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Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

Implications for the Field of Child and


Youth Care Practice
Kiaris Chorabaghi
Abstract
This paper explores the emergence of the social innovation field in North America, and its potential
implications or relevance to the field of child and youth care practice. Specifically, the paper highlights
some of the similarities between the two fields, and suggests that there is good reason for child and
youth care scholars and leaders to contemplate an integration of social innovation language and
concepts into their on-going work in research and practice.
Intavducton
A new movement is taking
shape and gaining momentum
across cultures, geographies,
human service sectors, and
disciplines that challenges
conventional v^risdoms about
how and why we do things.
While the language varies, this
movement is often referred to
as social innovation and entre-
preneurship {sometimes
referred to as social enterprise).
This movement has captured
the imagination of many
academics, practitioners, and
agitators. It promises a 'disrup-
tion' of routines, conventional
wisdoms, and presumed truths.
It provides for a new and seem-
ingly invigorating set of values. It
promotes language that tran-
scends disciplinary
nomenclature. It promises rele-
vance to any and all endeavors
that produce social value
(Bomstein, 2004; Stanford
Social Irnovation Review [SSiR],
2003).
In this paper I want to
describe this movement, eolore
its role in addressing social
problerrs and in particular Hie
circumstances leading to adver-
sities for young people, andlthen
contemplate its relevance for
the field of child and youth care
practica I will close this paper
by considering both the opportu-
nities and the challenges thos
new mo/ement might present to
the field of child and youth ^are.
In so doing, I am conscious that
this is only one small step in
encourcging my field to exidore
this movement. I make no argu-
ment ei".her for or against the
worth o'this movement, but I do
argue that it would be impr>
dent to ignore what may well be
one of the more exciting (ard
maybe, but not inherently, posi-
tive) developments in the
promotion of social change and
the betterment of everyone's
life.
Social Innovation and
Entrepreneurship 101
The first thing one
observes about the emerging
field of social innovation and
entrepreneurship isthat it
does not suffer from a lack of
definitions but instead from
too many nuanced difter-
ences amongst dozens of
definitions. Perhaps this is
what makes this emerging
field so interesting for child
and youth care practice,
which for many is also an
'emerging field', and certainly
is one that has offered many
definitions with nuanced
differences as well. Indeed,
both fields have struggled to
identify an agreed-upon
nomenclature even for their
respective names. Social
Innovation has been referred
4 2 / ISSN 1705625X Relational Child and Youth Care Practice Volume 26 Number 3
to as social entrepreneurship,
social business, social enter-
prise, or any combination of
these terms. Similarly, child
and youth care is sometimes
referred to as youth work,
child care work, youth devel-
opment work, or even youth
counselling. In both fields,
each of the terms used in the
name have different connota-
tions and sometimes slightly
different preoccupations, but
it is not always clear when
terms are used to name the
field whether these are to
reflect differences or simply
reflectan interchangeable
use of specific words and
phrases.
The second observation
one might make is that social
innovation and entrepreneur-
ship is, at its core, a
multi-disciplinary endeavor,
one which draws on the theo-
retical, empirical, and
practice bases of many
seemingly divergent disci-
plines, including business,
environmental sciences,
human service disciplines
such as social work, youth
work and community devel-
opment, and increasingly also
communication technologies
(Brilliant, 2013; SSiR, 2003).
In spite of its multi-disci-
plinary nature, however, the
field of social innovation is
very much evolving under its
own banner; this may reflect
a discomfort with being
labelled simply as an interdis-
ciplinary focus. Again the
parallels to child and youth
care are readily apparent.
Child and youth care is also
inherently multi-disciplinary, with
strong ties to psychology, soci-
ology, health sciences, social
work, early childhood studies,
international development, and
many other fields. Nevertheless,
the field of child and youth care
has evolved in its own right,
intentionally and repeatedly
pointing to its uniqueness and
otherness in the broader land-
scape of human service
delivery.
