In Conversation with Dorin Adenekan
Dorin Adenekan has gained extensive experience in Humanitarian services through organizing several community and family oriented programs that helped her community achieve self-sufficiency while in Nigeria. This included the formation of CarePoint Foundation, a non-governmental organization that delivers Women Empowerment Programs, offers material and financial support to families with children, and helps alleviate poverty in Nigeria, West Africa. Dorin earned her first Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Mathematics, at Delta State University, Nigeria. Having arrived Canada in 2013, her passion for humanitarian services drew her focus to earn her second degree in Social Work at the University of Manitoba, Canada. With her strong desire to help her community, she applies a strength-based approach to working with vulnerable population like indigenous women, new immigrants and refugees, in the areas of community-based incentive programs, program-planning, implementation and evaluation. Her social enterprise, Reg-Style, focus primarily on supporting Newcomer minority women who are experiencing difficulties integrating into the Canadian society, through the local production and sales of Hand-made clothing, jewelleries and accessories. As a strategy to promote more sustainable and inclusive economy, Reg-Style seeks to promote their work through social media and community events; and portions of proceeds made from these sales are invested in developing the program by empowering more women in minority communities towards gaining self sufficiency, resiliency and financial sustainability.
We had a chance to have a quick catch up with Dorin to get to know what she had been up to:
Q: What has happened since the day of the Summit?
It was indeed a privilege to be 1 of the 15 young Canadian Innovators that were carefully selected to attend the Active Citizen Social Enterprise (ACSE) Youth Innovation Summit at the Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which was organized and hosted by the United Nations Association of Canada and British Council Canada in support of the United Nations. With the opportunity to pitch my idea at the Parliament of Canada, the first thing I did when I came back from the Summit, was to register as a legal entity in Manitoba – so far, I have been able to register the idea which was pitched to the at the Summit as an official social enterprise in Manitoba. My experience with ACSE has also moved me forward in my career, and actually made me a better person. I was doing my practicum for my second degree in Social Work when I came to Ottawa for the Summit, and since then I have completed my second degree in Social Work where I graduated with Honors. Furthermore, I worked as a Program Assistant and presently hired as the Coordinator for the Neighbourhood Immigrant Settlement Worker program, with Immigrant Centre here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Indeed, through the knowledge gained from the ACSE leadership training, especially in the area of inter-cultural dialogue, I have been able to collaborate with some Canadian Indigenous Elders in community delivered programs through my work/community engagements and have gotten the opportunity of meeting with Brain Bowman, who is also known as the first Indigenous Mayor in the history of Winnipeg.
As for Reg-Style Social Enterprise, I am still looking for funding to buy the sewing machines and supplies. I am also in touch with the women from the pilot project. There is a plan to connect with local vendors to see how we can expand and showcase the products made by these women. Unfortunately, getting funding has been an issue. For example, I needed 6 sewing machines and I have only been able to get one.
Q: What do you want to achieve in the next year?
The first goal for me in the next year is to be able to go out in the media and let everyone know what I’m doing with my social enterprise because I have been working hard behind the scenes to make it happen. Secondly, through the social enterprise in support of United Nations 2030 Agenda I want to be able to promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3 – Good Health and Well-being, SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, and SDG9 – No Poverty by promoting strengths, diversity and inclusion. Which is why in the interim, I started a YouTube channel Reg-Style Media that is presently creating YouTube contents in line with my social work goals, and its activities focus on fostering cultural awareness and social-economic inclusion, while applying environmental context for vulnerable population within minority groups in Canada and Nigeria.
Q: What are your motivations to continue to develop your social enterprise?
Having been exposed to vulnerable situations, my motivation is my passion as a socially responsible youth and continuous desire to work with and support for positive mental health and well-being by promoting sustainable livelihood for vulnerable population and minority communities.
My experience with ACSE has really helped and inspired me and once Reg-Style kicks off fully, you are going to be hearing about me, that is for sure! I have been doing a lot of groundwork, which I believe is really important and the platform the ACSE team has provided has helped me gain a global perspective. Reg-Style is really a passion of mine and I’m taking it one step at a time.
In Conversation with Hayley Mundeva
Hayley has worked for nearly 4 years on global health research projects based in Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia with AMREF, the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research and St. Michael’s Hospital. She has 2 degrees in global health and is a certified trainer in social entrepreneurship. Despite starting her career in academia, Hayley was surprised to find little information on global health organizations and career pathways. This is what sparked her interest in founding ThriveHire.
