Chad Gaffield on People-Centred Innovation

Chad Gaffield, the President of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, gave a talk yesterday at the University of Alberta on how innovation involves people. This talk was part of a at a Festival of Ideas event celebrating Social Science and Humanities research that included a panel on “Does the Internet Lie?”. Gaffield’s talk reprised an argument that can be found in this Chad Gaffield interview at CSPC 2010 on YouTube. (He talks specifically about the humanities from 4:15 minutes in.)

The talk and the YouTube video show the argument that the President of our Canadian research council is making in public on our behalf – which is to link innovation and successful societies to the understanding of people. He claims there is a paradigm shift in all areas (from learning to health) towards people-centred approaches.

The implication is that the humanities and social sciences are therefore important for innovation and society. For Gaffield the humanities are not something added onto our prospects and prosperity. The humanities teach about who we people are and are therefore at the heart of all research. We must think about humans in integrated ways that bring the humanities, social sciences and sciences together.

Gaffield wants a new model for innovation for Canada that goes beyond the technological fix because we know the problems we face are complex and involve people. Innovation in this new century will involve new ways of imagining, new ways of thinking, new metaphors, and new languages.

In his talk at the University of Alberta he concluded by mentioning the Digging Into Data program as an example of new ways of trying to understand what it is to be human through large-scale analysis.

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