Third, we might observe that
in spite of its nascent character,
the field of social innovation and
entrepreneurship has given rise
to a surprisingly large profes-
sional and academic
infrastructure supporting its
on-going evolution. Academic
institutions across North
America have very much
adopted the language and
conceptual premise of social
innovation and entrepreneur-
ship, resulting in major
initiatives and 'innovation
zones', 'innovation centres', and
'innovation hubs' at both Cana-
dian and American universities.
At NYU, the annual NYU Stern
Conference on Social Entrepre-
neurship (now in its ninth year)
attracts participants from at
least 50 countries each year,
and provides for an on-going
flow of book publications. At
Harvard, Stanford, and
Princeton, we find the Social
Enterprise Coilaboratories
developed by Gordon Bloom.
Specific social innovation initia-
tives and organized efforts are
underway at many of Canada's
larger universities, including
Ryerson University, the Univer-
sity of Toronto, the University of
Waterloo, the University of
British Columbia, and Simon
Fraser University. In the United
States, about a dozen universi-
ties have been designated as
'changemaker campuses' by
the Ashoka University Exchange
program.
In North America, multiple
academic journals have
appeared covering themes and
issues related to social innova-
tion, entrepreneurship and
enterprise. These include the
Stanford Sociai Innovation
Review, the Journai of Sociai
Entrepreneurship, the Social
Enterprise Journal, and the
International journal of Social
Enterprise and innovation. In
addition, a plethora of new
books, including edited collec-
tions, have appeared in recent
years, including some
bestsellers such as Getting to
Maybe (Westley, Zimmerman &
Patton, 2007) and How to
Change the World (Bornstein,
2004). A great deal of social
innovation and entrepreneur-
ship work is underwritten by
NGOs, which have proliferated
over the past three decades and
include organizations such as
Ashoka, Echoing-Green Founda-
tion, Schwaab Foundation, and
the Skoll Foundation, to name
only a few. In Ontario, the MaRS
Centre for Social Entrepreneur-
ship, the Centre for Social
Innovation, and the Digital
Media Zone at Ryerson Univer-
sity are all committed to
providing knowledge and phys-
ical infrastructure in order to
promote innovation and entre-
preneurship in the social sector.
So what is 'social innova-
ISSN 170562SX Volume 26 Number 3 / 4 3
tion'? Mulgan et al. (2008)
provide a particularly concise
response. Social innovation is
"about new ideas that work".
Specifically, they argue that
social innovation is differenti-
ated from "improvement, which
implies only incremental
change; and from creativity and
invention, which are vital to
innovation but miss on the hard
work of implementation and
diffusion that makes promising
ideas useful". The European
Commission (nd) expands on
this definition with a greater
emphasis on the 'social' compo-
nent of social innovation:
Social innovations are
innovations that are social in
both their ends and their
means - new ideas
(products, services and
models) that simultaneously
meet social needs (more
effectively than alternatives)
and create new social
relationships or
collaborations. They are
innovations that are not only
good for society but also
enhance society's capacity
to act. Social innovations
take place across
boundaries between the
public sector, the private
sector, the third sector and
the household.
The Centre for Social Innova-
tion (nd), based in Toronto,
Canada, suggests that a focus
on defining the term social inno-
vation is not very important, and
instead favours highlighting
some ofthe core characteristics
ofsociai innovation as follows:
Social Innovation refers to
new ideas that resolve
existing social, cultural,
economic and
environmental challenges
forthe benefit of people and
planet. A true social
innovation is
systems-changing - it
permanently alters the
perceptions, behaviours and
structures that previously
gave rise to these
challenges.
These three definitions of
social innovation, somewhat
randomly picked from dozens
and more, already provide us
with multiple concepts of great
significance. For example, we
see embedded within these
definitions concepts of 'change',
'needs assessment', 'social rela-
tionships', 'collaboration',
'capacity building', 'systems
change', and 'behavior'. Addi-
tional elements of the social
innovation and entrepreneur-
ship process often cited include
its "practical and personal
nature", its rejection of bureau-
cracy, its enabling of
transformation, its focus on
building social capital, and its
emphasis on mission over
profits (Kickul & Lyons, 2012,
pp. 5-6).