ThriveHire is an online career platform that connects people to job opportunities in the global health sector. Through customized company pages, job postings and industry-tailored tools and services, we are enabling job seekers to save time securing employment, while helping global health organizations to improve their brand visibility and find top talent in this sector. Through these centralized resources, our intention is to enable global health job seekers and organizations to connect more easily, so that ultimately, they can create the collective health impact our communities need.
Q: You started the Active Citizens Social Enterprise training being completely new to social enterprise: do you have any advice for someone who is new to social enterprise?
Regardless of whether you have a background in social entrepreneurship or not, I think the biggest thing is learning to be patient with the process and specifically, how long it can take to develop clarity over your social enterprise idea. I think it’s really easy to rush into things and get glued to certain ideas, but it’s important to recognize that you have to undergo a process to turn an idea into reality. It really takes time to survey and interview target clients to better understand what their needs are, and you have to be willing to be patient with that. When I started this, I didn’t have a business background, so it was a matter of being ok with putting my pride in my pocket and asking questions. I’m really grateful to see how many people are willing to sit down over coffee to share some of their important insights. That’s given me incredible knowledge. So it’s about being willing to enjoy the process and being patient. And the other thing I’d say is that it’s important to not let your educational background limit you. If you actually look at some of the most successful businesses and social enterprises, they are or have been led by people who didn’t have business backgrounds. So follow your gut, ask questions, don’t apologize for having an opinion, and learn to be patient during the process.
Q: What are your plans for the next year or so?
Our team was fortunate to be awarded the Active Citizens Social Enterprise Youth Innovation Award for the first cohort. With these funds, we are developing our minimum viable product, which is a simple version of our website. We’re going to be developing it for testing purposes: once we launch it at the end of this summer, we will be testing out the initial services. And within this, we will be gathering user feedback from our first clients to see what’s working well, what needs to be tweaked, what new features should be added, what needs to be scrapped, and so forth. The big priority here is to gather as many insights as possible so that we can improve our services, ensure they are addressing customer needs, and start working towards creating an improved beta product of our site by the end of next year. During this time, we have been accepted into the Social Ventures Zone, which is Ryerson University’s business accelerator. They’ve connected us to some resources and mentors who will be coaching us through this process. So those are the immediate things that are in the pipeline for ThriveHire!
Q: Have you attended any interesting events or networking activities?
I’m a firm believer that businesses are built through people, they’re not built singlehandedly. So it’s very important to network, and to do this regularly. You can’t assume that your social enterprise will simply speak for itself and that customers will come running to you, especially if they aren’t even aware of it in the first place. There’s also often an inner circle that you need to find a way to get into it, so I try to go to a social entrepreneurship or global health events every few days. There’s a lot happening at MaRS, which is a big business incubator here in Toronto, the Centre for Social Innovation, at Ryseron, the University of Toronto, tech startups around the city, and at different hospitals. I try to go to anything related entrepreneurship, whether that’s digital marketing, fundraising, or business strategy. Or I’ll attend events that are more closely related to ThriveHire, such as global health or human resource events. It is a commitment, but at the same time, walking out of those events is really exhilarating and those connections you make reinforce why you’re doing all of this.
Q: Tell us about what keeps you pushing through the hard work and stops you from giving up?
Like a lot of social entrepreneurs, I was frustrated by an experience I encountered first-hand and thought there had to be a better way of addressing this problem. I was lucky to find employment in global health research after graduating, but in spite of this, I was disappointed to discover little information out there on different ways to launch and develop a career in global health. I had a lot of conversations with colleagues who had similar experiences and were struggling to find relevant information on different career paths or job openings. On top of that, I know that a lot of global health issues are urgent right now, such as the next global outbreak of disease, antibiotic resistance or links between pollution and health. These challenges are getting lots of funding right now. So it’s not a matter of the jobs not being there, they are, it’s about organizing this whole sector better so that we can make it more efficient and enable job seekers and employers to connect more easily. That is really what is motivating and pushing me to create a user friendly platform like ThriveHire that can connect people to opportunities in this important sector.
Q: Any last thoughts?
Just bringing it back to the ACSE program, I think programmes like this can nudge and encourage people to continue exploring their really important ideas. I think undergoing the ACSE programme is a way to get connected to like-minded social innovators and, of course, to learn more about the nuances of social entrepreneurship. All in all, it was encouraging and validating to be selected to attend the Summit and it was fun to be a trainer this past year, which let me see a lot of driven, enthusiastic participants this year develop social enterprises. It was a great experience and I would always encourage people to attend similar programmes and find ways to keep learning and getting their ideas out there.
In Conversation with Thomas Bevan
Thomas is a real estate professional and urban planner who is driven by a social purpose. The root of his professional mission is to make cities more inclusive, where beauty is accessible, and to help create places we can all be proud of and responsible for.
