Social Innovation




The Lab finds innovative solutions to act on issues that concern First Nations youth.


The Lab seeks innovative solutions to address the issues facing First Nations youth. At the crossroads of the bottom-up and top-down approaches, the Lab takes action from a systemic change perspective by implementing innovative indigenization processes based on the needs of youth and its partners.

Did you know that…?

Innovation is not always about creating something new. It sometimes involves re-examining our old ways of doing things and applying them to the new situation.

Murray Sinclair, first indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba and second in Canada. Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The definition of innovation in indigenization

Why social innovation in indigenization? Here is the definition developed by the youth.

“The resilience of First Nations is tangible evidence of our capacity for innovation. Despite the roots of the colonialist system and the fruits of neocolonialism which continue to denature our present – and especially that of our youth – solidarity and hospitality are still very much alive within our communities and in urban areas. Constant progress is readily observable, although systemic discrimination, poverty, and difficulties in accessing health, education, and housing are undesirable conditions, standing in the way of self-determination like huge tree stump.

Despite the persistent lack of representation, cultural changes, and intergenerational traumas, which represent the uneven rocks to be polished to pursue the collective development of First Nations, better days for the next seven generations are on Mother Earth’s horizon. Our great artistic and cultural talents now have platforms and promontories to advocate for the future of our youth. Economic development is accelerating. Bridges are being rebuilt between communities and within nations, cities, and towns. With their strengths, First Nations are contributing in their own way in all areas of society.

Overcoming the vestige of prejudice, stereotypes and exclusion, innovation in indigenization provides this fertile ground to make new solutions blossom and be harvested by and for First Nations, especially their youth. Innovation in indigenization is also a means of reseeding ancestral values, practices, and knowledge into the furrows of the existing system. As was stated by the Honourable Murray Sinclair, the first Aboriginal judge appointed in Manitoba and the second in Canada, and the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Innovation is not always about creating something new. It sometimes involves re-examining our old ways of doing things and bringing them into the new context”.

Innovation in indigenization uses decolonial thinking to understand today’s issues differently.
But above all, it reflects an innovation of emancipatory proposals. It allows us to move towards greater equity and strengthens the identity and pride of First Nations.

Innovation in indigenization is essentially oriented towards systemic transformations. It acts not only on the symptoms, but also – and more importantly – on the root causes of the issues. Of course, it takes care of the healing; but only if this path also implies intervening on the phenomena at the root of the erosion, and not merely fixing or slowing down the deterioration.

From a self-governance perspective, First Nations are up to the task of making the changes necessary to extend the forest of wellness to their members, families, and communities, wherever they may be located. They confidently assert that leadership is their hands, and they are recognized as leaders. They kindly take up the challenge of innovation in a self-driven and inclusive way to build a collaboration based on mutual listening and open-mindedness with the peoples who coexist with them on Mother Earth.

The Two-Eyed Seeing Approach

The Lab applies a two-eyed seeing approach that further expands the horizon of possibilities by drawing on both Indigenous and Western knowledge and practices. From this perspective, social innovation becomes a process that leverages the strengths of both Aboriginal and Western ways of learning.

The Values and Principles Framework

The Lab is based on a framework of values and principles, also defined by an all-youth group:

The portrait
of youth

The Lab has drawn an initial portrait of First Nations youth from a two-eyed perspective. To do this, the stakeholders were asked to share the information that their organizations hold and their observations about the Lab’s target audience. They were asked about the strengths, challenges, needs, and aspirations of youth. Data from studies and research, as well as observations and experiential feelings, were included into the portrait, which therefore does not claim to be scientific or even exhaustive.

Despite all the diversity, it is important for the Lab to have this initial image that will become the focus of its activities. The Lab was created for and with the youth, and this creation is only the beginning; it will be updated regularly to see how much progress is being made.

Given all the diversity that makes up youth, even if only in terms of age, drawing that portrait was a challenge. Therefore, four age groups have been documented in separate files to take these differences into account:

It is for, by and with this youth that the Laboratory was created.


Overall, we can question the possibility of segmenting the environments in which First Nations youth evolve, from a cultural anchorage point of view. The three categories that emerge are obviously more or less representative and linear, but they reveal all the complexity behind drawing a portrait.


In these environments, identity development is supported by cultural practices that are integrated into daily life. The means available to youth to develop in their culture are valued and they know where to go to develop and recharge their cultural batteries.


In these environments, youth develop and enhance their identity through the cultural practices to which they are occasionally exposed, but the means available to them to flourish in their culture are limited or not valued. They do not really know where to go to develop and recharge their cultural batteries.


In these environments, people have little or no opportunity to be exposed to culture. The means available to them to grow in their culture are almost non-existent or less valued. They do not know where to go to develop and replenish culturally. The Lab finds innovative solutions to address issues facing First Nations youth.

The Laboratory finds innovative solutions to act on the issues that concern First Nations youth.

The Vision

After having participated in the creation of a portrait of First Nations youth, the members of the New Pathways Foundation team and the stakeholders, which included the spokespersons of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Youth Network, contributed to defining the vision of change desired for these young people. The contributors then imagined a world where:

The method

The Lab is a 7-step methodological process: gather, share, imagine, co-create, try, appreciate, and deploy.

The Lab process in 7 steps:

C’est regrouper les partenaires concerné.es: Identifier, inviter et rassembler les parties prenantes dont les savoirs et les expériences sont essentiels pour initier une démarche de laboratoire sur l’enjeu à traiter et établir, avec elles, la gouvernance du processus.

Partager, c’est s’enquérir de l’enjeu: Documenter les forces et les défis de l’engagement de la jeunesse face à l’enjeu à traiter, ainsi que le profil des personnes concernées (personae).

Imaginer, c’est ambitionner un avenir: Formuler une vision de changement en faveur de l’enjeu à traiter, capitalisant sur les forces et libérée des défis actuels.

Cocréer, c’est édifier des solutions: Définir des solutions innovantes permettant d’atteindre la vision de changement, c’est-à-dire de combler l’écart entre la situation d’aujourd’hui et la situation future souhaitée, déterminer les ressources nécessaires et préciser les résultats souhaités, ainsi que des échelles de progression.

Essayer, c’est expérimenter dans l’action: Déployer les innovations à petite échelle, dans des milieux pilotes.

Apprécier, c’est observer les retombées: Mesurer et analyser la progression de la mise en œuvre expérimentale.

Déployer, c’est stimuler la mise en œuvre des solutions: Soutenir l’implantation des innovations, à travers les communautés et les milieux urbains.

Powerful, emancipated and driven, First Nations youth are walking in the paths laid out by their ancestors and opening a horizon of possibilities. Inspired by role models who have achieved their goals, they are making a difference by doing what they love and by bringing their culture to life. They are taking action to achieve harmony between peoples and live in that harmony.

First Nations youth know their history, their culture, their traditions, their language, and their territory. This knowledge allows them to project themselves into the future. Their holistic health is solid, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, which allows them to flourish and accomplish the projects of their choice.

Youth is not only heard; it is listened to.

Youth is not only consulted; it is involved in decision-making.

Youth is not only engaged in youth projects; it is involved in all the decisions that concern them and in society’s projects.

The Identity

The Lab is considered as an essential structure to find innovative solutions that allow addressing issues facing youth. It is distinctive in its ability to bring together stakeholders, mainly among First Nations, who are most likely to contribute to the co-creation of safe and culturally relevant solutions. The Lab’s credibility is also based on the recognition of the relevance, efficiency, and user-friendliness of its operations.

Want to know more about our practices? Contact us and we will tell you more.

The Mission

The Lab seeks innovative solutions to address issues facing First Nations youth. At the crossroads of the bottom-up and top-down approaches, the Lab takes action from a systemic change perspective by implementing innovative indigenization processes based on the needs of youth and its partners.


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