Many scholars and commen-
tators on social innovation
choose to by-pass the question
of defining social innovation as
a process, and instead focus on
delineating the characteristics
ofthe agent ofsociai innovation,
the social innovator (and often,
the social entrepreneur).
Praszkier & Nowak (2012)
describe Ashoka's view of
what makes the social
entrepreneur:
"Entrepreneurs are
leaders who see
opportunities for change
and innovation and
devote themselves
entirely to making that
change happen. These
leaders often have little
interest in anything
beyond their mission....
This total absorption is
critical to transforming a
new idea into reality." (p.
21).
We can readily identify
multiple parallels to child and
youth care practice. Certainly
terms such as collaboration,
change, behavior, and
capacity building are
common ones within our
discipline, even if they are
used in multiple ways and
contexts. But the parallels
between these two fields is
not limited to specific terms.
In the international bestseller
Getting to Maybe, Westley,
Zimmerman & Patton (2007)
construct the idea of social
innovation around the
tension between complexity
and intentionality. They argue
that to bring about change,
we must act with intention,
even if the complexity of our
context does not afford us the
luxury of predictable paths: "If
you intend to do something,
you make a deliberate
commitment to act to bring
about change. Complexity
science is about unpredict-
able emergence without
4 4 / ISSN1705625X Relational Child and Youth Care Practice Volume 26 Number 3
regard for human intentions
(p. 21)." In finding the
opening within this tension,
Westley, Zimmerman &
Patton (2007) point to the
role of relationships, the very
core concept of child and
youth care practice, as the
possibility of bringing
intentionality to life: "Complex
systems comprise relation-
ships. Relationships exist
between things. You can
point at things, but you can't
point at relationships. They
are literally hard to see (p.
10)." In elaborating on the
role of relationships in social
innovation, the authors mirror
almost exactly articulations of
relational practice commonly
found in child and youth care
literature (Bellefuille &
Jamieson, 2008; Garfat,
2008; Garfat & Fulcher,
2011):
Relationships are key to
understanding and
engaging with the
complex dynamics of
social innovation. For
social innovation to
succeed, everyone
involved plays a role. As
systems shift, everyone -
funders, policy makers,
social innovators,
volunteers, evaluators -
is affected. It is what
happens between people,
organizations,
communities and parts of
systems that matters - 'in
the between of
relationships' (pp. 21-22).
At this point, we are able
to identify a pattern of trans-
lation that firmly establishes at
least the rhetorical connections
between social innovation and
child and youth care practice. In
social innovation, the conversa-
tion is about human agency
(self, self efficacy), the centrality
of relationships within complex
systems (relational practice),
collaboration across sectors and
roles (multi-disciplinary team
process), acting with intention
(intentionality) and building
capacity (empowerment). More-
over, the social innovator is
described much like the child
and youth care practitioner:
single-mindedly determined (the
twinkle in the eye - Trieschman,
1982; wild ambition to change
the world - Fewster, 2007;
talents, energy and passion -
Anglin, 2002), inventive ('cre-
ative potential of child and youth
care practice' - Bellefeuille &
Ricks, 2008), and empathetic
('values and habits' - Stuart,
2007; 'humility' - Phelan,
2012).
Similarity in and of itself,
however, is not a good reason to
engage the field of social inno-
vation. For this, we must
contemplate how doing so
might be useful for child and
youth care practice. This I will
consider next.
Innovation and
Entrepreneurship In Child
and Youth Care
The central rationale for the
social innovation movement is
that there are many social prob-
lems in the world that appear
deeply embedded, intractable,
and unresolvable. These kinds
of problems can be macro-prob-
lems (general, globally relevant
problems), such as poverty,
hunger, health risks, or violence,
or they can be micro-problems
(specific, highly variable prob-
lems depending on jurisdiction
and demographic group), such
as youth in care transitioning to
independence, poor educational
outcomes for young people
living in care, over-medication of
young people challenged by
mental health issues or lack of
recognition for child and youth
care practitioners in general. All
of these kinds of social prob-
lems have been identified for
quite a longtime, and there is
no shortage of research that
confirms the problematic of
each of these social issues. It is
also important to note that all of
these issues have been and
continue to be addressed
through myriad initiatives at
local, national, and global levels.
