Help kickoff the Disrupt–ATHON, a social innovation challenge, October 20-27, 2021.

The Social Impact Lab, powered by United Way of Calgary and Area, will be hosting a Fall Disrupt–ATHON social innovation challenge. This year, we’re bringing together social innovation-minded workplace teams to design solutions to provide opportunities for children growing up in poverty to develop essential life skills.

  • In Canada, 1.3 million children live in poverty—that’s one out of every five kids.
  • 40 percent of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty, and 60 percent of Indigenous children on reserves live in poverty.

Unfortunately, poverty continues to be a widespread issue across Canada and in Calgary. The effects of poverty influence different aspects of a person’s life, including food security, health, and housing, and often undermine the development of critical life skills (or transferable skills) for children. These skills can empower kids to navigate their environment, build critical consciousness, work well with others, and achieve goals that help them lead happy and healthy lives where they can grow and thrive.

On October 20th, we’re inviting everyone to join our panel of experts and several workplace teams from across Calgary to kickoff the weeklong Disrupt–ATHON social innovation challenge. We’ll use design thinking to address the question of how might we provide opportunities to children growing up in poverty to develop life skills? This virtual event is designed to bring people together to rethink how to collaboratively solve social issues in our community.

What is a DisruptATHON?

A Disrupt–ATHON is The Social Impact Lab’s version of a social innovation hackathon. We take an entrepreneurial approach that focuses on understanding social needs by identifying social issues through conversations with experts and those affected by the problem. Then, using the design thinking process, groups develop ideas that can become solutions to help solve the issue, and positively impact the community and beyond.

This year, Disrupt–ATHON will provide companies in Calgary with a unique and innovative way to engage employees in local issues they care about. This initiative is a creative and fun way to bring a new way for employees to volunteer their time and align with workplace CSR and social impact initiatives. The experience also provides an opportunity for employees to be creative and flex their innovative muscles.

“Poverty in our communities is a complex social issue that is ripe for innovation and solutions,” said James Gamage, Director, Innovation from The Social Impact Lab, United Way of Calgary and Area. “By creating an opportunity for individuals with different skillsets to collaborate and apply creative thought to the problem, we know some remarkable ideas will emerge that will go on to make a real difference in the lives of many children.”

Why design thinking?

The Social Impact Lab uses the design thinking process as a creatively structured approach that helps an individual or a team identify the actual problem, peeling back the layers and then coming up with several possible solutions. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” said Jackie Mattock Howard, from The Social Impact Lab, United Way of Calgary and Area. “Design thinking helps structure the thought processes and help us identify the most critical problem to solve by minimizing uncertainty and risks by engaging participants through a series of prototypes to learn, test, and refine concepts.”

Everyone is welcome to join the kickoff event to learn more about children growing up in poverty, hear from experts, and get a glimpse into the design thinking process.

For more information, visit our events page: