Frequently asked questions

A summary of social innovation

How do you define social innovation?

Good question! Although emerging in the early nineteenth century (Godin, 2012), the notion of social innovation has always sought a simple definition and remains greatly influenced by the organizations or collectives that apply its principles. The term will sometimes refer to the governance of organizations, sometimes to the scale of systems to be transformed, or to the innovative nature of the means that will be mobilized to create social and environmental impact within communities.

The MIS subscribes to the definition proposed by the Réseau Québécois en innovation sociale (RQIS)

“A social innovation is a new idea, approach or intervention, a new service, a new product or a new law, or a new type of organization that responds more adequately and more sustainably than existing solutions to a well-defined social need; it is a solution that has been adopted in an institution, an organization or a community and produces a measurable benefit for the community and not just for certain individuals. The scope of a social innovation is transformative and systemic. It is, in its inherent creativity, a break with existing approaches.”

See the criteria for a social innovation in the Why make way for social innovation section.

What is a social impact project?

A social impact project is a project that aims to transform, change or break down organizational or human behaviour in order to respond to current unmet social needs. The social impact will then be determined according to the level of achievement of the desired change following the mobilization of a series of resources, actors or activities as a result.

Impacts can be proximal (near the project, short term) or distal (long-term effects in different environments). Impacts may be direct on targeted populations or indirect (e.g. behavioural changes in institutions supporting these populations, etc).

What is the difference between social innovation and the social economy?

The social economy brings together all the activities and organizations born of collective entrepreneurship (NPOs and cooperatives) and is organized around the following principles and operating rules (referring to the definition of the Caisse d’économie solidaire):

  • The purpose of the social economy enterprise is to serve its members or the community, rather than simply generating profits and aiming for financial performance.
  • It has management autonomy with respect to the State.
  • It incorporates into its statutes and ways of doing things a democratic decision-making process involving users.
  • It defends the primacy of persons and labour over capital in the distribution of its surpluses and revenues.
  • It bases its activities on the principles of participation, empowerment and on individual and collective responsibility.

Social innovation, on the other hand, is inclusive of different legal forms and is not necessarily of an economic nature. It can therefore emerge in any type of environment (cooperatives and NPOs, citizens’ communities, private companies, public institutions, etc).

Learn more about the MIS

What is the MIS?

By removing the barriers between an idea with social and positive impact and its implementation, the Maison de l’innovation sociale (MIS) pursues its mission of fostering the emergence of social innovations and creates the optimal conditions for the creation of structuring, promising and innovative collaborations within the social innovation community ecosystem in Québec.

What are the founding organizations of the MIS?

We rely on numerous business partners who invest in a variety of social innovation projects. These partners are mentioned in the pages dedicated to the programs or social innovation projects they support.

What is your approach?

Above all, our approach is focused on user participation in the social innovation process. Everyone is invited to play a role in the activities of the MIS, whether they are idea people, creators, experts, permanent or ad hoc partners, or citizens. This openness to everyone’s participation and ideas guides us in all our endeavors.

What do you offer exactly?

Our programs, developed and led by our experienced and committed team, meet the needs of a variety of socio-economic actors in the implementation of their social and environmental impact projects, from ideation to deployment.

What types of projects does the MIS support?

The MIS supports initiatives to find sustainable solutions to well-defined social issues such as:

  • the empowerment of communities in the transformation of their living environments;
  • the exclusion and isolation of society’s most vulnerable people;
  • the integration of immigrants into the labour market;
  • the efficiency and relevance of the services offered to users in the field of health and social services;
  • affordable housing;
  • urban agriculture and food security;
  • urban mobility and alternative transportation;
  • the empowerment of seniors;
  • the management of citizens’ digital data;
  • universal accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • the reuse of building materials for social and regenerative purposes;
  • citizen participation of adults and children;
  • open and responsible public governance;
  • the availability of innovative, agile and available financial products to stimulate social innovation;
  • etc.

Is the scope of activity for the MIS limited to Montreal?