Over the past six years, Thomas has been working with the Vancity Community Foundation to redevelop the former Vancouver Police Headquarters @ 312 Main Street into a Centre for Social and Economic Innovation. He is currently completing the AIC real estate appraisal designation to better understand the interrelationships between value and community.
Q: Tell us about how 312 Main has been developing over the last year.
We have been under construction and are projecting to open at the end of spring this year, so there’s been a lot of physical work on the site. The fundraising component of the project has gone well, we have secured funds from the federal government, the Canadian Heritage program, and have secured additional funds from other project sources. We have also completed certain value-add items that have been really well received by the community such as a longhouse gathering space which was asked of us from the First Nations in Vancouver, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs , who are one of our anchor tenants, have moved into their space so technically we have occupancy which was a big milestone.
We have hosted a few ministers at 312 Main, including Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly who joined us for our funding announcement, as well as several of the provincial ministers in British Columbia. We have secured about 70% of the space now and we’re in discussions for the Healing & Wellness Centre in the former jail area, as well as in conversation with a major university institution to take the top floor. These negotiations are still underway for the final phases of the project, which are expected to be completed in early 2019. We’ve had community open houses which have been a lot of fun, we have been building our relationships in the Downtown Eastside and helping to provide low barrier jobs and opportunities. This includes groups such as Wish, a charity specialising in female survival sex workers who have been helping with hospitality and making the wayfinding greeting elements of our open houses and will continue to have a presence when the building is officially open. The Binners Project is another community engagement group that has been a really productive relationship, helping us with our waste and recycling sorting for events and the open houses. They will continue helping us for events that are happening during operation to help reduce our waste content as well as providing meaningful employment to folks who haven’t had the same access to opportunities as others.
We’ve been really busy, we have brought on more people onto our team including a Director of Community Engagement and Director of who have been helping further our relationships and really making this project meaningful for the Downtown Eastside and as relevant as possible.
Q: Once you have secured full occupancy and full funding, what are your next steps?
Well for me personally, I’m starting to look at opportunities for other projects in the Greater Vancouver area, seeing how we can learn from this success and build it further. The federal government has particular interest in the development of cultural hubs such as this, and are considering how we can bridge the worlds of culture, economy and new opportunity for the workforce. So there are some exciting possibilities on the horizon once we get our feet under us for 312 Main.
Q: What’s your drive for continuing along the path of social enterprises?
I believe in helping to repair and restore the fabric of our urban communities. 312 Main is such a great example of an underutilised municipal asset that was costing the city a million dollars a year to keep on life support after the police left it, as it was a dilapidated building, which was re-envisioned into a space that now financially breaks-even and is opening up opportunities for non-profits and social enterprises. That’s what I’ m really excited about: making real estate work for people. Too often it just works for the bottom line and 312 Main is an example of how it can be done differently.
Interviewers: ACSE team
In Conversation with Tara Campbell
Tara Campbell was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Growing up she spent her summers in northern Manitoba with her family, where she fostered a passion for nature and being active outdoors. She is passionate about how to engage others in the movement to make the local and global community more sustainable. Find out more about her idea for Plant.Eat.Grow here!
Thinking back to the Youth Innovation Summit, what did you see as an opportunity from participating in it?
I think the opportunity was being with so many like-minded people who are all striving for a better tomorrow, which may sound cliché. I found that even on the training weekend in Winnipeg, and then again at the Summit, being surrounded by such motivated young people, by people who really want to make the world a better place was encouraging.
What have you been working on since we saw you at the Summit?
Over the summer, I worked for FortWhyte Farms in Winnipeg, a social enterprise that has similar attributes to the idea for my social enterprise, Plant.Eat.Grow. Throughout the summer I would say little things about my idea and it was interesting to hear that my colleagues, who had helped grow FortWhyte Farms, had similar ideas when they first started. I saw how different things that had taken place made them make certain choices, how some things worked really well and some things had not worked the way they wanted them to, so they changed them. Growing a social enterprise is a learning process, there isn’t just one way that’s the only way.
Tell us more about why you are passionate about working around themes of Indigenous Food Sovereignty and youth?
When you work with youth, the whole world is at their feet: they can educate their parents, they can educate their community. They’re at a really great place in their lives where they can change the world and I think that by instilling those seeds, that passion and power you can see the way they grow and change their life. Living in Canada it is important to work hand in hand with the Indigenous community to build a stronger community. Indigenous Food Sovereignty has huge roots in being able to be self-sufficient and I realised that a lot of the things that I’m passionately interested in, particularly youth and public health, are all encompassed in Indigenous Food Sovereignty. I truly believe that people are entitled to not just food security but to Indigenous Food Sovereignty.
