The 20 innovative projects with social and environmental impact selected to join our 2024 cohort are announced!
The Call for Projects is now closed
The Civic Incubator: what makes it unique?👇
Hugo Steben — Director of Capacity Building & Incubation — and Sarah Abarro — Incubation Programs Coordinator — explain how the Civic Incubator is a unique support program for anyone wishing to kickstart a social entrepreneurship project or social and environmental initiative.
From your project’s design to its validation to its preparation for deployment, you will have access to the collective expertise of the cohort’s mentors and coaches, project leaders, and guest speakers. Together, we will maximize the impact of your project!
Why take part in the Civic Incubator program?
- Because your personal experience of an issue or an injustice compels you to take action by investing in a social and/or environmental impact project that addresses it;
- Because a positive impact project has been taking shape in your mind, and the helping hand of the Civic Incubator provides a perfect opportunity to move from idea to impact;
- Because you feel the need to be challenged in order to move forward;
- Because you want to contribute positively and collectively to the social and ecological transition, even as you develop your confidence and your full potential as an agent of change;
- Because you want to expand your network and join a community of change agents who are as motivated as you are and who are ready to share their knowledge and perspectives.
The Civic Incubator supports projects that:
target an initial deployment on a territory of the Montreal agglomeration (neighbourhood, city, or group of cities);
are innovative (i.e., they differ from existing solutions or address a blind spot in perceptions of the problem);
are at the design, validation, pre-start-up and pre-launch stage (for details, see question #6 of the FAQ); and
are realistic and feasible (financially, technically, legally, etc.) above and beyond their ambitious nature.
have a potential for positive socio-environmental impact relating to one or more of the following themes:
- the basic needs of individuals within a community (e.g., housing, food security, health, education)
- diversity, inclusion, and the battle against systemic discrimination
- strengthening the social fabric within a community and encouraging collective action
- the fight against climate change and the regeneration of natural ecosystems (flora, fauna, water, air, and soil)
Photo credit: Julien Cadena
What does a social and environmental impact project look like?
And what can you expect from your experience in the Civic Incubator? Check out the initiatives and perspective of recent cohort winners in the videos below and on the pages of past cohorts.
Who can submit a proposal to the Call for Projects?
The Call for Projects is open to: Individuals – Collectives – Small non-profit organizations – Social entrepreneurs
Above all, the Call for Projects seeks people from every walk of life—people who are motivated by the idea of having a positive socio-environmental impact and who recognize that exchanging ideas with others presents an invaluable opportunity to magnify the impact of their work.
The FAQ discusses specific eligibility criteria and provides answers to many questions. Check it out here.
Here are ways in which we can assist you in the application process.
- Start your application today. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the process, identify areas of your proposal that need work, and prepare your questions (if any) so that we can better guide you.
- Reserve your place for one of the virtual information sessions. The Civic Incubator team will introduce you to the program and answer any questions you may have. Please note that the number of places is limited in order to facilitate discussion. Register now for one of the following dates:
> (Tuesday 19 September between 12 noon and 1 p.m. – session expired)
> Tuesday 3 October between 4pm and 5pm
> Thursday 19 October between 4pm and 5pm
> Wednesday 25 October between 12 noon and 1 p.m.
- Meet Civic Incubator alumni! If you’re trying to figure out whether the Civic Incubator is the place to develop your social-innovation concept, here’s your chance to meet people who have completed the program and created an impact project. Register now:
> Wednesday, September 27 between 1 pm and 2 pm (in collaboration with the Tamarack Institute). Please note that the event will be in French, with simultaneous translation into English.
> Wednesday, October 11 between noon and 1 pm – Special meeting with three Civic Incubator alumni, Luce Vallières, Melania Grozdanoska and Jonathan Tremblay (online event, hosted by the Civic Incubator team)
- Contact Sarah Abarro, our incubation programme coordinator, at any time during the Call for Projects. She’ll answer your questions and ensure that you have everything you need. You can reach her via email or by phone:
- EARLY BIRD TRACK ⏰ 🐓 Are you a procrastinator? Take advantage of the Early Bird Programme! As part of the Call for Projects, MIS will offer individual coaching sessions of one hour to the first 15 teams that submit their applications by October 5th. These “early birds” will benefit from strategic advice from our innovation and social entrepreneurship team well in advance of the October 29th deadline. This will allow you to move your project forward and, if necessary, revise your application.
