Learning from the Groundbreakers - Models of Innovation in Addressing Mental Health Equity in Toronto

CAMH researchers Sean Kidd and Kwame McKenzie, using a social entrepreneur framework, have undertaken a project to identify Toronto service providers who are driving innovation and transformation in addressing mental health disparities. Drs. Kidd and McKenzie assembled and led a committee composed of recognized leaders in service provision among Aboriginal, LGBTQ, immigrant, refugee, and homeless persons to determine the programs and organizations in Toronto that have broken new ground in conceptualizing and developing mental health services in each of these sectors. The goal of this project was to use a case study approach to learn from the people who have transformed innovative ideas into highly effective services—to articulate the models upon which their services are based and the implications of their work for policy development—to share new ways to more effectively address the pervasive health disparities that exist in our society. To identify organizations in Toronto that demonstrated social entrepreneur principles in their work they assembled a committee of people who had both extensive knowledge of the needs and nature of services in each of these sectors. Working with this committee, they engaged in an intensive search process to identify exemplary organizations and chose five such organizations to participate in an in-depth analysis of their work. Case studies were then completed with each of these organizations to identify factors that have been critical to their success. Interviews were also conducted with five key informants who described their understanding of social entrepreneurism in the context of service delivery to marginalized groups. While the organizations that were studied varied widely in the problems that they addressed, their organizational structure, and in their specific activities, there was a remarkable degree of similarity between them in the core components that were crucial to their effectiveness and success. The relative rarity of organizations that achieve a high level of entrepreneurism in their work can be understood given the many factors that underlie their success.

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