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The Indigenous Innovation Initiative aims to remedy resource gaps and assist in building capacity for Indigenous innovators, launching Indigenous innovations, and transitioning innovations to scale for the benefit of all Canadians.

At the request of Indigenous leaders, the Indigenous Innovation Initiative is hosted at Grand Challenges Canada. Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada brings ten years of experience in supporting over 1250 innovations in more than 105 countries. The innovations that have been supported are saving and improving lives around the world, and are often lead by innovators or ‘change-makers’ who have been personally impacted by the challenges they are working to solve. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation.

To ensure we can meet the needs of Indigenous peoples, our initiative is deeply rooted in Indigenous values and wisdoms and built on a foundation of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. To do this right we draw on the guidance of our Indigenous Innovation Council, made up of remarkable Indigenous leaders, Elders, and knowledge keepers with a strong commitment to community engagement and co-creation.

Our Indigenous Innovation Council members are:

  • Wendy Phillips, Elder, Queen’s University
  • Nadine St-Louis, Les Productions Feux Sacrés / Sacred Fire Productions
  • Diane Roussin, Winnipeg Boldness Project (Chair)
  • Karri-Lynn Paul, Coady Institute (Vice-Chair)
  • Killulark Arngna’naaq, MakeWay
  • Nathalie Pambrun, Canadian Association of Midwives

We believe Indigenous innovators will use their knowledge and determination to solve the challenges in areas such as mental health, housing, economic development, climate action, and youth employment in their communities.

Innovation is an Indigenous Value

Indigenous peoples have always been innovative. Indigenous innovation might be something completely new or it might be based on traditional knowledge and practices applied to a new situation or context.

The Indigenous Innovation Initiative wants to spark your spirit of innovation. Do you have an idea to make a difference for your community?

We're looking for Indigenous Innovators

Indigenous peoples’ resilience is rooted in their deep knowledge and relationships to land, community, and spirit. Social innovation is a concept that resonates within Indigenous worldview and values.

Indigenous innovators are businesses, organizations, social enterprises, or groups that are developing innovative products, programs, or services. Indigenous social innovators offer sustainable solutions to address the challenges they see in their communities.

Note on Indigenous Identity

The purpose of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative is to support innovation and social impact that is led by and/or created by Indigenous peoples. We believe in an inclusive approach to Indigenous identity, and that things like past and ongoing colonial policies and the impact of racism has contributed to many Indigenous peoples, communities and groups being exclusively targeted or outright excluded by various programs.

It is our intention to be thoughtful about access to the Indigenous Innovation Initiative’s program, and to make sure we demonstrate accountability to our communities. This includes being transparent about where each project is from and how it will make a positive impact for Indigenous groups, inclusive of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. We recognize that not everyone is “registered” with their respective Indigenous governance organization. We will work to support innovation by and for status and non-status First Nations, registered and unregistered Métis, and those who are and are not beneficiaries of their Inuit Land Claims Organization, no matter their gender, sexuality, experiences or gifts, and respecting the variety of ways an Indigenous community might be identified.

Successful applicants to the Indigenous Innovation Initiative’s programs and opportunities will be asked to demonstrate their connections to Indigenous identity and community. This could include a copy of your “registration” and/or a letter of support from your governance organization (e.g., Band office) and/or a letter of nomination from an Indigenous community organization or group, and/or other relevant evidence of your connection.

Indigenous Mental Health Project

In 2018, the Indigenous Innovation Initiative started the Indigenous Mental Health Project. Through this project, we developed a new approach, called the Three-Stranded Basket, to help us identify Grand Challenges in Indigenous mental health. Check out this interactive report to learn more about what we heard from First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples across Canada.

Indigenous Mental Health Project

Link to printable .pdf

You are encouraged to use the information within this report to inform policy, program planning and decision-making. Please reference it as follows:  INDIGENOUS INNOVATION INITIATIVE (2020). Identifying Grand Challenges in Indigenous Mental Health using the Three-Stranded Basket Approach. Toronto: Indigenous Innovation Initiative and Grand Challenges Canada.



The Indigenous Innovation Initiative is hosted at Grand Challenges Canada, informed by their ten years of experience and wisdom supporting a +1250 innovations in more than 105 countries. Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®.

Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation.

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