It is fair to say that there
certainly is not complacency
toward these kinds of issues,
and much has been done to
provide relief, orto mitigate the
impact of these issues. It is also
fair to say, however, that
existing responses to these
kinds of issues have shortcom-
ings. Ultimately, most of these
issues not only continue to test
our capacity to mitigate their
impact, but in fact are wors-
ening and becoming ever-more
prevalent, embedded, or
destructive.
In the inaugural issue ofthe
Stanford Social Innovation
Review, the editors explain their
rationale for promoting social
innovation as follows:
t:i,;(H||t]
ISSN 1705625X Voiume 26 Number 3 / 4 5
The problems of poverty,
unemployment, hunger,
pollution, disease,
disappearing natural
resources, and inadequate
access to quality education
and health care...still
surround us. Indeed, many
of these problems appear to
be growing worse (p.4).
We know, for example, that
the gap between rich and poor
globally and also in most local
contexts is in fact widening. We
know that hunger continues to
be a major problem, and not
only in easily identified poor
countries, but even in very rich
countries where some groups
within otherwise well off soci-
eties continue to struggle with
basic needs (for example,
aboriginal peoples in Canada
often face socio-economic
circumstances on par with
drought-stricken regions in
Africa). At a more micro-level,
the data appears to show that
the educational outcomes of
young people living in care have
not improved at all for decades,
and may in fact be worsening.
The transition to independence
for young people aging out of
care is as much a challenge
today as it was 20 years ago.
And although some child and
youth care practitioners have
made great strides in their
compensation packages and
overall valuing of their work,
most (especially in residential
care) continue to be underpaid,
undervalued, and treated largely
as expendable.
All of this begs the question:
given the tremendous efforts of
organizations and individuals,
and their best of intentions, why
are these circumstances not
changing in a more funda-
mental manner? In response,
several dynamics can be
identified:
0 Many initiatives taken to
respond to social problems
are reliant on unstable and
unpredictable funding
sources, and therefore are
unable to realize all that they
wish to realize;
o Regulatory frameworks often
create limits on what is
deemed to be possible;
n Incentives for those eager to
create change (with respect
to macro or micro problems)
are often insufficient to main-
tain their commitment or
even their presence in the
cause;
0 Skills required to create
change are often inacces-
sible to potential change
makers, because training
and education are delivered
through disciplinary silos;
o Strongly held value systems
sometimes come in the way
of more pragmatic
approaches, especially in the
context of private,
profit-oriented service
delivery;
o Typically, a multitude of
responses to general or
specific social problems
unfold in parallel, but there is
nota communication or
collaboration infrastructure
to organize multiple and
differentiated attempts to
bring about change.
Child and youth care prac-
tice is impacted by all of
these dynamics in one way or
another. In spite of what
might be characterized as an
'innovative' theoretical frame-
work for being with young
people (and their families and
communities), the implemen-
tation of programs, services,
and engagement strategies is
very much integrated into
existing approaches to inter-
vention that can be effective
from a very localized perspec-
tive, but that are not
inherently innovative. Most
child and youth care practitio-
ners, for example, work for
human service agencies that
are limited in their mandates
by regulatory frameworks,
funding arrangements,
values, disciplinary bound-
aries, and even competitive
contexts related to an
agency's position within the
broader system of service
provision pursuant to any
given service context (for
example, children's mental
health centres competing for
status, recognition, and
funding with other children's
mental health centres).
On the other hand, it is fair
to say that the field of child
and youth care has a firm
commitment to innovation in
thought, but has limited
means of translating such
thought into action. This is
the case in spite of strong
infrastructure to support the
process of translating thought
into action. For example, child
and youth care has an expan-
sive system of post-secondary
\
4 6 / ISSN1705625X Relational Child and Youth Care Practice Volume 26 Number 3
education programs at both
college and university levels
(more so in some jurisdictions
than in others). Research
capacity within the field has
increased dramatically over
the past two decades. Organi-
zationally, the field unfolds in
both public and private
sectors, and both
not-for-profit and for-profit
modalities. And perhaps most
importantly, the field is repre-
sented across virtually all of
the humans service sectors,
including health care, educa-
tion, community services,
child protection, children's
mental health, youth justice,
and developmental services.
