Case Study: Designing an Innovative Program for Young Canadians

July 4, 2022

Venture for Canada, a national charity, sought facilitation help to explore, align, and test ideas that will positively impact youth and young adults in the retail industry.

Meet the Client

Venture for Canada is a national charity that facilitates and fosters entrepreneurial skills in young Canadians. It does this through the recruitment, training and support of young people, enabling them to work for innovative Canadian businesses and startups.

The charity is currently working on the Reskilling Retail Workers Project, a design pilot focused on reskilling workers in precarious retail roles to go into in-demand startup jobs. Participants will be given the opportunity to develop the network, knowledge, and entrepreneurial skills needed to establish more impactful careers through access to training, upskilling opportunities, and career transition guidance.

“Canada has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset the skills and employment agenda and build a foundation for a more innovative and inclusive post-pandemic economy and society.”

Juanita Lee-Garcia, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Marketing

The Objectives

Responding to the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian retail workers, the team at Venture for Canada launched the design and development of the Reskilling Retail Workers Project. The MVP was crucial to secure pilot funding from key project funders, as well as buy-in from various stakeholders, including partners, collaborators, supporters and other important ecosystem actors. 

At a more granular level, the goals of the RDM sprint workshop and collaboration with adaptiveX included:

  • To provide project collaborators with a tool for collective ideation regarding program design concepts
  • To initiate an ideation sprint around the prioritization of the design concepts
  • To identify three key program model concepts for Venture for Canada to prototype as part of the next phase of the project.

Finally, the organizers emphasized their goal of ensuring the voices and ideas of every collaborator were heard throughout the design process.

Major obstacles and challenges

The Reskilling Retail Workers Project required numerous complex decisions to be taken by a cross-section of leaders in order for Venture for Canada to stay true to its commitment to co-creation and collaboration. Because of the multitude of perspectives, backgrounds, and skillsets, the team fully expected many different ideas and opinions to come up during the ideation phase of the project. Cross-sector collaboration and co-creation is a complex challenge in and of itself to ensure the expertise of each collaborator was accurately heard and captured during the process. 

An additional challenge the project faced was the lack of extensive research and evidence that focuses on retail workers, particularly the career progression of racialized and/or Indigenous youth in precarious retail roles. The team noted that information including intersectional demographic data, pay, skills assessments, and job satisfaction is not readily available from retail employers in Canada.

Role of AdaptiveX

adaptiveX came into the project to advise on the structure of the Reskilling Retail Workers Project sessions, and to build a collaborative and productive workshop environment that ensured the team’s desired outcomes were delivered. 

Key components of this included supporting the project manager in implementing a structured and focused decision-making process which leveraged design thinking principles. This allowed for the facilitation of group sessions which were critical to the team’s learnings and project success. 

“We were impressed by the level of expertise, engagement, and collaboration that the adaptiveX team brought to the table.”

Una Lounder, Social Innovation & Impact Growth Manager

Workshop Phases and Technique

adaptiveX ran an RDM Sprint session with a consortium of 17 cross-sector leaders from 13 organizations in order to address the following problem statement regarding The Reskilling Retail Workers Project

“How might we provide career development programs for displaced* Indigenous, racialized, and equity-deserving youth with experience in retail that lead to career pathway opportunities in in-demand roles in the tech/startup sector or tech roles in the retail sector?”

The workshop was structured as follows: 

  • Review and alignment around previous project research and project goals
  • Focus on ideation activities to unearth the best ideas from the group
  • Prioritization activities that allowed the group to collaboratively assess ideas
  • Concept exploration activity that allowed a deeper dive into the top three design concept ideas 

“By using a framing problem statement and building time into the session to ask questions, create clarity, and revisit the project research for alignment, adaptiveX ensured that collaborators were ideating from a shared understanding of the problem we were trying to solve.

Juanita Lee-Garcia, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Marketing

Workshop outcomes 

The Sprint produced a high volume of program design concepts from three separate groups. Venture for Canada was able to analyze and use these concepts to create best practices recommendations and three program models for testing. The program design concepts ranged from ideas around program content to curriculum, to delivery method, program models, and partnership opportunities. Additionally, the sessions brought together a large group of leaders to collaborate and co-create in an environment that created buy-in, engagement, and hands-on participation.

Risks were also identified during the Sprint. These concerns prompted solutions and risk mitigation strategies which have since been included in the project’s best practices recommendations, overall program model designs, or key areas to prototype and test.

Another outcome of the RDM Sprint session was that the team is now exploring implementing a short-mid-long term implementation lens in the project. The team realized the importance of considering the short-term vs. long-term needs of participants when approaching program design in order to ensure that intervention occurs at critical or crisis moments. 

Next steps 

Venture For Canada plans to prototype and test the program models created using the design concepts from the Rapid Decision Making session. 

The team is also committed to conducting an in-depth Assumptions Mapping session. In this session, they hope  to:

  • Explore the relationship between concepts in various models
  • Consider how each program model may look in practice for program participants
  • Name risks and assumptions associated with program models

Benefits of facilitation 

The team cited numerous benefits of working with adaptiveX, particularly in relation to ideation, large-scale collaboration, and improving processes.

Key benefits of the facilitation included: 

  • The promotion of the innovation cycle as a model for approaching social innovation projects 
  • Design thinking is brought to the centre of problem solving and strategy 
  • Collaboration and co-creation from a large group of leaders in an environment that created buy-in, engagement, and hands-on participation
  • The creation of a high volume of program design concepts which can be used for formulating best practices recommendations

“It was extremely valuable and beneficial to have an external facilitator to help us achieve the results we did through the RDM Sprint. A neutral voice to guide the session, keep us on track, and pose curious questions throughout the session helped with open dialogue and discussion.”

Una Lounder, Social Innovation & Impact Growth Manager

For more information about the Venture for Canada Reskilling Program, visit

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