic priorities are being set focused on the themes of business attraction, land development and economic resilience – including planning workshops and the development of nine sub-regional economic resilience plans in partnership with Simon Fraser University and Community Futures of Central Kootenay. In addition, Regional Districts are now working with Selkirk Innovates to address their priority research needs through student internship projects. 
  • Completed research includes investigations of rural insurance, housing, employment lands, and investment readiness.
    • One example of a completed project is Exploring Options for Local Economic Development Delivery Models (August 2021). The Regional District of East Kootenay approached Selkirk Innovates to conduct a research project exploring the current approach to service delivery and to research alternative options. The goals of this study were to 1) identify and explore the potential and suitability of models of local economic development; 2) identify and understand needs and ideas related to the current Columbia Valley Economic Development Advisory Commission approach; and based on #1 and #2, provide evidence-based advice to the Regional District of East Kootenay. 
Access the project materials


BC Chapter: State of Rural Canada #4

The fourth edition of the State of Rural Canada aims to illuminate rural opportunities, recovery and resilience in the dynamic conditions, before, during and after the COVID-19 crisis. 

Led by the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, the goal of the report is to share information with rural communities, practitioners and policy-makers to promote recovery efforts that contribute to long-term rural resilience. 

The BC Chapter, written in collaboration between Selkirk College (Sarah-Patricia Breen) and UBCO (Danielle Robinson) includes examples of trends, challenges, and opportunities facing rural BC. The chapter also speaks to the response to an ongoing recovery from COVID-19 across rural BC, as well as looking to the future of rural BC.

Read the report.

Building Our Region’s Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change

Since 2014, Selkirk Innovates has been engaged in applied research related to community climate adaptation. Through funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we have been working on a project with nine local governments to support climate adaptation through regional-scale action and collaborative learning. Running from 2019 to 2021, the project has three main objectives:

1.  Identify municipal climate vulnerabilities

  • Measure adaptation progress in six case study municipalities using the State of Climate Adaptation and Resilience in the Basin (SoCARB) indicator suite. SoCARB assesses adaptation actions in relation to climate changes and associated community/environmental impacts.
  • Produce six case study assessments to
    • generate detailed climate and hydrological projections to identify the specific risks each municipality faces and 
    • measure performance of past action to identify remaining vulnerabilities
  • Compile results with those from the 2016-2018 pilots to generate a regional perspective on priority vulnerabilities.

2. Enhance municipal capacity specific to common adaptation themes and priority vulnerabilities

  • Convene a Regional Adaptation Network (RAN) focused on the priority vulnerabilities. The network will include representation from case study and pilot municipalities, and engage partner organizations and additional stakeholders where appropriate
  • Host ongoing RAN meetings to:
    • facilitate peer learning and cross-jurisdictional collaborations
    • engage external experts to provide training and 
    • implement projects that reduce priority vulnerabilities and overcome common barriers to action
  • Provide a 'seed fund ' for the RAN to initiate action-focused projects
  • Host an open-invitation Learning Summit to build capacity by providing training and facilitating collaborative action around bigger-picture adaptation issues.

3. Advance regional-scale response to climate change

  • Work via the RAN to link and leverage municipal action
  • Coordinate community-scale activities to avoid duplication and promote efficient use of resources
  • Mobilize project knowledge throughout the region (and beyond)

Partners include: the Regional District of East KootenayRegional District of Central Kootenay, Regional District of Kootenay BoundaryCity of KimberleyCity of RosslandVillage of SilvertonCity of NelsonCity of CranbrookTown of GoldenSimon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change TeamColumbia Basin Trust and Climate Resilience Consulting

Read the project deliverables.

Community-Led Land Use Management

This study, undertaken with and for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, responded to demands from multiple sectors for more careful planning and management of land use in wilderness areas and on other public lands in BC. Specifically, the goals of the project were to help Yellowstone to Yukon better understand:

  • How communities in the Upper Columbia region may be able to influence, within existing legal and policy frameworks, how the lands surrounding them are used and managed; and
  • How communities can be ready to engage in a modernized land use process led by the provincial government if/when that opportunity arises.

The project took place over the spring, summer and fall of 2021.

Read the project deliverables.