What are the next steps for you?
I’m starting my Masters of Science in Public Health at Glasgow Caledonian University. I’m really excited and I chose that university specifically because it had a placement option which was really important to me for continuing my education. I’m really excited about that next step forward to build my education, build my research, and build my capabilities towards being more of a global citizen. The Masters programme, and Glasgow Caledonian University in general, is very committed to the Sustainable Development Goals.
The ACSE Team
In Conversation with Apefa Adjivon
Apefa Adjivon is the Founder and Executive Director of the Pearl Project . Moving to Canada as a refugee with her family at a young age, she had the opportunity to experience life in both the western world and the developing world. Recognizing the difference in the treatment of women in Canada and her home Sierra Leone, she dedicated her life to improving the lives of individuals in developing countries and women internationally.
Q: What has happened since we met at the Youth Innovation Summit in May?
At the Summit, one of the panellists was Maja Saletto Jankovic, the Director of the Youth Opportunities Fund at the Ontario Trillium Foundation. She mentioned that the Foundation was accepting applications, so we started that process over the summer. We found out that we made it to the last round of the Youth Opportunities Fund, so it’s nice that we made it this far. In July we were named finalists for the Young Entrepreneur Award with Startup Canada , for my work on the Pearl Project I was named a young leader building peace by UNESCO , Most Inspiring College Women for Her Campus, and the Globe and Mail has included me in their 30 under 30 in Sustainability list with the Pearl Project. Finally, UNA-C is now our official organisational mentor, which opens us up to a number of connections and opportunities in terms of our capability to apply for grants.
Q: Have you made any connections that have helped you with the Pearl Project ?
One of our ACSE trainers works for Toronto Community Housing, and she gave us references for people to speak to in the Regent Park area. We’ve had consultations with them about youth, where youth needs are and where the Pearl Project training is needed the most. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to the Director of Community Outreach for the University of Toronto , which is my university. She spoke about the best way we can go about the project, the needs of students at Regent Park and how the University works with organizations in the community. Our website has now launched, and right from the first day we’ve had mentor applications from Toronto, which is where we’re based, but we have also received applications from people in other provinces. I didn’t reach out to anyone outside of Toronto, so the fact that people are coming in on the first day we launched the website and signing up from across Canada has been amazing.
Q: You are super enthusiastic and energetic, what keeps you following your path regardless of the challenges?
The Pearl Project came out of my own experience and out of my experience helping the Youth Drop-in Centre in Calgary. I’m still in contact with a lot of students who I worked with there and with whom I have been volunteering at student groups through my university. I see myself in these girls and I know that when I was growing up I needed something like the Pearl Project and that there is still a need for it. If there was someone who had a program that effectively helped girls, I wouldn’t be as adamant as I am about the Pearl Project. I work so much with youth and because their stories mirror mine so much, I feel like not doing the Pearl Project would be failing myself. I’m committed to seeing the Pearl Project through and even if we don’t hit super big numbers, the point of the Pearl Project isn’t to have a super streamlined project that helps as many youth as possible, which is what I think the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA do. The Pearl Project is about helping girls in the best way possible, it’s about that individual and making sure to equip her as much as possible to enter the work force, to enter university. I think my motivation just comes from what I experience and from knowing that there is a fix, that someone can do something, and I feel like I should be that person.
Q: Your accomplishments are amazing, but what are some of the challenges that you are facing?
It’s really hard to have much larger organisations that have been around for a long time listen to us and take us seriously, in part because of our age, in part because of our gender. I come up to a lot of people so I’m sure there’s something about race in there sometimes. A big piece is going out for those accomplishments and those titles so that when I come up to people they do take me seriously. My generation is very entrepreneurial and a lot of people want to start a company but they don’t really see it through. People just say “oh, you’re just running a mentorship program” or “you’re just pairing girls with university students” but it’s so much more than that. People try to water the Pearl Project down or try to simplify my own idea to me because they think that I don’t quite understand because I’m younger. I’ve done my research and I’ve been working on this for a very long time. We don’t get to have a lot of the conversations that we want to have about the Pearl Project because a lot of doors shut on us when people find out how young we are.