To a lesser extent, the field is
even represented in policy
analysis and development,
regulation, and mandated
advocacy services.
There is much to appre-
ciate within the field of child
and youth care practice that
could serve as a foundation
for the integration of social
innovation and entrepreneur-
ship within the field. In order
to move fonward, however, a
number of embedded values
and structural features of the
field must be critically exam-
ined. In particular, one might
identify three themes in this
respect:
The pre-service prepara-
tion of practitioners, and
the extent to which this
prepares them to become
change makers;
D The on-going hesitation to
embrace entrepreneurial
approaches to service
delivery;
Thebureaucratizationofthe
field.
Pre-service Preparation
Currently, the over-arching
focus of child and youth care
pre-service training, whether at
the college level or at university,
is to prepare individuals to prac-
tice child and youth care with
young people. The University of
Victoria in British Columbia, for
example, describes the focus of
its program as follows (Univer-
sity of Victoria, School of Child
and Youth Care):
Child and youth care
graduates work as
practitioners and leaders in
community agencies,
government departments
and educational institutions.
Child and youth care as a
profession is founded on a
commitment to the
well-being of children, youth,
families and communities
and emphasizes
developmental practice,
social competency, and the
use of relationship in
therapeutic interactions
within the life-space.
Similarly, Douglas College in
British Columbia describes the
prospects of graduates from its
College and University level
programs thus (Douglas College,
Child and Youth Care Program):
Child and youth care
practitioners work in
schools, community centres,
parent-child education
settings, residential settings,
programs for street-involved
youth, addictions services
and in a variety of other
settings. Diploma graduates
are employed in front-line
positions working directly
with children and youth in
these settings. Degree
graduates find additional
employment options in
government settings and
team leader or supervisory
positions in community
settings.
Corresponding to these state-
ments, the curriculum of child
and youth care programs is
structured in somewhat tradi-
tional fashion and aims to
provide foundational knowledge
about child development, thera-
peutic interventions,
professional issues, ethics, crisis
intervention, assessment and
counselling skills, case manage-
ment, and so on. In most
programs, students are
expected to take a range of
courses from other disciplines
that support the foundations of
child and youth care practice,
including especially psychology
and sociology. The specific
learning associated with this
curriculum is typically geared
toward an integration of theory
in practice, so that graduates of
child and youth care programs
have a strong understanding of
theoretical frameworks such as
attachment theory, relational
practice, self-care, trauma-
informed care, interpersonal
communications and so on.
In some instances, and espe-
cially in university-based
programs, students are also
challenged to be critical in their
ISSN 170S625X Volume 26 Number 3 / 4 7
learning about child and youth
care practice, and to reflect on
embedded values and assump-
tions using critical, feminist,
postmodernist or
phenomenological perspectives.
In addition, many univer-
sity-based programs provide at
least an introduction to research
and program evaluation, albeit
at a very basic level.
It should be noted that the
pedagogy of child and youth
care pre-service education is
often quite creative, and
involves both lecture formats
and small group work as well as
simulation and placement expe-
riences. Every effort is made in
these programs to expose
students to multiple forms of
learning, and to challenge
students with intricate scenarios
and problem-solving opportuni-
ties. Nevertheless, a common
theme in virtually all of the
pre-service preparation within
the field of child and youth care
practice is the idea that gradu-
ates will join existing sectors,
agencies and organizations and
adapt to the values and
methods of service delivery
within such contexts. In other
words, the fundamental goal of
pre-service preparation is
employment readiness within
the existing framework of
service delivery. It is hoped, of
course, that wel! educated and
critically inclined graduates will
serve to facilitate change within
existing structures and
processes, and that they will
gradually become leaders and
advocates for more empow-
ering, more democratic and
ultimately perhaps also more
effective service delivery. But it
would be a significant stretch to
suggest that graduates are
expected to become change
makers, to become social inno-
vators, or to fundamentally alter
the landscape of service provi-
sion from systemic, structural,
or policy perspectives.
