TRC 92: Youth Employment Lab

TRC 92: Youth Employment Social Innovation Lab

Social innovation labs are a co-creative approach to addressing complex social challenges. Diverse stakeholders come together to deeply understand a challenge, identify patterns and structures that are keeping a challenge entrenched, generate, and test potential solutions, and implement high-potential approaches. As important as the solutions that are generated are the collaborative relationships that are built across traditional boundaries, as well as the knowledge, capacities and skills that are developed through this process. Social innovation labs:

  1. Create new ways to understand complex challenges
  2. Enable new spaces for testing and experimentation
  3. Create new ways to adopt and scale promising solutions[1]

The TRC92: Youth Employment Lab focuses on three areas that emerged through extensive consultation, as well as co-creation sessions with Indigenous youth job seekers, community trainers, employers, and government. These are:

  • Creating the Workplace Conditions: How might we address structural barriers[2] and create culturally safe companies that facilitate the success of Indigenous employees?
  • Transition Support: How might we ensure that Indigenous youth have the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual supports required to transition successfully from pre-employment into employment?
  • Bridging Finances: How might we bridge the financial gap that exists between pre-employment and employment to ensure that starting and keeping a job is affordable?

Lab Structure

The lab is structured to centre the voices of Indigenous young people. Throughout the lab, youth – those with lived and living experience of this issue – will share their firsthand knowledge and understanding of the issues and play active roles in co-creating solutions.

Lab participants include:

Indigenous Youth

Indigenous youth between the ages of 18 and 29 will be actively engaged throughout the project with roles on the Guide Group, as part of the Co-Creation Teams, and through Youth Circles convened by community trainers.

Guide Group

To ensure the lab remains grounded in its purpose and values, a Guide Group comprised of Indigenous youth, community trainers, employers, and Indigenous people with experience related to TRC #92 and/or Indigenous youth employment provides leadership, insight, and advice.

Co-Creation Teams

There will be one Co-Creation Team for each focus area. These teams will be generating, testing, and iterating potential solutions. All teams will include Indigenous youth job seekers / employees, companies selected from the Employer Consortium, and a community trainer. In addition, each team will involve people with subject matter expertise related to the focus area under consideration.

Employer Consortium

These companies will provide insight and feedback on early solutions emerging through the lab process. This is also the source of companies that will be involved as part of the Co-Creation Teams.

Community Trainers

These are non-profit organizations / social enterprises / post-secondary institutions that offer programs and services to help prepare and launch Indigenous youth (and others) into meaningful and ongoing job / career opportunities.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR)

The NCTR is a place of learning and dialogue and is the primary partner for educating companies about the history and legacy of residential schools and fostering reconciliation and healing. We are grateful to be partnering with the NCTR on the design of sessions for the Employer Consortium and also for their participation in the Guide Group.

Government of Manitoba

The Department of Families – specifically Employment and Income Assistance – was one of the stakeholders involved in the co-creation sessions held to identify the three areas of focus.

Lab Process

Each Co-Creation Team will come up with ideas and tangible ways to test these ideas on a small scale (prototypes), so that they can make adjustments that will minimize the risk to potential and current employees, as well as company brands. The Youth Circles, the Guide Group and the Employer Consortium will be important sources of feedback for the ideas. Based on the feedback the Co-Creation Teams receive through these initial tests, they will then adapt – or even reject – their initial ideas and go through further cycles of testing, learning, and adapting. Ultimately, Co-Creation Teams will have promising solutions, ready to be implemented.

[1] MaRS Discovery District. (2019). Innovation Labs and Process. Retrieved from

[2] Structural barriers are the policies, practices and resource flows that reinforce inequity.