Interviewers: ACSE team
In Conversation with Monique Sekhon
Monique Sekhon is pursuing her undergraduate studies in Population & Quantitative Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University . As a Health Sciences student, Monique has gained knowledge about the various social determinants and intersecting factors that form health, and has developed skills to address public health, epidemiology, and health promotion needs in various populations. Although all aspects of health and wellness are of high importance and interest, Monique has always been passionate about mental health and resilience. With the development of technology and the current initiatives focused on breaking down stigma for mental health concerns, Monique is motivated to build resilience and mindfulness into every aspect of the life-course.
What made you want to create Care-2-Share?
In Vancouver we have a really decentralised system for healthcare and as much as that can be a good thing because we get to focus on individual area needs better, we have no way of giving everyone a list of all the resources available. For example, Vancouver Island Health Authority focuses on what is happening on Vancouver Island, the Vancouver Coastal Health focuses on homelessness and addictions because they have the downtown east side and Fraser Health focuses on multiculturalism because they have such a diverse population. This is probably the biggest problem, the marketing of resources so that people know what they need. So instead of polluting that market with services I would rather be filling the gaps and be a link for all of those services to get to the people they need to. That’s why I was passionate about Care-2-Share in the first place: being a student and knowing so many people who are around my age group and have been struggling with anxiety and depression and various other issues for years now and just feeling like they’re in the dark because they don’t know what’s out there. I can visibly see their relief that mental health is something that’s ok to talk about, that it’s okay to look for services that might help them. I think that mental health is more than just ‘I don’t feel great right now’, it affects every single part of your life, it affects your physical health, it affects your work or school, it affects your family, it affects everything. If people are happier and healthier in general, then we’re going to have a better, more prosperous population.
Tell us about your activities since the Youth Innovation Summit:
The Summit was in March of this year, since then I was in school during which I developed a bit of an interest and passion in regards to the current opioid crisis that’s happening in all of Canada but is hitting British Columbia pretty hard. I had the privilege of applying and being selected for a program at Simon Fraser University called Change Lab , which is run by Shawn Smith out of Radius SFU which is a social innovation incubator and a co-working space in downtown Vancouver. Health Change Lab selects around 20 interdisciplinary students across the entire university to work on specific projects related to social innovation and social change from a health perspective. The program is focused on social enterprise so we got to do a lot of root cause analyses and worked with Daniela Papi-Thorton who is faculty at Oxford University and also an alumnus – we worked with her Impact Gap Canvas to do an investigation into various issues that are mainly affecting the city of Surrey and focused on food security. While this isn’t necessarily directly related to Care-2-Share but I was learning the skills and specific requirements that I needed to work on it. Since I’ve been in Health Change Lab I have learned so much more about the process, like how to prototype properly, how to do a really good competitor review and I’ve also learned how to check my assumptions with users. This involves going out to the university because that’s where a lot of the young people who are dealing with mental health are and asking them ‘what can be improved about your mental health and what sorts of things would you use?’ because a lot of the time people don’t want to go to a counselling office or the wait is too long. Seeing as those were the issues that came up, I asked if they would want to use an app and they said ‘yes, totally’.
I’m also planning on doing my honours which will involve research surrounding people who have mental health issues and also use substances, so complex concurrent disorders with a focus on youth and what their trajectory is leading to an emergency department and what happens after. Why they would feel the need to go to emergency, what’s bringing them to that point, how are they being taken care of there and then what’s happening after. I think research is going to be really important for me to help define Care-2-Share a bit more.
From the Summit until now, what have been the highlights of your experience?
Mainly it’s that I didn’t know about social enterprise and now I’m sharing this knowledge with other people, which I think is the biggest takeaway. It’s becoming a movement and I know social enterprise is big in the UK but it’s not as prevalent here. I think we can bring it to British Columbia and Canada in a big way.
Interviewers: ACSE team
Since we’ve last met there have been a number of things I have been working on, the most directly related is a report that looks at social procurement in Ontario which does a deep dive into what is the social and economic value of social procurement. It looks at the role of social procurement in poverty reduction, in income equality, in improved quality and quantity of life, in how to build prosperous inclusive cities, in sustainable development, and in the empowerment of marginalised populations. Naturally, there’s a lot of intersection with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and so this is a foundational document. What my researcher found is that no one’s really necessarily done this kind of report yet, at least not in Ontario, so this is really exciting. This also aligns very well with a UN Habitat Summit I hosted where we looked at how we can define the New Urban Agenda, which came out of Habitat III last year, into a Toronto context. If we’re going to build a city that’s inclusive, that’s healthy, that’s sustainable, what are the specific steps we, as well as different community actors, have to take at all levels of government. Another really exciting thing is that I will be one of two from Her Majesty The Queen’s Young Leaders that have been invited to the Vatican this year as part of their symposium to look at the Sustainable Development Goals with this year’s focus SDGs 8-11.
