Social Innovation Project

Social Innovation Project. Banner depicting two students collaborating on a project.

What is a Social Innovation Project?

Local not-for-profit organizations are often faced with multiple resource challenges and competing needs that they need to prioritize. Functional needs come first, but many of these organizations may not always have the time, or financial resources to allocate to exploring new opportunities and innovative ideas that could potentially bring exciting initiatives to their operations.

This is where you come in! Social Innovation Projects pair a team of student volunteers with a community organization who have identified a challenge or problem within their organization. The team of UTM students will work together with the organization over a 16-week period to come up with an achievable solution for that problem. Volunteers can also decide to choose to join the Research stream which emphasizes developing efficient and ethical research practices as well as providing the opportunity to work closer with UTM faculty members and what they are researching!

As a volunteer, you will be working on real-life projects to develop an attainable solution for a community organization that you will present back. In addition to working closely with your community partner and student volunteer team, students will have the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor to connect to classroom learning and gain access to additional resources. Participating students will be able to develop the following competencies:

  • Community and civic engagement
  • Decision-making and action
  • Design Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Professionalism
  • Strategic thinking
  • Teamwork


Volunteers must:

  • Develop a project that meets the challenge of a community-identified issue, working with a team of other student volunteers and a project leader. 
  • Volunteer two to five hours per week on your own time to meet milestones of your project (breaks for reading week and exams are accommodated).
  • Complete online training modules and attend weekly team meetings with your group of volunteers and CSE student staff overseeing the project
  • Arrange and attend (virtual) faculty and community partner check-ins: quantity and dates are up to students, but a minimum of three check-ins each are required. 
  • Attend the Social Innovation Project Wrap-Up Event; students will prepare and present project details in the form of a poster. 

Students will be required to attend synchronous virtual weekly one-hour team meetings but will be able to work on individual tasks asynchronously to fulfill project needs.

Important Dates: 

  • Saturday, October 22nd, 2022: Kick-off Event
  • Saturday, March 18th, 2023: Wrap-Up Event

2023-2024 Projects - Stay Tuned!

Registration is now closed, complete the Community Innovation Interest Form to stay updated on this program for next year.

Here are our projects from last year:

Caledon Dufferin Victim Services

Caledon Dufferin Victim Services is a community organization that provides Emotional Support, Information, and Referrals 24/7 for victims of crime and tragedy. 

Project: Defining Hate Crime & Victim Support
This is a research project where students will define what a Racially Motivated Crime (hate crime) is and find victim support systems that are available in the community. In this project, volunteers will be tasked with creating a fact sheet, and a digital presentation as an executive summary of their findings. 

Helpful Skills:

  • Ability to collect, assess, and organize data 
  • Some knowledge of criminal justice systems

Academic Areas of Interest:

  • Diversity, Equity Inclusion 
  • Criminology 
  • Psychology 


Family Services Of Peel

Family Services of Peel (FSP) is a registered (1971) non-profit, charitable organization. Their Mission is 'Through leadership, collaboration and innovation, support families and individuals in Peel to transform their lives'. They provide professional counselling, educational programs, employment support services, support for people with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as support for victims of violence and abuse.  They house the Peel Institute in Violence Prevention which is the research arm of FSP. The Board of Directors of Family Services of Peel is guided by the Carver Policy Governance model and is composed of no less than seven and no more than ten members that represent the diverse community of Peel.  Its work is grounded in equity, anti-oppression, and anti-racism framework. Prevention as a vehicle for a healthier society is a priority for FSP and PIVP.  Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) is applied across the organization, including the consideration of the differential impact on diverse groups of women and men. The research process includes actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach answers and conclusions. The Institute’s work promotes and involves community engagement and follows an evidence-informed approach.  PIVP research work focuses on settlement and acculturation of newcomers, youth violence, survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, connecting with seniors, people with disabilities, and male victims of abuse. Trauma screening and trauma-specific training have been conducted all across Ontario.  The main challenge the organization faces is: to respond to the overwhelming needs of the diverse communities of the Region of Peel with limited resources provided by the government.  The overwhelming impact of COVID-19 in the mental health of the population.