There have not been rigorous
research studies exploring the
impact of graduates of child and
youth care programs atthe
post-secondary level on the field
of child and youth care practice,
much less on the systems of
service delivery impacting chil-
dren and youth. There is,
however, considerable evidence
that such impact has not been
transformative; in fact, although
there has been a considerable
expansion of the field of child
and youth care into service
sectors ranging from education
to youth justice, and from devel-
opmental services to health
care, much of this expansion
has been at the ground level of
these service sectors. In some
instances, there have also been
scale backs of such expansion,
especially in sectors that are
often described as high end clin-
ically oriented, such as hospitals
and mental health treatment
sectors.
Enfrepreneurlal AcUvtty
Although there are exam-
ples of entrepreneurship
within the child and youth
care field, for the most part
the field neither promotes nor
endorses entrepreneurship.
Quite to the contrary, child
and youth care practice is
constructed around human
service values, and much of
the activity within the field
unfolds within not for profit
and typically govern-
ment-funded sectors,
organizations and agencies.
Indeed, service delivery within
the private sector, especially
in the context of residential
care, is often viewed with
suspicion, and the idea of
'making money on the backs
of vulnerable children and
youth' is greeted with concern
and often outright rejection.
This is the case in spite of
frequent complaints of insuf-
ficient material compensation
for practitioners in most
sectors, especially in residen-
tial care, in community-based
work, and sometimes also in
education.
In reality, most child and
youth care practitioners don't
see themselves as potential
entrepreneurs'. Their training
typically has not prepared
them to think differently
about service delivery, and to
contemplate the possibilities
of generating profit-oriented
ventures that can sustain
It is important to note the qualifier'most'; in fact, there are several examples of child and youth care
practitioners adopting an entrepreneurial approach to solve problems within the field, and some of these
approaches have had great success.
4 8 / ISSN 1705625X Relational Chiid and Youth Care Practice Volume 26 Number 3
their material ambitions while
also providing excellent
services to young people and
their families. This lack of
entrepreneurial thinking also
extends into service provision
itself. For example, young
people transitioning from
care are almost never
encouraged to consider an
entrepreneurial initiative as
one option in terms of
securing their income needs
once they are indeed inde-
pendent. Instead, almost all
of the services provided to
young people approaching
this transition are services
designed to help young
people integrate into existing
employment (or
post-secondary education)
structures (Mann-Feder,
2007). This is the case even
when it is quite clear that any
employment young people
might be able to access will
not be rewarding from a
financial perspective, and in
many cases condemn them
to a life on the threshold of
chronic poverty.
The Bureaucratization of
the Field
Efforts to legitimize child
and youth care practice as a
professional field in its own
right have, in recent years,
focused on the
professionalization ofthe
field through initiatives such
as delineating competencies,
moving toward accreditation
of post-secondary education
in the field, and licensing or
certifying practitioners
through professional associa-
tions. These efforts have
evolved significantly over the
years, although one could hardly
describe them as particularly
successful. Most professional
associations across North
America continue to struggle to
attract the interest of practitio-
ners (as evidenced by very low
membership rates), the compe-
tencies articulated to this point
are largely ignored by practitio-
ners and their employers, and
there appears to be little
momentum with respect to
licensing and certification
anywhere. In the absence of
government mandates, partici-
pation in any of these initiatives
is largely voluntary, and so far at
least, those promoting these
initiatives have not succeeded
in large scale buy in from any
part ofthe sectors where child
and youth care practitioners do
their work (Fusco & Baizerman,
2013).
In some respects, the move
toward bureaucratization is
counter-intuitive. Far from
promoting entrepreneurial
thinking and action, it promotes
conformity to standards and
guidelines, and a re-commit-
ment to values, competencies,
and methodologies that were
articulated as 'true' or 'mean-
ingful' by a selected few
individuals within the field
(Skott-Myhre, 2013). It is
furthermore problematic given
that a large proportion of child
and youth care practice is
provided by individuals with no
particular background in the
field itself. In residential care, for
example, fully 60% of practitio-
ners in Ontario have no child
and youth care diploma or
degree (Stuart & Sanders,
2008); in the US, given a less
developed post-secondary
education system in the field,
the proportion of practitioners
without formal training in the
field is even greater. As a result,
many ofthe initiatives related to
the professionalization ofthe
field are completely unknown to
a large proportion ofthe field
itself, and are unfolding on the
periphery of child and youth
care activity with no strategy of
moving toward the centre.
