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