Project: Human Sex Trafficking Awareness Digital Campaign
In this project, volunteers will have the opportunity to work in the Mobile Sex Trafficking Prevention and Counselling Services Clinic and develop an awareness campaign on HST, safe sex, reproductive health, healthy sexuality, trauma and women’s rights. Volunteers will also develop social media content for HST survivors/ victims and at-risk youth, women with disabilities. 

Helpful Skills:

  • Social Media
  • Marketing
  • Writing


Project: Human Sex Trafficking Awareness Campaign
In this project, volunteers will have the opportunity to work with the Mobile Sex Trafficking Prevention and Counselling Services Clinic to develop “Lunchtime Awareness Sessions” for groups at industrial sites, schools, churches, and recreation centers.  

Helpful Skills:

  • Social Media
  • Marketing
  • Writing
  • Workshop Planning


MOYO Health & Community Services
For over two decades, Moyo Health and Community Services (formerly the Peel HIV/AIDS Network) has provided a growing array of health promotion, education, social and support services for people living with HIV, their families, partners and community members. Through collaborative efforts and effective service delivery, Moyo has become the leading HIV/AIDS service provider for the Region of Peel’s three distinctive communities of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.


Project: Newcomers Outreach
As an organization, Moyo HCS aims to focus on the systems, social determinants of health and unique barriers that put communities (PHAs [People Living with HIV/AIDS], women, 2SLGBTQ+, sex workers, African Caribbean and Black [ACB], People Who Use Drugs, newcomers to Canada etc.) at disproportionate risk of health inequities. The organization support folks with STTBI [Sexually Transmitted Blood Borne Infections] prevention, HIV care and support navigation, settlement support for newcomers and promote safer consumption of substances. Through this, we would want students to explore outside the box ideas on marketing deliverables, Identifying and implementing outreach strategies to engage with newcomers to Canada about Moyo HCS’ settlement and newcomer programs, Xenophobia, and Photovoice Exhibit content.

Helpful Skills:

  • Background in graphic design.
  • Experience with various social media handles
  • Experience facilitating and hosting group sessions/ meetings.
  • Interpersonal relationship skills.
  • Experience in conducting outreach.


Academic Areas of Interest:

  • Communication Studies 
  • Social Work 
  • Psychology 
  • Sociology 
  • Health Sciences 
  • Information Technology 


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel York
Big Brothers Big Sisters has proudly been providing life changing mentoring relationships in Canada since 1913 and in Peel Region since 1967, York Region since 1970. The young people within our agency are facing adversity and in need of an additional consistent and supportive developmental relationship. With the guidance and support of a mentor it is our vision that every young person realizes their full potential and achieves their dreams. The youth within our agency build meaningful relationships with adult role models while developing their social and emotional competence, mental health and well-being and educational engagement. BBBSPY serves children and youth, ages 6- 17, in Peel and York Regions who are facing adversity in their lives.


Project: Go Girls Curriculum Re-Buliding
With this project, volunteers will be in charge of reviewing the current “Go Girls” curriculum and creating changes to it that do not conflict with other Big Brothers Big Sisters curriculums. This includes coming up with new activity ideas related to themes of healthy, active living and positive self-esteem that are engaging and relevant to today’s youth, and working with other Big Brothers, Big Sisters agencies. 

Academic Areas of Interest:

  • Community service
  • Youth Development
  • Social Work


Let’s Get Together
Let’s Get Together is a non-profit organization that aims to make learning equitable and education accessible by creating student-led initiatives that inspire youth connections, skill development, and mentorship opportunities. The organization also aims to help parents better understand the challenges youth face today so they can learn how best to support their children in building their own bright future. Let’s Get Together envisions a world where every youth has an equal opportunity to pursue higher education with no barriers and purposeful support.