Photo credit: Youssef Shoufan
Frequently asked questions
The Civic Incubator is an MIS training and coaching program for project leaders who are seeking to develop their capacity to deploy innovative projects with high potential for positive social and environmental impact.
Winners take part in a free five-month coaching program designed to help them take their projects from the ideation stage to the pilot-project stage—to a point at which the projects is mature enough that they can develop partnerships and start operations.
The MIS is currently overseeing its sixth call for projects of the Civic Incubator. To date, the program has contributed to the emergence of multiple projects and initiatives. To see examples of previous incubated projects, visit the page of all winning projects. You can also visit the “news” section of our website to learn about the experiences of selected Civic Incubator alumni.
The people who are best placed to understand and address a socio-environmental issue—the people with the best ideas—do not necessarily have access to the tools that will allow them to successfully carry out their solution.
All too often, citizen projects with a social or environmental impact falter at the starting line. A variety of obstacles can stand between an idea and its realization:
- a lack of knowledge and skills to structure and carry out a credible project which is likely to be supported by different stakeholders (public institutions, donors, investors, support organizations);
- a lack of access to networks of influential agents and potential partners;
- a lack of access to resources needed to carry out the project; and
- more personal barriers, such as impostor syndrome or fear of failure, which can hold people back from exploring their potential as innovators.
These obstacles can have several consequences, including:
- the abandonment of projects with great potential;
- the persistence or worsening of social and environmental problems; and
- the burnout, discouragement, or disengagement of the project’s leaders.
The MIS developed the Civic Incubator for change agents whose ideas deserve support.
Read the news of a conversation with Hugo and Sarah, two members of the Civic Incubator team who will work with you if your project is selected.
To be eligible to submit a project, each team must:
- be composed of one or two project leaders who are at least 18 years old and are Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or temporary residents (please note that while more than two people can be part of a project, a maximum of two can participate in the program);
- be available to devote between 7 and 10 hours of work each week throughout the five-month program;
- be able to follow and contribute to a group conversation in French. Because the Civic Incubator program is currently offered primarily in French, the ability to communicate verbally in French and understand French text are prerequisites. The program coaches are bilingual in French and English, however, and individual sessions can be conducted in either language, according to your preference ; and
- have access to a a good Internet connection and a computer with a webcam.
Further, to be considered eligible, a project must:
- have the potential for positive socio-environmental impact relating to one or more of the following themes:
– the basic needs of individuals within a community (e.g., housing, food security, health, education)
– diversity, inclusion, and the fight against systemic discrimination
– strengthening the social fabric within a community and collective action
– the fight against climate change and the regeneration of natural ecosystems (flora, fauna, water, air, and soil);
- target an initial deployment on a territory of the Montreal agglomeration (district, city, or group of cities);
- be at the pre-launch stage (i.e., the project leader is seeking to develop and validate their vision of the project) or recently launched stage (i.e. the project leader wishes to carry out a proof of concept, prototype, or pilot project);
- be innovative (i.e., differ from existing solutions or address a blind spot in perceptions of the problem it addresses); and
- have great potential for positive impact (i.e., the project is expected to have a high impact on a large number of people and to contribute to solving the causes of a problem rather than focusing solely on its effects).
No. Experience has taught us, however, that working in pairs in the Civic Incubator has numerous benefits. It makes it easier for participants to deepen their thinking about their project. It enhances their ability to carry out the work that is proposed to them. It enables them to combine their respective experiences, knowledge (theoretical, activist, professional, etc.) and talents, to better reveal their blind spots and allows them to support each other in case of difficulty or unexpected absence. It also prepares the way for the sharing of responsibilities during the project’s eventual deployment. Where the Civic Incubator’s program is concerned, two heads really are better than one!
Thus, without being a mandatory criterion for applying, applications that include two leaders will be considered positively.
Please note that while more than two people can be part of a project, a maximum of two can participate in the program.
A few suggestions…
If you’d like to participate in the Civic Incubator with a partner, but haven’t yet found one…
- Talk about your project to people around you who share your concerns and your desire to change things.
