Capturing the Narratives and Stories of Innovation

This the syllabus of a course that the School of Urban Planning & the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montreal (CIRM) are offering this semester at McGill University in Montreal. Please share with those who might be interested.

URBP 542 : Capturing the Narratives and Stories of Innovation (CRN 17857)

Instructor: Gorka Espiau, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Professor of Practice (2016-2017). Email:

Schedule: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. – January 25-26 and February 1-2, 2017

In this one-credit course, students will focus on how systemic innovation takes place at the community level and learn to challenge traditional approaches to innovation, which often rely on the myth of the “solo entrepreneur”. More specifically, they will concentrate, in four classes, each related to a distinct topic, on different ways by which community narratives are produced and captured in order to co-create initiatives and interventions likely to generate broad and inclusive benefits.

By the end of this program, students should have improved their ability to deconstruct pervasive narrative (by which ordinary citizens are often not perceived to be “change makers” or “innovators”) and explored various theories of change and innovative practices.

Course Schedule

  1. Wednesday, January 25 – How innovation takes place at the community level.
  2. Thursday, January 26 – How normative mechanisms influence innovation dynamics.
  3. Wednesday, February 1 – Using ethnographic techniques to capture urban narratives.
  4. Thursday, February 2 – Future avenues: movement building applied to city transformation.

Assignments and Evaluation

  • Written assignment (70%): Students will be expected to write a short paper (8-12 pages, depending on their subject, Times New Roman 12, double spaced) related to one of the course’s themes or topics. This evaluation will be flexible and adapted to students’ research interests and preferred methodology (for example: mapping social innovation projects in Montreal, discussing a particular theory of innovation, assessing the impact of a particular project, etc.).
  • In-class participation (30%): Students will be expected to read course materials and participate during seminars.


  • Course materials: two relevant scientific papers (30-40 pages), to be circulated in advance via MyCourses, per class.

Submission of Work

In Accordance with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded. If you plan on submitting your paper in a language other than English please send us an email stating so.

Academic Integrity

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information).


If you have a disability please contact the instructor to arrange a time to discuss your situation. It would be helpful if you contact the Office for Students with Disabilities at 398-6009 (online at before you do this.