The CFE iHub Process

Paige Proulx
Paige Proulx Innovation Guelph • 30 October 2020

Full Circle Model

1. Engage to Surface Problems

Employing the principles of Design Thinking, we start with divergent thinking.

Drawing on multiple sources and stakeholders, in a variety of formats, we surface problems and issues at various points within the foodsystem value chain (from field to fork). Typical engagement activities include:

  • Large, variegated groups (e.g. RRUM meeting)
  • Large groups with shared focus (e.g. meeting of the Association of Farmers Markets)
  • Smaller groups with shared focus (e.g. food processor focus group & AAFC focus group)
  • Individual interviews (e.g. Delta Hotel, various food producers)

By engaging in a variety of formats we can identify systemic, shared issues, cross functional problems and more proprietary concerns. Specifically, we are seeking problems that result in food waste, energy waste, inefficiencies, and unexploited opportunities.

2. Define/Refine Problems

Having identified and clearly defined a robust list of problems, we then apply convergent thinking to curate and refine the list. During this process, we will first sort problems into three categories:

  1. Known, previously solved problems: these can be solved by an introduction or procurement of an existing solution.  
  2. Very large, systemic problems: these will require higher level policy changes and are unlikely to be solved through the iHub.
  3. Solvable problems that can be readily tackled through the iHub challenge process.

From the third category, we will home in on a short list of problems to tackle based on the criteria of solvability and greatest impact if solved. Selected problems are then formed into challenge statements to be issued and addressed by the collective intelligence of the broader community.

3. Explore/Generate Solutions

In this stage we engage in solution generating activities for problems with the greatest potential for a viable solution and the greatest potential impact if solved. Solution generation involves a shift back to divergent thinking to first generate the greatest number of possible solutions. Solution generation activities could include challenges, hackathons, idea labs and more.

The audience for solution generating activities will depend on the nature of the problem to be solved. Possible contributors to solution generation include researchers, students, community members, social innovators, entrepreneurs, not-for-profit organizations, etc.

4. Assess Solutions

Having developed multiple possible solutions to a challenge, once again, convergent thinking is brought to bear as we curate and refine proposed solutions to identify those with the greatest chance of success. The most promising potential solutions and solution teams are then moved into the acceleration phase.

Note: potential CFE solutions brought directly to the iHub and/or through partners in the community will also be incorporated into the Full Circle model during the solution assessment phase.


Acceleration Phase

5. Development Sprint

In the acceleration phase, teams will work to prototype their solutions. With the assistance of iHub Innovation Specialists and subject matter experts, solution teams will develop prototypes, minimum viable products (MVP) and initial business models.

6. Protoype Validation

Once a solid MVP is defined, it will be tested and put through multiple customer/user validation cycles and feedback will be incorporated to ensure product/market fit. Using an agile approach, development will be iterative, continually extracting and applying learnings and applying pivots as required in response to feedback.

7. Reconnect

Having developed a viable solution and validated with the target market, successful iHub participants will be connected with relevant ecosystem partners to continue driving their growth and development.


iHub Process Diagram explaining the 7 steps of the full circle model