By Julianne Kelso

On February 27, the Social Innovation Research Group held a groundbreaking conference in Taipei, Taiwan that brought together guests from diverse fields within the local social enterprise community. The SIRG symposium was held to discuss the ways in which success in social enterprise can be achieved and measured, as well as how to coordinate the social enterprise community in order to achieve maximum impact in society. The symposium was organized by the Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG), which was founded in September of 2012 by four recent graduates of the University of Toronto: Melinda Jacobs, Remi Kanji, Reza Mirza, and Wendy Pan. Their work is sponsored in part by the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto, and also supported by the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Canada Research Chairs program.

These young Canadians have spent the last six months completing field research in Taiwan and its surrounding Asian countries by interviewing founders of local non-profit organizations and social enterprises, academics, and government officials. SIRG’s research and their recent symposium are all a part of their mission to create collaborative and coordinated local and transnational communities of social innovation. The discussions and presentations at the symposium were a culmination of their field work over the past year, and included topics such as how social enterprises can measure and balance “doing well” financially and “doing good” in society, how to mobilize youth in the new economy, and the value of local grassroots social entrepreneurship. Asian Institute Director Joseph Wong, who has served as an advisor to the researchers, flew to Taiwan to attend the symposium, and was impressed with the results: “The discussion was free-flowing yet disciplined; it was clear we all wanted to leave the symposium knowing that we had moved the social entrepreneurship agenda forward.”

The symposium was well attended by members of the local community who all shared an interest in social enterprise. “It was a full house, and a lot of great ideas and insights were brought to light,” said Melinda Jacobs, noting that the attendance was higher than she and her fellow SIRG members had anticipated. “I think the symposium and the contacts made at the event may help people view themselves and their organization as part of a broader community rather than isolated, specific experiences. We spend so much time caught in our own problems – I think it was nice for everyone to hear how {problems are} perceived and dealt with by others, and what room there might be to solve shared problems together.”

The symposium’s White Papers are available to download at