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The Issue: Innovation & Systems change

We’ve all had to adapt multiple times over the past two years and some of us are lucky enough to have the resources to be able to do this. The Driving Innovation cause area is about helping our local social sector adapt and do things differently to meet the complex needs of our community members. It’s about being as effective, efficient, and impactful as possible. It’s about giving community agencies the same chance as other organizations to invest in themselves and innovate and grow. Help to solve problems through technology, build capacity, and bring new programs and partnerships to life to move our community forward.

Innovation & systems change

How we help

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United Way WRC ‘s mission and vision includes contributing to a resilient community that thrives. The need for social services continues to increase, while inflation is pushing costs of running programs to new levels. Today, fewer donors are contributing to what is becoming a growing crisis. With growing need and decreased funding available, this often means lengthy waiting lists for services that disproportionately impact members of our community who have been historically underserved.

Innovative solutions are needed to respond to this crisis and make meaningful strides in our local non-profit sector to increase accessibility to service to meet people where they are, in ways that work best for them; while reducing barriers and addressing deeply ingrained systemic injustices. Investing in the Innovation & Systems Change Fund creates better opportunities to solve problems through investing in cutting edge technology, building workplace capacity, and bringing new programs and partnerships to life.

In 2022, investments in this area include general operating support to the Smart Waterloo Region Innovation lab to support their cutting-edge work on community data and youth empowerment. The YMCA of Three Rivers also launched a 2SLGBTQ+ youth drop-in project in Cambridge as a result of this fund and have now expanded the program out to Kitchener and Waterloo facilities to capitalize on a promising pilot project addressing a gap in service.

Innovation & systems change

Your Impact

The following are examples of impact of your donations from funded organizations and their programs.

  • Smart Waterloo Region Innovation Lab – 1500 students throughout Waterloo Region accessed training in innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration.
  • YMCA of Three Rivers – Youth in the 2SLGBTQ+ program earned 75 volunteer hours during program activities.

In 2022, United Way WRC was thrilled to dedicate funds from The Tomorrow Fund to pilot a 2SLGBTQ+ youth drop-in program with the YMCA of Three Rivers. This program, identified as a community need to foster inclusion and connection in recovery from COVID-19, provided a safe space for vulnerable teens to develop leadership skills and healthy routines, as well as strategies for both physical and mental health and to find a sense of belonging in their community. Youth were able to participate in creating healthy meals on a budget, art, and recreation; develop a strong sense of self-esteem; and share their experiences with peers. This program is continuing to run in the Cambridge community and is now expanding to Kitchener-Waterloo to meet the needs of youth. The YMCA of Three Rivers is known for their teen drop in space, and this new pilot project expanded their programming to a group of teens facing social stigma and discrimination. This pilot program truly represents how valuable donations can support the creation of new and exciting initiatives to build compassionate leaders of tomorrow. 

Innovation & Systems change

Funded partners

Below are the community partners we were able to fund in 2022 that support Innovation & Systems Change.