Q: Tell us more about the team you are working with
For the social procurement report, I have a health innovation researcher who was seconded to me from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and who is starting her Masters of Public Health. I also have another researcher focused on community resilience. This includes research around social enterprise and health in particular. We’re looking at how we can go upstream and address the social determinants of health, including root causes that are leading to poor health, so poverty, lack of decent work and employment etc. When it comes to community resilience there are many of the same root causes. Isolation is not just bad for mental health, it can also lead to someone being more vulnerable to radicalisation or extremism. Ultimately, the vehicle that we see really to combat for health or building safer communities is social enterprise.
Q: You are a very motivated person, what helps you keep moving forward especially given the amount of responsibility and challenges involved?
I think the reason why I am particularly passionate about working with people who face barriers to work, education or otherwise has to do with the fact that not too long ago I was very similar shoes. My parents were refugees of the Vietnam War; we didn’t have very much growing up and if it wasn’t for people who decided to help even though they didn’t have to, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s a desire to more than just to pay it forward, it’s almost a sense of responsibility that I feel because if it wasn’t for others I wouldn’t be able to do this. I wouldn’t have the same opportunities that I do now. That’s why I actually really enjoy what I’m doing because I know how hard it is, how hard it can be, and I also know how much of an impact even a little bit of a hand, whether it’s connecting somebody or introducing somebody, or giving them the chance to work on a project, how much that could do for somebody.
Interviewer: ACSE team
October 2017 – Jake Stika is a Co-founder and the Executive Director of Next Gen Men . Having grown up as an immigrant to Canada as well as having lived in Brazil, Germany, and the Czech Republic in recent years, Jake has a global perspective on community development and social innovation. Jake believes himself to be a reconnection entrepreneur and is less interested in symptoms, but rather underlying causes. His vision for Next Gen Men comes from observing society today and wondering how to create change amongst youth and his peers for a better tomorrow, today.
Q: Tell us more a bit about your how you began your social enterprise, Next Gen Men :
Next Gen Men is an existing non-profit, we started with our Youth Program for boys aged 12 – 14 where we challenge societal constructs of what it is to “be a man” today. We are doing this through a gender transformative lens and we’ve seen really promising progress. We started the Youth Programme 3 years ago and from that we grew to add a program which is a monthly discussion group for adults of all genders to hold space for conversations that men don’t traditionally have. Having these two really promising programs while understanding the constraints of running a non-profit regarding sustainability, scalability, financial feasibility, we knew that we needed to design a social enterprise. Last fall I was named one of 20 Ashoka’s Emerging Innovators in the Canadian social sector and corporate social responsibility came up as a major theme during the Summit and Bootcamp. Given my values and my background in entrepreneurship and start-ups, my struggle was how do I take something as intangible as healthy masculinity and create a product or a service that people would be willing to pay for. I came back to Calgary and worked out of a business accelerator for 3 months on this issue as well as in collaboration with the University of Toronto’s volunteer consulting group to do market research on the idea. We developed a program called Equity Focused Leadership where we’re taking the lessons we’ve learned with our youth program, including that a gender transformative program needs between 10-15 sessions to root. We are also offering evaluations by measuring the changes in attitudes and beliefs amongst the participants, as well as evaluations 6 months after the workshops on changes to organisational attitudes and beliefs. We’ll hopefully be able to have that social return on investments, where we can say that female employees 6 months after the program saw a marked difference in equitable attitudes.
Q: What is a unique feature of your social enterprise?
For people such as ourselves, gender equity is just the right thing to do but when you look at it from a business perspective, there needs to be a return on the bottom line. Studies show that 30% or more representation of women on your leadership translates into a 6% increase in profits. Diversity and inclusion are actually two different things – you can have diversity without having inclusion but if you create an inclusive environment for that diversity, output rises by 50%. We do take a gender focused lens but it’s within a broader diversity and inclusion lens. If people can be more equitable from a gender standpoint then we believe that those tools will then translate to more intersectional issues such as race, ageism, ableism, but starting from that really prevalent.
We also offer one-off workshops and presentations on unconscious bias, allyship or power and privilege. These are a bit of a Trojan Horse for us to come into an organisation and really show them the value of looking at things a different way. Really it’s about starting this discussion about equity and working with men around it. There’s a lot of women support groups that are important and valuable but essentially if a company says ‘were handling equity, we have this group’ then the company is saying that women are facing a problem and we tell them to fix it themselves. We want to engage men, who often in today’s society still hold those positions of power and influence, in the discussion.
Q: Have you been getting involved in any partnerships?