Project: Zero Barriers to Learning: Discussions Group
Zero Barriers To Learning (ZBTL) is an initiative started by ‘Let’s Get Together’, which evolved from a SIP project submitted by LGT last year.  The project was a literature review paper titled, "Barriers To Higher Education: What’s Stopping Students From Getting There Together?"   
The objective of this project is to create a diverse and open-minded network of youth Canada-wide to discuss the barriers to education and student’s experiences with education. We aspire to have a team of youth who are interested in being the leaders of tomorrow and who want to create safe spaces to listen and discuss barriers to education. By doing this, we will learn what “quality education” outlined in the United Nations Sustainability Goals means to those studying in Canada and how we as a nation-wide community can accomplish this goal.   ZBTL is a collaboration between Let's Get Together and invested youth and community stakeholders united in a mission to make learning equitable and education accessible. 
The project is three-fold: 
First, participate in a Zero Barriers to Learning discussion session (approx 1 hour) and then learn how to host at least one themselves. The goal is for the team to deliver a minimum of 8-10 workshops with participating high school students, either in person or virtually. Next, is to recruit a few of these high school students to host their own discussion groups with their peers. The UTM Students will teach, mentor and support them throughout the process. 
Second, to review a newly developed ZBTL how-to host a ZBTL Discussion Group toolkit. Based on the UTM Students' experience, update the toolkit and work with the high school students to pilot it as they deliver their session. To make it equitable we aim to have the kit translated in at least 3 languages that are most common to the Peel Region. 
Third, to help test a database we've created to help capture the data from this discussion groups. The team will work together to modify or make enhancements to the database where needed and/or develop or research one that better suits the need of the program. The end goal is to have a database that is easy to input data, accessible to students across Canada and eventually help us form a multi-year strategic plan on what barriers students want to address. 
For the 2022-2023 academic year ZBTL will focus on the local community and the organization’s infrastructure. We are looking for students at UTM to use and learn new skills, be creative, network and volunteer with us


Helpful Skills:

  • For delivering workshops & reviewing toolkit: 
    • Interpersonal skills 
    • Enthusiasm and passion for helping youth advocate for themselves 
    • Experience with presenting and facilitating activities for small groups of youth are an asset 
    • Knowledge in editing presentations and creating novel ways to communicate information to youth through activities, images etc. 
  • For those interested in joining the creation of Database group the skills Helpful are listed below: 
    • Data Management 
    • Computer Science 
    • Research Experience 
    • Business Management for understanding audiences online and projection models for a good success rate for people watching and engaging with the video

Academic Areas of Interest:

  • To build the database:
    • Preferably students in Management and Information Technology, Computer Science, Commerce and Economics
  • For Presentations:
    • All Students are Welcomed

Project: Understanding Hybrid Learning
Education has changed dramatically over the last couple years due to the forced pressure for educators, parents and youth to adapt to online learning as a result of the pandemic. As we move into the post-pandemic phase, the hybrid learning model is becoming more common in the classroom and other learning environments. 

We would like to learn more about what hybrid learning is, how parents, students and educators view and use it currently to support learning, and understand the full impact it is having on high school education in particular.  We'd also like to learn how we, as a community, can better support the education system and other learning places (i.e. employment centers) as this style of learning becomes more common and where  educators or other teachers can access more resources on how to incorporate hybrid learning into their curriculum. 

The project may include survey research, focus groups, and other forms of data collection. The group will be given an opportunity to present some of its research a virtual event organized by a cluster of community organizations.  

The group will also be provided with a few youth grants to use as a guide when collecting data and generating their report.  Our goal is to use the data to help apply for youth program funding in the future.  Time permitting, we'd also like to ask the group to create infographics or other tools to help parents and students how to adapt be find success with the hybrid learning model and a resources list for educators and teachers. 

Helpful Skills:

    • Research based skills
    • Grant writing
    • Journalism

Building Partnerships

To develop new initiatives, we encourage partners in the community to connect with us to explore ways we can work together to provide these opportunities at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and in the local community.

We invite schools, parents and families, local community organizations, and UTM community mentors and student groups to explore how we can work together. If you are interested in partnering with the Centre for Student Engagement on Social Innovation Projects, please fill out the provided form.


For all questions and feedback regarding Social Innovation Projects, please contact:

Marlo Young-Sponga
Community Engaged Learning and Partnerships Coordinator