Social Innovation and
Entrepreneurship in Chiid
and Youth Care Practice
What, then, might be some
useful ways of integrating social
innovation and child and youth
care practice? Furthermore, how
can child and youth care practi-
tioners see themselves and be
recognized by others as change
makers, individuals who can
contribute innovative
approaches to being with young
people facing adversities that
are not simply addendums or
minor adjustments of existing
services?
In response to the first ques-
tion, one might identify the
opportunities embedded in
reflecting on our values and
normative assumptions about
our practice. This does not
require abandoning any child
and youth care values, but
instead adopting some addi-
tional values from the field of
social innovation. This might
include values such as entrepre-
neurship, not as a tool of
capitalist exploitation, but
ISSN 1705625X Volume 26 Number 3 / 4 9
instead as a way of thinking
about and approaching prob-
lems. It might include values
related to promoting systemic
change in addition to engaging
specific young people. And it
might include an expanded view
of relationships, so that the full
complexity of relational engage-
ment across individuals, groups,
institutions, sectors, and
systems become part and
parcel of our practice.
In response to the second
question, we surely must pay
attention to the pre-service
education and training that is
provided to emerging practitio-
ners. Notwithstanding the
strength of critical discourse
and deconstructive narratives in
post-secondary child and youth
care education, especially at the
university level, the reality is that
much of this pre-service educa-
tion and training still is
fundamentally anchored in
employment readiness in
existing institutional services.
Most newly educated and
trained child and youth care
practitioners are not prepared
for innovative professional path-
ways, including potentially
entrepreneurial pathways.
Changing this will require a
much more inter-professional
approach to education, where
students are encouraged to
think of themselves as potential
change makers, and are
equipped with the knowledge
and skills to chart a professional
course outside ofthe existing
service system, relying on
different kinds of professional
networks (or at least much more
diverse professional networks),
and collaborating with a range
of partners representing
perspectives from both within
and outside ofthe human
service fields-.
Ultimately, the term 'social
innovation' is one that is easily
co-opted rhetorically for the
purpose of personal or corpo-
rate gain. At the same time,
however, 'innovation' is clearly
needed within the human
service sector as a whole at a
time when public funds for
human services are declining
sharply and the discourse on
human service provision is
quickly moving toward a hege-
monic imposition of
rationalization, efficiency, and
outcome-based funding models.
The Editors ofthe Stanford
Social Innovation Review
(2003), in their inaugural issue,
ask this ominous question:
"Beneath all of this turmoil, lies
the question of just what role
ought government play to
secure the welfare of its
citizens"?
This creates many risks and
vulnerabilities for child and
youth care practice. Already
there are some indications that
the process-orientation of child
and youth care practice, and
especially its focus on relational
practice, is being devalued and
considered obsolete in the
era of evidence-based prac-
tices that are typically
associated with
medical-model and clinical
professions. Within existing
systems and institutions,
child and youth care practitio-
ners are increasingly seen as
expendable, and we see
limited signs of societal
investment in maintaining
and enriching this profes-
sional group. It is forthis
reason that I would suggest
our field engage the social
innovation field at the very
least in order to determine
whether there are ideas and
actions to be considered that
might protect our capacity to
deliver child and youth care
practice based on our core
principles, rather than a
mutated form of our practice
adjusted to the demands of
the language, culture, and
logic ofthe 'new economy'.
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Kiaras Gharbaghi has
spent 20 years working
with children
and youth in
many different
settings. He is
now a Faculty
in the School
of Child and Youth Care at
Ftyerson University in
Toronto. His latest book,
Being With Edgy Youth, is
available through Amazon
and other distributors.
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ISSN 1705625X Volume 26 Number 3 / 5 1