We are actually starting a collaborative project with Shift , a groupout of the University of Calgary which is focused on domestic and gender based violence. What they have identified is that violence prevention programs don’t necessarily work because they are mandated after the moment of violence, most men don’t go preventatively. Shift found to be more upstream thinking, so they’re focusing on healthy masculinity which is something that Next Gen Men has already been working towards.
Q: This isn’t easy work – what motivates you to keep moving forward?
If you asked me 6 or 7 years ago whether I would be leading a feminist male organisation, I would say no, you’re crazy. But today I’ve gone through a lot, I’ve had my own struggles with mental health, well-being and the stigma surrounding those issues and masculinity. One of my cofounders, who is my best friend, lost his 13 year old brother to suicide. I grew up in jock culture, we’ve seen how toxic masculinity affects us and those around us and we want to create a platform for change. Really, I would love to stop calling it toxic masculinity because it paints the word masculinity with a negative connotation, I would rather just redefine what masculinity can be.
I myself am really privileged in this work as a cis-white heterosexual male, but that being said I also came to Canada as a refugee immigrant. We don’t know the other person’s privileges or lived experiences and in this work, as I mentioned, I’m tremendously privileged and I want to use that to highlight privileges and disadvantages.
Find out more about Jake’s experience in ACSE, First Edition by clicking here!
Interviewer: ACSE team
In conversation with Eashan Karnik
September 2017 – Eashan Karnik is a graduate from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Science. While his degree was in Neuropsychology, his career in working for the legislative protection and ecological enhancement of Canada’s lands and waters has spanned almost a decade. Eashan’s extensive work for sustainable development in Mississauga has led to him being selected by the City Council, and Canada’s Minister of Heritage as the Community Leader for Mississauga in Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations. Eashan currently spends his days working on CitySolar, a green energy subsidization program that he hopes will allow all of Mississauga to progress, along with Canada, towards a clean and green future.
Q: Do you have any updates on what you’ve been up to with CitySolar?
CitySolar has been doing really well, the Summit actually gave us a lot of traction to move forward. Over the last three or four months we have been working on putting together a deputation and presenting it to Mississauga City Councillors and the Mayor. We are hoping to receive feedback on whether there could be a collaboration with the city or if the city could use some funds from the Climate Action Plan that it’s been working on for initiatives like this. Seeing as I have been a member of the Environmental Action Committee of Mississauga, which is a committee that deals with deputations and project proposals, I could not make a deputation myself. As my term has just ended, we are hopefully going to present our deputation in September. In that deputation we will gather a lot of information on exactly what would be the next steps in regards to how the city could implement CitySolar because we do want to work with the City of Mississauga before reaching out to other places. Although we have spent the past two months doing a lot of research and communicating with other organisations that work in solar instalments, our focus has been this deputation – we feel a lot is riding on it. I am definitely excited to see what happens after the deputation and to hear back from all of the groups that we have communicated to.
Q: What have been some of the challenges or obstacles you have been facing?
I guess the challenges and obstacles are one thing: time. I work with the Ministry of Environment full time, and after I received a full time job offer it’s been hard to make it into a full time project especially when our organisation and our proposed business plan indicates that it’s going to take a few years before City Solar starts returning investment. Being able to invest the time and effort into meeting with different people and meeting with groups has definitely been a challenge. The other challenge is that we would like to have a bit more public awareness surrounding solar energy, especially given that a lot of people are apprehensive of green energy and green energy costs due to the current energy crisis in Ontario. Another big challenge for us has been having credibility given that City Solar requires a lot of capital cost, which is why we’re hoping that the City can be a source for capital to get this project off the ground.
Q: Tell us about your personal achievements in the last couple months.
I received the 2017 Civic Award of Recognition from Mayor Crombie which had a lot to do with the environmental policy that I worked while sitting on the Environmental Action Committee as well as with CitySolar. Even though the project is still in its planning and implementation stage, I was noted for spreading awareness of the project and awareness of green energy. Receiving this award is definitely something I’m very proud of. CitySolar and I were featured in an article in the University of Toronto Mississauga Magazine , which was in relation to our attendance at the UN Youth Assembly back in February. It was a great experience, and it was great to have CitySolar in print, talking about what the initiative is and how we plan to move forward with it. Finally, I’m starting law school in Ottawa in September, which is going to be a big change but it’s something I’m very much looking forward to.
Q: What motivates you to keep moving forward with City Solar?
