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Getting to Maybe: A Social Innovation Residency 2018

Please see our upcoming Getting to Maybe: A Systems Leadership Residency taking place in May 2020.
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Program Information

Getting to Maybe: A Social Innovation Residency


The Getting to Maybe residency has ambitious goals; we help committed change-makers learn how to definitively impact whole systems. The residency offers multiple opportunities to explore these kinds of significant objectives. It is simultaneously a retreat, a community, a course, a deep dive, a toolkit, and a crucible – a place where you bring specific challenges or projects and reimagine them to reveal new possibilities and strategic action for system change.

Please note: this residency is currently undergoing a thoughtful redesign for the next iteration of programming. Sign up for our newsletter to receive information about an upcoming launch of new, exciting social innovation programs beginning in spring 2020. The application period for these programs will open in late fall 2019. 

What does the program offer?

Participants will be equipped with multiple perspectives, deeper understanding, and the skills to develop new partnerships to collaborate on complex issues. In addition to rigorous exposure to concepts on systems, complexity, and social innovation, participants will learn through artistic practices, Indigenous traditions, and direct experience to the natural environment. These various ‘ways of knowing’ will shed light on your exploration of your calling as a change-maker, and will also be applied to your project, with ongoing support from peers, program mentors, expert faculty and guest advisors.
Experienced, knowledgeable individuals from the diverse faculty team to residency alumni to esteemed members of the national social innovation community will act as on-site mentors.
Individual Advisory Groups
Prior to arrival, you will establish two advisory groups: a small group (two to four people) of family/friends for personal support and advice on your development through the program; and a small group of professional colleagues (two to four people), experienced in your project’s problem area as well as potential partners in carrying ideas forward, post-progra.
You will regularly connect with these off-site advisory groups, through virtual means. This ensures each program participant is receiving real-time feedback, sharing key aspects of their learning and development, and developing a sense of support from, and accountability to, these important external connections. At least once during the residency, you and a group of your fellow participants will coordinate a call with your professional advisory groups to share new learnings, questions, ideas, and experiences.
Expert Advisors
Expert advisors, external to the residency, will be invited to join the program to share their ‘big picture’ sensibility related to complex problems. Their thought leadership, significant experience, and networked relationships will be invaluable resources.
Social Innovation Project
These projects should be specific ideas, platforms, programs, products, processes (or combinations of these) that you are already working to formulate, develop, experiment with, or scale within identifiable systems. Projects will be focused on complex problems that require a systems approach to catalyzing social innovation. Participants should be prepared to set aside project ideas during the first part of the program, which focuses on “letting go” to delve into new thinking and awareness.
View program themes here.

Who should apply?

This residency focuses on a broad spectrum of social and/or environmental justice domains. Therefore, participants are recognized as the experts in their challenge areas. We invite nominations of, or direct applications from, enthusiastic, self-reflective, committed individuals. Leaders from the private, social benefit, government, or philanthropic sectors with a passion and vision for change are invited to apply. We also welcome applications from innovators within arts and culture and Indigenous communities.

This residency will benefit you most if you are:

  • Passionate about refining your ideas that aim to address a complex problem
  • Committed to finding ways to impact the relationships and energy flows within whole systems, even if that means changing how you work, who you work with, or what your project's impact looks like
  • Ready to challenge your assumptions about your self, as well as your project – and the connections between the two
  • Interested in deepening your understanding of the systems in which you live and work
  • Eager to develop the self-awareness that leads to both internal and external transformation
  • Open to exploring social innovation concepts through the powerful lenses of creative practices, collaborative thinking, and inspired learning, all rooted in Banff’s physical environment and Indigenous perspectives
  • Sensing that in order to go ‘forward’, you may have reached the point where you need to go ‘deeper’

This residency is an outstanding opportunity for those holding the capacity and/or authority to catalyze others to join systems change efforts. We are particularly interested in impactful social innovators who also have experience with Indigenous leadership, creative practice, and/or environmental stewardship.