- Clearly establish the criteria you’re looking for in a partner, such as complementary skills, a high level of availability and motivation, and a similar vision of the project.
- Share your call for contribution on the Passerelles platform and/or on the relevant regional groups (e.g., citizen groups) of your social networks.
In addition to helping you find a partner, these steps will allow you to practice “pitching” your project and test your idea!
The MIS values projects that have the potential to change the world! That said, since the 2024 cohort will be financed in part by the City of Montreal, your project should initially be deployed in one or more sectors, neighbourhoods, or municipalities of the Montreal agglomeration. If the project is successful, it can certainly be exported to other regions of the province, the country, or the globe.
If your project is at the ideation, validation stage (i.e. pre-launch or recently launched), the Civic Incubator is for you!
However, if you’re ready to deploy or scale up your project, it will be considered ineligible.
NOT YET LAUNCHED = ELIGIBLE
If your project is in the ideation or validation stage (i.e. pre-launch), it is considered eligible for the Civic Incubator.
A project in the ideation or validation stage has the following characteristics:
- The challenge and the targeted impact have been identified. The analysis of the problem is underway, but incomplete.
- A project idea has been developed but not yet finalized, and efforts are underway to design its form and operation.
- The project, or one of its components, has not yet been developed or tested with a small group of people, such as team members, partner organizations, or friends.
- The deployment strategy has not yet been formalized (action plan, identification of partners, financing, legal form, etc.)
- The legal structure is generally nonexistent.
- Funding is generally non-existent and investment is mainly in volunteer hours and some out-of-pocket expenses for project leaders.
RECENTLY LAUNCHED = ELIGIBLE
If your project has been launched recently, it is considered eligible for the Civic Incubator.
A project that has been launched recently, has the following characteristics:
- The analysis of the problem and the project’s concept are almost complete, and the levers of action most likely to have an impact have been identified.
- Although adjustments can still be made, the project is relatively well defined.
- There is a need for a critical look at the project, in order to strengthen certain aspects of it that are unclear or weak.
- The project’s deployment strategy is currently being considered (action plan, identification of partners, financing, legal form, etc.).
- Some communication tools may already be in place (e.g., branding).
- The project may have been entered in a competition.
- The project’s structure may be formal or incorporated (e.g., non-profit organization or cooperative) or informal (e.g., citizen’s group).
- Although project activities do not yet generate a stable income, occasional funding has been obtained through grants, competitions, fundraising, and subsidies. Some teams may also have obtained income via “consulting mandates”.
READY TO DEPLOY = INELIGIBLE
If you’re ready to deploy or scale up your project, it is considered ineligible for the Civic Incubator.
A project that can be deployed or scaled up has the following characteristics:
- The problem and the concept are both well understood, and the deployment strategy has been devised, so there is no need for a critical review of them;
- The project is already being deployed or scaled up;
- Efforts are underway to find partners and funding to accelerate the project’s deployment.
The MIS Civic Incubator is offered free of charge to awardees, thanks to the support of its financial partners. MIS would like to thank the Fondation Béati and the Ville de Montréal for their financial support of the 2024 Civic Incubator program, as well as MIS’s financial partners, the McConnell Foundation and the Mirella and Lino Saputo Foundation.
Practical learning and mentoring focused on your project will help you develop your capacity to implement innovative projects that have great potential for positive socio-environmental impact. For more, read the news of a conversation with Hugo and Sarah, two members of the Civic Incubator team who will work with you if your project is selected.
More specifically, at the end of the module entitled :
“Understand”, you will be able to analyse the various facets of the targeted problem and identify the opportunities for action. The module will cover the following concepts:
- deepening your understanding of the target issue, its causes and effects, the stakeholders and their dynamics, influential trends, etc., influential trends, etc.;
- identify the best opportunities for intervention to solve the targeted problem;
- carry out research in the field in order to form an understanding of the targeted problem based on real data; and
- deepen your understanding of your target users and quickly identify those most likely to support you so you can prioritize them during the deployment of your project.
“Design”, you will be able to define a successful impact strategy and design an innovative project with a positive socio-environmental impact. You will use data from field research and the principles of service design, among other things. During this module, you will:
- define a vision of the desired impact of your project;
- define one or more strategies to achieve the desired impact;
- map out the user journey of your project to better understand barriers to adoption and opportunities for improvement; and
- take a critical look at the challenges, including blind spots, that could reduce your project’s chances of success.