No, the MIS has a province-wide mission and also collaborates with initiatives across Canada. As the organization is still young, Montréal is the first area in which the MIS is prototyping and deploying the majority of its activities. Our activities and programs will be offered progressively to different regions of Québec in the coming years.

How is the MIS complementary to the current ecosystem of support for social innovation?

The MIS impact strategy is founded on a simple principle: reconnect the current actors in the ecosystem who are supportive of social innovation in Québec in order to increase the number of projects that have an impact on the development of our society and thereby accelerate positive social transformation in the province.

The MIS supports innovation and accompaniment processes that will enable projects led by citizens, partners and collaborators to better define the desired impact from the outset, to better target the approaches that will respond to the real needs defined by users, and to better assess the resources and capacities needed at the individual and organizational levels for a scaling-up that is both successful and sustainable.

We offer support through activities that:

  • generate social innovations (listening to citizens and user research approaches, co-creation and ideation workshops, experimentation and prototyping, innovation challenges, design jams, hackathons, living laboratories, organizational transformation laboratories, animation of learning circles, etc.);
  • give direct support (resilient leadership training, coaching, capacity building, impact strategy, light prototyping, linkages with other initiatives);
  • provide referrals (match-making, hybrid value chain with the private sector, digital platform with access to specialized resources throughout Québec).

Why did the MIS choose to settle as a residence?

The MIS deployment strategy follows a model of territorial residencies of 6 to 24 months each. The objective is to work in close proximity with organizations and communities in different Montréal neighbourhoods. Indeed, social innovation comes from a bottom-up and grassroots approach based on the knowledge and experience of the community. This is why the MIS favours accessibility, proximity, and mobility, in particular through a concept of short term residency, to favour the development of partnerships and encourage the emergence of a larger number and a greater diversity of social innovations.

The MIS’s first residence was in the Young Project in Griffintown, which closed in December 2019. Since January 2020, the MIS’s residence has been located in Centre-Sud district, in the Grover building, to ensure a close proximity and sustain the structuring actions undertaken in this area.

Consultation and research

Can the MIS finance my project?

The MIS is a non-profit organization (NPO) that is itself funded by donors and by some of the autonomous revenue that it generates through its service offering. It does not act as a funder like a philanthropic foundation and it does not accept unsolicited funding requests.

Because of its social R&D mission and position, it collaborates on a multitude of social innovation projects in partnership with researchers, public institutions, local development organizations and private companies. It therefore provides support to project promoters who evolve within its programs, in order to support them in their project structuring processes, including the search for funding. On occasion, it contributes financially to certain projects in which it is directly involved.

How can I become a partner of the MIS?

To become a partner of the MIS is to:

  • contribute to consolidating the Québec ecosystem supporting social innovation;
  • contribute to generating positive social and environmental impacts within the territory of Québec;
  • contribute to the emergence of new practices in social innovation;
  • be in contact with pioneering actors in social innovation;
  • benefit from the learning generated by all the projects supported by the MIS.

If you are an organization that is part of, or wants to become part of, the social innovation support ecosystem, we invite you to contact us to see how the MIS can help you.

What is your added value for social entrepreneurs? What do you offer that is different from other support organizations for these types of projects (incubators, etc.)?

The MIS works with social innovators earlier in the process than the support actors currently present, from the very beginning of their projects. It provides support for projects through the definition of the impact strategy, prototyping and the definition of the deployment strategy, as well as on an individual level, assisting project leaders to develop resilience. As projects mature, the MIS refers them to existing support resources so that they can initiate next steps towards impact creation.

Can citizens propose projects and receive support from the MIS?

Citizens with a project with a high potential for positive social impact can apply to our Civic Incubator for support. The next calls for projects will be announced on our website and in our newsletter, so

Let’s stay in touch

How can I stay up to date with all the latest news from the MIS?

We regularly send out emails with updates, our latest publications, upcoming events related to social innovation and our digital newsletter, Raccords, which is devoted exclusively to social innovation. for all the latest news!

You can also find us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube

How to contact us

Call us at 514-871-9941 or email us at:

Employment opportunities

Would you like to join the MIS team?

Take a look at our job offers.