View details here.

Residency Partnership

Getting to Maybe: A Social Innovation Residency is a collaboration between Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the faculty and staff affiliated with the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience at the University of Waterloo, with the generous support of Suncor Energy Foundation.


Residency Delivery

In this residency program, you will live and learn together at Banff Centre for 28 consecutive days in the incredible natural setting of Banff National Park. The program begins with an opening dinner and evening welcome activities. 

The following four weeks will be as follows: 4.5 weekdays with a half day off (one afternoon per week) and 2 days off (weekends), with an assignment to complete before the next week begins.

Participants are required to live on-site and attend all program sessions.

Optional programming will be offered some evenings and weekends for those interested; possibilities include explorations of creative process, Indigenous culture, and wilderness experiences.

Learning Activities and Outcomes

Applied Learning

In addition to classroom and personal engagement work, you will apply learning in multiple ways, including:

  • Experiences in and with nature, the arts, and traditional cultural activities
  • Journal writing and small group reflections
  • Weekly written assignments to integrate and apply learning
  • One-on-one learning sessions with faculty
  • Facilitated application of learning to the development of your project idea
  • Final presentation on the change in yourself and your project during the program
  • Regular virtual connection with external, individual advisory groups


Academic Learning

  • Shared insights into the pressing issues that currently challenge individuals, organizations, and society as a whole
  • Mapping complex systems to identify the real opportunities for change
  • New theories on innovation, systems thinking, and complexity
  • Introduction to design thinking and implications for strategy and actions that break through barriers
  • Moving from theory to practical application in life and work; new ways to explain how change happens
  • Begin to develop innovation strategies with the potential for durable, broad impact
  • Exploring the key leadership qualities required of a system entrepreneur; learning to play this system leadership role effectively
  • Guest speakers
  • Excursions

Individual Reflective Learning

  • Enhanced capacity to ‘stand still’ and to be reflective, to make meaning of complexity within the internal and external
  • Deeper sense of empathy across usual barriers of difference and power
  • Capacities to attend, to pay attention, and to deeply listen to yourself as well as systems
  • Insights into your own biases and limited perceptions
  • Increased understanding of concepts related to complex adaptive systems, resilience, and social innovation
  • Enhanced skills to identify cross-scale opportunities, recognize relevant patterns, and act purposefully to help create conditions for system change
  • New levels of comfort with uncertainty and risk
  • Renewed energy and affirmation of your abilities for the ongoing work of social innovation
  • Engage with the larger artistic and thought leadership community of Banff Centre, and attend performances and events


What's Included

AccommodationRead MoreClose

All Leadership participants who choose the Accommodation and Meal Package are provided private rooms with ensuite washrooms in one of our two onsite hotels, the Professional Development Centre or Lloyd Hall. Room upgrades may be available upon request at an additional cost.

Meal PlanRead MoreClose

If you choose the Accommodation and Meal Package, all of your meals from the start to the end of your program are included; most of your meals will be at Vistas Dining Room, but there may be some special dining events scheduled as well. Please also feel free to visit the Maclab BistroLe CaféThree Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar, but note that these outlets are not included in your meal plan, and thus will be at additional cost.

Banff Centre AmenitiesRead MoreClose

Enrich your experience and get to know other artists on campus by taking advantage of the activities and support provided by our Participant Resources team.

LibraryRead MoreClose

The Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives are located on the 2nd floor of the Kinnear Centre, and provides access to great books, media, and work space.

Fitness and RecreationRead MoreClose

The Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre is located in the lower floor of the Sally Borden Building, and provides all guests with access to our swimming pool, hot tub, steam room, climbing gym, fitness centre, spin studio, and gymnasium. Massage and physiotherapy appointments may also be booked ahead of time.