The drive for me is definitely very simple: I feel there’s a change that’s easily within reach but not many people are reaching for it. Every day we hear about different technologies regarding solar energy, we hear about solar jobs being implemented on a daily basis, we hear about how booming the industry is but we don’t really see any of that impact in our communities. We don’t see solar instalments everywhere we go, which is something I believe should happen. I feel that the years of research and the years of planning and implementation are gone and now is the year of action. That’s my drive, I feel like it’s something that needs to be done and something that’s a very simple answer to a very difficult question. We should definitely start with solar energy and to have it implemented in my home city is what drives me every day.
Find out more about Eashan’s experience in ACSE, First Edition by clicking here!
Interviewer: ACSE team
In conversation with Tania Hossain
August 2017 – Tania Hossain participated in the First Edition Active Citizens Social Enterprise (ACSE) programme in early 2017 and was 1 of 15 young leaders of ACSE who presented their social enterprise projects at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Having lived in South Asia & the Middle East for over a decade, Tania witnessed poverty and marginalization firsthand. From that experience, her hope is to inspire philanthropic spirits in Canadians to see beyond their immediate wants and needs, & be involved with organizations & causes that have positive social impact on a local, national and global level. Her social enterprise Think Jackfruit seeks to reduce this food waste by manufacturing and packaging jackfruit as a meat replacement product in Bangladesh and introducing it here as a healthy nutritious food to our Canadian market.
Q: What drives you to push against all of the challenges you’re facing with Think Jackfruit?
My project is not for the faint of heart – and I’m realising it more the deeper I go into it. A few days ago, when I was presenting to a crowd of 30+ people, I was talking about the Rana Plaza incident where well over 1,000 people died in a sweat shop labour factory in Bangladesh. I’ve talked about how that has been one of the great motivators for me to start a project where I want to help people, where I want to spread supportable income in Bangladesh. I also want to bring something here, to Canada, that addresses climate change, where consumers need to be more conscious with what they purchase and with what they consume on a day to day basis. So as I was talking about the Rana Plaza incident yesterday, it got me a little emotional because even though it happened a little over 4 years ago, to this day makes me feel in some ways frustrated, in some ways very, very driven. A lot of work needs to be done in terms of changing labour laws and in terms of the ecological injustices that are happening around the world. That has been the ‘why’ in my life, the biggest motivator and every time I talk about it, it’s a great reminder not just for the people that are listening to me, but for me as well, why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Q: What have you been doing since the day of the First Annual ACSE Youth Innovation Summit to keep this social enterprise moving?
The Summit has been a blessing for me because I have been connecting with a lot of institutions in Bangladesh and non-profit organisations. Building these relationships with reputable, non-profit organisations in Bangladesh is really important to me because they will help me navigate the chaotic system there. At the same time, here in Canada, a big portion of the project involves market research – collecting data on what the consumer demand is and on what the current vegan and vegetarian food selection looks like. I’ve gotten involved with the Toronto Vegetarian Association whichis quite large and with tons of resources, tons of people and tons of community events. I’ve also been surveying vegans, vegetarians, restaurant owners, and chefs to get feedback on what they think about a product like Think Jackfruit , and how they see it used in their kitchens. These are very important questions that will not only help me when I go travel to Bangladesh and design the product, but also with how I brand the Think Jackfruit project seeing some people here may just be interested in the product as a health product, but others may be more interested in the ecological issues that this product addresses.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your next steps and what you’re hoping to get out of your trip to Bangladesh?
Right now I am in conversation with a few non-profit organizations, so that when I’m in Bangladesh the time is being used in the most effective way possible – I can meet with those individuals in person, and just continue the conversation where we left off. I also want to document the stories of people who have been affected by the Rana Plaza incident because I think that they are a key portion of this project. I want to collect their stories, their lived experiences about how this incident affect them, but also what they see as dignified work. I want to be very conscious and when I’m building this start up in Bangladesh, this space for them to get employed, I want to be able to not just give my own understanding of what dignified work looks like, but I also want them to have ownership and say what dignified work looks like. So I will be collecting and documenting a lot of their stories, and of course connecting with the food manufacturers in Bangladesh.
Q: Can you briefly summarize what your experience from the beginning of the ACSE training to now has been?
Prior to going through the training program and being a participant of ACSE, I’ve been researching and developing this idea for little over a year but I didn’t share that information with anybody. Going through the ACSE program and actually speaking about the idea to a group of individuals helped me feel validated and it helped me realise that what I’m thinking about and what I want to do is not something minor but can actually transform the way we look at our food, our environment, and our global community. It was a very surreal, transformational experience in the sense that I not only made a lot of meaningful connections but I also realised that my project can make a huge difference in the lives of people – that’s one thing that I’m very much indebted to UNA-Canada and British Council.
Interviewer: ACSE team