Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country juxtaposed against some of the wealthiest. Weakened by the stress of abject poverty, Vancouver’s Inner City is under pressure from private development and is struggling to withstand the forces of gentrification and displacement. To reduce these pressures, Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU partnered up to explore alternative types of economic development. Local economies in particular have the potential to revitalize the social and cultural health of Inner City neighbourhoods.
The Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab) was a place-based initiative that generated, implemented, and scaled innovative community-designed and -driven ideas for a vibrant and inclusive local economy in Vancouver’s Inner City. Delivered by Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU, the Lab was designed to help community organizations, local governments, and civil society work together to drive forward implementation of the community economic development policies set forth in the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.
We worked with community stakeholders to identify current challenges and potential solutions, then applied them in a rapid prototyping/assessment model. The Lab aimed to provide 30 paid, full-time internship opportunities over three years for graduate students from across the country to supply research and prototyping support. By documenting and sharing our work – both successes and failures – we hope to advance the fields of social innovation and economic development.RADIUS SFU and Ecotrust Canada committed three years, 2015-2018, to stimulating community economic development in Vancouver’s Inner City. RADIUS (RADical Ideals Useful to Society) is a social innovation lab and venture incubator based at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. Formed to help SFU and BC step forward as leaders in building the new economy, RADIUS’s mandate is to strengthen impact-focused businesses and the ecosystem that supports them, develop and test new ideas for an economy that prioritizes people and planet, and build a path of emerging social economy leaders.