“Deploy”, you will be able to outline a successful project-deployment strategy. During the course of this module, you will learn how to:
- outline the main phases of your project’s deployment;
- identify the most appropriate legal structure (non-profit organization, cooperative, Inc., etc.) through which to deploy your project;
- mobilize an ecosystem of partners to support your project (public, private, philanthropic, citizen…);
- define a financial strategy to ensure both the deployment of your project and its sustainability; and
- communicate your project effectively.
“Strengthen”, you will be able to mobilize your full potential as a change agent in the implementation of your project. The module will assist you in your efforts to:
- gain a better understanding of yourself as an agent of change;
- identify internal blockages and discover strategies to overcome them;
- develop confidence in your ability to lead transformative actions for our living environments; and
- increase your resilience in dealing with the obstacles you will encounter during the deployment of your project.
The proposed training and coaching program runs for approximately five months, from January to June 2024. Following the completion of the program in June 2024, summer will offer you a chance to catch your breath, as well as time and space to launch activities, and mobilize partners. The MIS team will be available to provide individual coaching. The program will culminate in September 2024 in an evening of online pitches!
Remember that the Civic Incubator requires an individual commitment of seven to ten hours per week, including hours spent on team exercises and participation in various activities.
For the 2024 cohort, the program will consist of a variety of learning activities:
- numerous online materials (videos, readings, exercices), which can be consulted anytime for you to discover key concepts and tools, and to fuel brainstorming;
- 7 virtual distance-learning classes (45 to 60 minutes each) with MIS coaches to deepen your understanding of the content covered;
- 10 sequences of self-directed team exercises to help you put your thoughts on paper and help you prepare for coaching sessions and workshops;
- 8 virtual thematic workshops in which you will validate your ideas, identify your blind spots, and gain new perspectives on your project with the support of MIS coaches, guest speakers who are experts in their fields, and fellow members of the cohort;
- 10 remote team mentoring sessions (1 hour each) with the MIS coach who will be following your progress throughout the course;
- Optional coaching sessions for those seeking to deepen certain notions related to their approach as project leader;
- 3 days of free-form in-person meetings during which teams can
- work on any aspects of their projects they choose to explore more deeply;
- strengthen their abilities as the impact project’s leader by helping them to: get to know themselves better; learn to better manage their stress and emotions in order to more resiliently face the challenges they’ll encounter in the course of their project’s deployment; and mobilize their full potential in the context of the project’s deployment.
During the year immediately following your term in the Civic Incubator, you will have access to up to 10 hours of additional mentoring from your coaches, as well as to the alumni community and its activities.
The MIS will make additional networking efforts to bring together cohort alumni with agents— public, private, and philanthropic—who wish to support the deployment of projects with a positive socio-environmental impact within the Montreal community.
The MIS expects teams selected to participate in the Civic Incubator to:
- attend all program activities*;
- sustain work on their project between program activities;
- actively participate in the program by contributing to discussions and activities generously and to the best of their ability;
- contribute to establishing a climate of respect and openness that is conducive to learning;
- respect the diversity of individuals, values, opinions, and beliefs within the group;
- occasionally participate in the communications activities of the Civic Incubator;
- authorize the publication of their names and/or images within the scope of the MIS’s communications endeavours to promote and enhance the visibility of the incubated projects; and
- provide constructive feedback to help the MIS to improve the Incubator’s programming.
If your team is selected, an agreement detailing the terms of engagement, including mutual expectations between the MIS and Civic Incubator participants, will be signed with you before the start of the course.
*By registering for the Civic Incubator, you commit yourself to participating in all the activities of the program. Given that each activity has been planned as part of a coherent whole, your attendance will facilitate the productive development of your project.
Please do not apply if you’re unable to: (1) take part in most of the proposed activities; (2) devote around 7 to 10 hours of work each week to the Civic Incubator between January and June 2024; (3) or take part in the online pitch session scheduled for September 2024. This will allow another team to benefit from the free program.
The MIS reserves the right to dismiss a participant from the course if they systematically miss activities or arrive unprepared, and if this behaviour continues even after warnings have been issued.
