Scaling Innovation

Books and Book Chapters

Scaling Up: The Convergence of Social Economy and Sustainability

edited by Dr. Mike Gismondi, Dr. Mary Beckie, Dr. Sean Connelly, Dr. Sean Markey and Dr. Mark Roseland (published in 2016 by Athabasca University Press)


The book examines the potential of the social economy to transform the systems that make our current ways of life unsustainable.All of the editors and many of the contributors were involved for many years in BALTA’s research programs and BALTA’s research infuses the book. As the case studies included in the book illustrate, organizations that are capable of harnessing the power of a social economy generally demonstrate a commitment to three outcomes: greater social justice, financial self-sufficiency, and environmental sustainability. Within the matrix of these three allied principles lie new strategic directions for the politics of sustainability.

Order the book.  The book can also be downloaded for free in pdf form.

The Resilience Imperative, Co-operative Transitions to a Steady State Economy

by Mike Lewis and Pat Conaty (published in 2012 by New Society Publishers; French translation, Impératif Transition: Construire une économie solidaire published in 2015 by les Éditions Écosociété; Korean translation published in 2015 by Tabi Publishing)

RI English version

This book is based upon research and reflection supported by BALTA during its initial research program from 2006-2012. It explored many of the themes that became central to BALTA’s work in its Scaling Innovation for Sustainability Project. With our communities confronted by major sustainability challenges, many linked to the impact of climate change, it argues for replacing the paradigm of limitless economic growth with a more decentralized, co-operative, steady-state economy.  It examines case studies of success in energy sufficiency, local food systems, low-cost community based financing, affordable housing and land reform.

Order the book.

Order the book in French.

RI French version

Order the book in Korean.

Several parts of the book have been adapted into a series of online articles.  See:

‘Unleashing Local Capital’: scaling cooperative local investing practices

by Dr. Mike Gismondi, Juanita Marois and Danica Straith (published in 2015 in Putting Sustainability into Practice: Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption by Emily Huddart, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi T. Krogman; Edward Elgar Press,)

The authors examine the ‘Unleashing Local Capital’ (ULC) program, a co-operative local investment innovation designed by the Alberta Community and Cooperative Association (ACCA) to provide rural communities with a financial tool that retains local capital and invests in community businesses. They describe attempts to scale ULC across the province of Alberta, Canada, and the challenges encountered from incumbent financial structures and legislative systems and people’s habitual investing and borrowing practices. The authors use a combined Multilevel Perspective (MLP) and Social Practices Theory (SPT) analysis to identify factors that facilitate or hinder the spread of the innovation.


Scaling up Alternative Food Initiatives Embedded in the Social Economy

Featured Presenters:  Mary Beckie,  University of Alberta; Sean Connelly, University of Otago

Despite the increasing growth and attention to farmers markets, community supported agriculture, local food box programmes, etc., alternative food initiatives geared towards local production and consumption, many of which emerge from the social economy, remain minor players when contrasted with the conventional food system. The key challenge is how to scale-up alternative food initiatives so that they have a greater transformational impact in the larger agri-food system and also serve as a catalyst for broader societal change towards a sustainable and strong social economy. The case studies examined in this webinar highlight the opportunities and challenges in scaling-up food relocalisation without sacrificing commitment to social, economic and environmental values and goals.

Access a recording of the webinar, the power point presentation and a transcript.

Scaling Success: Community Based Carbon Reduction Breakthroughs in B.C.

Featured presenter:  Elizabeth Sheehan, Climate Smart Business Inc

Elizabeth Sheehan, the co-founding champion and now president of Climate Smart Business Inc, led an exciting webinar on the evolution and scaling of a unique community based approach to carbon reduction. Organized as a B-Corp which blends non-profit and private ownership, Climate Smart is a social enterprise focused on engaging small and mid–size businesses to reduce their carbon foot print through energy, waste and transportation efficiencies. Their story from idea to prototype to piloting their package of services is joined up with a remarkable scaling of their carbon reduction impacts in B.C. Partnerships with municipalities have been an important feature of their approach.

Access a recording of the webinar, the power point presentation and a transcript.

Visit Climate Smart’s website for further information.

Projects, Reports, Journal Articles and Other Resources

Farmers’ Markets as Social Economy Drivers of Local Food Systems

Research Leads: Mary Beckie, University of Alberta; Hannah Wittman, Simon Fraser University

Co-Researchers: Paul Cabaj, Canadian Centre for Community Renewal; Herb Barbolet, Simon Fraser University
Student Research Assistants: Chris Hergesheimer, Simon Fraser University; Emily Huddart Kennedy, University of Alberta; Melisa Zapisocky, University of Alberta

There is growing interest in the re-localization of food systems. Farmers’ markets are important and increasingly prevalent sites of economic and social exchange in the evolution of local food systems. Little is understood, however, about the role of farmers’ markets in fostering increased local production and consumption, or the broader impacts of these social economy enterprises on the communities (both urban and rural) and regions with which they are associated. This research over two phases has examined and compared the current and potential role of farmers’ markets in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, as social economy drivers for local food systems.


Read journal article, “Linking Local Food Systems and the Social Economy? Future Roles for Farmers’ Markets in Alberta and British Columbia”.

Read journal article, “Scaling up alternative food networks: Farmers’ markets and the role of clustering in western Canada”.

The Scaling Imperative

by Danica Straith and Dr. Mike Gismondi (blog published April 16, 2014, by Social Innovation Generation)

The authors examine the concept of scaling innovation, factors that shape scaling, and implications of scaling for sustainability. Both authors were key leaders in BALTA’s Scaling Innovation for Sustainability project and drew from the work of that project to prepare this blog.