Imagining Canada’s Future


Asking tomorrow’s questions, today.

For Canada to be a successful 21st‑century society we need to anticipate the challenges ahead and keep our minds open to the potential futures facing us all. This is the inspiration behind SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative.

SSHRC launched Imagining Canada’s Future in June 2011 to identify future challenge areas for Canada in an evolving global context that are likely to emerge in five, 10 and 20 years and to which the social sciences and humanities research community could contribute its knowledge, talent and expertise.

The project involved a two‑year, cross‑Canada and international consultation process, during which we reached out to more than 13,000 subject matter experts, members of the academic research community, students, and public, private and not-for-profit sector leaders, to seek their insight.

A few cross-cutting elements emerged as essential for Canada and Canadians to weather significant transformations in an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world. They are:

  • sustainable, resilient communities;
  • creativity, innovation and prosperity;
  • values, cultures, inclusion and diversity; and
  • governance and institutions.

SSHRC’s governing council endorsed the resulting six future challenge areas in June 2013. They represent lenses through which SSHRC—in collaboration with the Canadian social sciences and humanities research community—feels it can and should make a difference in the coming years.


The future challenge areas were selected based on the following criteria:
  1. A given future challenge area is important for Canada in an evolving global context and merits being selected, based on evidence.
  2. Canada has social science and humanities research capacity to address a given future challenge, or that social science and humanities research capacity can be developed within a reasonable timeframe.
  3. SSHRC’s ability to promote or nurture a given future challenge area will make a difference for Canada and the world.
In determining the future challenge areas, the following strategic considerations were taken into account:
  • that they have focus and clear scope;
  • that they allow experimentation with new research approaches and paradigms, strengthening of methodologies or the development of theoretical research;
  • that they are balanced, diverse and wide‑ranging;
  • that they align with international trends where appropriate and possible; and
  • that they leave room for creativity, experimentation and imagination to respond to “weak‑signals” of change.


SSHRC thanks the community for its enthusiastic participation and reaffirm our commitment to continued engagement. SSHRC is looking forward to working closely with the social sciences and humanities community and its collaborators across disciplines and sectors to continue to leverage the Imagining Canada’s Future exercise in order to help build a better future for Canada and the world through research.

Participate and learn at our regional events.

Read the Imagining Canada’s Future technical report.

Imagining Canada’s Future: Background

Videos Highlighting Key Research

How is the social sciences and humanities research community helping to address future challenges for Canada in an evolving global context? Find out more with these institutions’ videos.