Fees & Financial Assistance

The Suncor Energy Foundation has provided financial support to cover all costs associated with tuition and food and accommodation for this program. This generous gift is offered with the goal of reducing financial barriers for leaders who are committed to meaningful self-discovery and dedicated to the development of creative ideas that might catalyze social innovation in very complex problem domains. 

It is the Foundation’s hope that this support will result in a number of long-term, positive outcomes for the individuals who are the beneficiaries, as well as for durable, positive change on some of our communities' most pressing problems.

Travel to and from Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta is the responsibility of each participant. A limited number of travel bursaries will be made available to applicants who demonstrate genuine financial need. Accommodation support for this residency includes accommodation and meal plan at Banff Centre for the duration of the program. 

Support for Organizations 
If your absence from an organization for the program’s four weeks would be a significant hardship, you may be eligible for financial support for offsetting some of the required human resources to take on organizational responsibilities. This support element is particularly relevant for very small organizations with limited staff.

Support for Families 
If you have significant family responsibilities for the care of young children, the elderly, or other dependent family members, you may be eligible for accommodation support. A limited number of family rooms will be available so that those who meet certain requirements can bring dependent family members with them for the duration of the residency. This support is particularly relevant for parents of young children who cannot be easily separated/substituted for an entire month. Please carefully consider the pros and cons of bringing dependent children with you while immersing yourself in this intensive learning and self-development program.



How to Apply

Signup or login to an existing account in our online SlideRoom portal. You may login and edit your submission as often as required. However, once your application materials have been submitted, no further changes will be allowed. Once you select submit, you will be notified that your fee is free and has been paid (this fee has been covered by Banff Centre).


Submit an up-to-date resume.

Letter of Intent

Submit a letter of intent, limited to three pages double spaced.

Your letter of intent should:

  • Identify the system(s) that you are hoping to change, and your capacity for and/or experience with working at a systems level.
  • Describe your sense of how this program would be relevant, timely, and useful both personally and professionally for you.
  • Describe your comfort or familiarity with practices to cultivate self-awareness and personal development, especially in relation to your calling as a social innovator. Include a statement on your openness to reassessing your personal relationship to this issue area.
  • Describe your comfort or familiarity with exploring theoretical concepts through an academic lens for applied practice.
  • Include an example of one of your current "big" questions about the system(s) that you operate within and/or the change that you hope to catalyze.

Refer to the following questions to guide your letter of intent:

  • What is your current involvement in a social innovation? 
  • What attracted you to your current project? 
  • How does it relate to who you are? 
  • What are your concerns, hesitations, and/or doubts about this project? 
  • What are your short and long term goals/ambitions regarding this project?

Nomination Process

Would you like to nominate an outstanding candidate? We are accepting nominations on an ongoing basis. 

Once a nomination is submitted, you and the candidate will receive a confirmation email, and the candidate will be invited to submit a resume and letter of intent (see above). Candidates who meet initial criteria will be provided with the full application package. Candidates are responsible for submitting all required application documents.

Nomination letters should include the below, and should be no longer than three pages in length:

  • A description of the potential for the candidate’s capacity for learning, strategic leadership experience, and her or his creative, intellectual, and professional promise.
  • Your thoughts on the relevance of this program to her or his career and life.
  • How would the program’s focus on complex problems, systems thinking, and innovation strategies be relevant and useful in terms of the goals and objectives of the candidate’s work?
  • The name, email address, and organization of the candidate.

Letters of nomination can be sent to and should be in PDF format.


Application for this residency is adjudicated as follows:


  1. First stage of application: Signal your interest by completing the Online Information Form and uploading a current resume and letter of intent (see details below) by December 19, 2017.
  2. Wait! The selection committee will review all first stage submissions and you will be contacted before January 19, 2018 if you meet the criteria to move to the second stage.
  3. Second stage of application: Provide additional information and upload additional materials upon invitation.


Contact the Registrar

For questions on preparing your application, please contact the Office of the Registrar: