R&D Infrastructure in the Social Impact Sector: Assessing current R&D needs and infrastructure, and testing models to enhance R&D capacity and support in the social impact sector - ON-169

Preferred Disciplines: Social Sciences (Masters, PhD or Post-Doc)
Company: The McConnell Foundation
Project Length: 4-6 months (1 unit)
Desired start date: October 2018
Location: Ottawa, ON
No. of Positions: 1
Preferences: None

About the Company: 

Incubated by The McConnell Foundation, the Social R&D Fellowship, is a multi-year exploration into the conditions and supports needed to help charities and non-profits research, experiment and develop ideas, well.

  • The Aspiration: Exploit the lessons of the Fellowship’s last 3-years to build an organization that rapidly increases civil society and the public sector's ability to generate impactful innovations.
  • Essential Reading: History of the Social R&D Fellowship (available on the Social Innovation Generation website)
  • Team: Distributed team of freelancers, in-kind contributors and community members obsessed with doing better than linear returns.
    • R&D Lead: Supriya Syal
    • Brand Refresh: Ian Capstick
    • Advocacy: Social R&D Community
    • Operations & Research Associate: Gina Babinec
    • Strategy, Community Curation & Team Lead: Jason Pearman
  • Partners: The Fellowship would like to thank the following Canadian organizations that have seen the potential for social R&D and have offered significant support: McConnell Foundation, SiG, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada, Saputo Foundation, Wasan Partnership, Employment and Social Development Canada, Social Sciences Humanities Research Council, Toronto Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Ottawa Community Foundation, and United Way Centraide Canada.

Project Description:

Despite the existence of pockets of deep expertise, there is not broad R&D capacity and talent in the social impact sector. Contributing factors include program based funding mechanisms, limited talent influx and partnerships with other sectors, among others.

The goal of this project is to explore different models to increase R&D capacity and supports for the sector. This includes examining current approaches to R&D, research on best practices for R&D supports (given the nuances of the social mission space), and testing a few distinct R&D support and capacity building models/interventions to arrive at solutions that can increase impactful R&D in Canada’s social impact sector. 

Research Objectives:

Conduct research and testing to uncover impactful R&D support strategies and tactics to support the growth of the R&D infrasturcture and capacity in the Social Impact Sector

  • Work with a subset of organizations in the Canadian Social R&D community to distill current practices among organizations with high R&D throughput
  • Undertake research to distill best practices for impactful R&D that draw from existing methods within the sector, as well as extant and ongoing work on the evaluation of R&D practices, as well as how to practice R&D better, in academia and other research environments.
  • Undertake research to derive a series of R&D support models for the sector (eg. coaching, partnerships with other sectors, internships etc)
  • Conduct a series of tests to examine and provide evidence for which R&D support models are best suited to specific types of organizations, mission spaces, and needs within the sector


The candidate can propose ways in which these goals can be achieved.

Expertise and Skills Needed:

    • High-level of comfort with qualitative and quantitative research methods.
    • Comfortable working with standard ‘social’ platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack, Mailchimp, etc.

    For more info or to apply to this applied research position, please

    1. Check your eligibility and find more information about open projects
    2. Interested students need to get the approval from their supervisor and send their CV along with a link to their supervisor’s university webpage to Dan Madularu.