For virtual programming -Most activities are scheduled to take place online. You can participate from wherever you like! We recommend that you choose a quiet location that’s free of distractions.
What tools or equipment do I need?
It’s strongly recommended that you have the following equipment on hand for each of the online sessions:
- a computer with a webcam;
- a computer or headset with built-in microphone and speakers; and
- Internet access with a recommended bandwidth of 1.5 Mb/s to enable participation in group workshops via videoconferencing.
Throughout the process, the MIS will support you in your use of online tools and in resolving any technical problems that may arise.
If your project is successful, but you don’t have access to the equipment mentioned above, the MIS team will explore different avenues to help you.
For the three in-person days – In-person activities will be held in a central Montreal location that will be accessible by public transit and wheelchair.
MIS is not a funding agency. Therefore, we will not be able to provide funding for your project once the course is completed.
However, depending on the context and your chosen deployment strategy, MIS will make efforts to put you in touch with organizations with which you can explore options for funding.
Several projects incubated in the past have been able to take advantage of post-Incubator funding opportunities as a result of networking efforts by the MIS.
The application selection process comprises 4 stages.
Step 1: Submit your project using the online form before October 29, 2023 at 11:59 pm.
Note that you can save your form and come back to it later, as long as you complete and submit it before the deadline.
Please note: complete only one application per project.
EARLY BIRD TRACK ⏰ 🐓 Are you a procrastinator? Take advantage of the Early Bird Programme! As part of the Call for Projects, MIS will offer individual coaching sessions of one hour to the first 15 teams that submit their applications by October 5th. These “early birds” will benefit from strategic advice from our innovation and social entrepreneurship team well in advance of the October 29th deadline. This will allow you to move your project forward and, if necessary, revise your application.
Step 2: If your project meets the eligibility criteria (see question #3, above) and advances to the first selection phase, your team will be invited to take part in a remote interview (via Zoom) between November 1st and 17th, 2023. The interview will last approximately 45 minutes.
The purpose of the interview is to verify the extent to which the team:
- is motivated to participate in the Civic Incubator;
- is determined to see the project through to completion;
- has identified strategies to integrate their Civic Incubator pathway into their other professional or personal obligations;
- has demonstrated team cohesion and resilience in the face of obstacles and the unexpected;
- demonstrates an ability both to learn independently and to be coached; and
- is able to justify their eligibility, should clarification be required.
During the last 15 minutes of the Zoom interview, the MIS will invite you to briefly present your project and respond to the following question: “Why do you believe your project should be selected for the 2024 Cohort of the Civic Incubator?” This part of the interview will be recorded. If your project is chosen to move to the final step of the selection process, this Zoom recording will be shared with the members of the jury. Beyond its pertinence to your application file, this is an excellent occasion to allow the members of the jury to get to know the individuals behind the project and for you to show your enthusiasm for both the project and the Civic Incubator program.
Step 3: If, subsequent to the interview, your project is recommended by the selection jury, they will consider your candidacy between November 20th and December 1st, 2023. This diverse jury is composed of representatives from the public, private, community, and philanthropic sectors. Its mandate is to assess the degree to which the project:
- demonstrates great potential for positive socio-environmental impact and, where possible, potential systemic impact;
- is innovative—i.e., offers a new solution or improves an existing one; and
- presents concrete avenues for deployment.
- The jury will also assess the extent to which teams have training and/or personal experience and/or professional experience relevant to their project.
The members of the jury for the 2024 cohort are:
- Sendy-Loo Emmanuel, PhD student in communications and president and founder of the WECAN organization
- LN Saint-Jacques (il.elle.they.them), executive director, Centrale agricole
- Marie-Madeleine Gianni, Lead, Impact and network, Startup Montreal, Ashoka Fellow (BET SHE CAN)
- Emily Laliberté, program manager Ville inclusive and mediator, Exeko
- François-Xavier Michaux, General Coordinator, Transition en commun
- France Émond, executive director, TIESS
- Cécile Vergier, Advisor for Social Economy in the Department of Economic Development of the City of Montreal
Stage 4: Between December 4th and 22nd, 2023, first meeting of the selected team with the coach who will be accompanying them throughout the program.
Photo credit: Julien Cadena