On Monday, March 13, 2018, I attended one of the most inspiring events of my life: The Second Annual Youth Innovation Summit held by the British Council in Canada in conjunction with the United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) and the British High Commission. Yeah – you read that right.
When I received my invitation, I stared at it slack-jawed. I’d be sitting in an opulent room at Parliament Hill, listening to some of the country’s finest young people present their ideas to better communities across Canada. This is exactly the sort of thing that floats my boat as supporting my community and strong community engagement are really important to me.
The Youth Innovation Summit showcases the ideas of 14 brilliant young Canadian innovators and social entrepreneurs who have participated in the Active Citizens Social Enterprise training programme which took place last fall.
The UNA-Canada and the British Council have trained over 300 youth about inter-cultural dialogue, leadership, communication and citizenship skills that are essential to building social enterprises in their communities.
These young leaders were challenged to come up with innovative ideas to address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their communities across Canada.
Not only are these young people inspiring, they are driven changemakers, disruptors and innovators. It was awesome to see that this group was gender-balanced and racially and culturally diverse.
Here are a handful of the presentations delivered that day:
Fergus is a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He went from living on the streets to rubbing shoulders with some of Canada’s top executives. He’s passionate about his work and his “never give up” attitude is endearing.
A social innovator, Fergus invented “blueprint” is a loyalty program which allows retailers to compete with larger corporations while increasing their bottom line and supporting organizations dealing with poverty. Consumers using the BLueprint Loyalty app on their smartphone will receive discounts when shopping at participating retailers.
Alberta has a passion for interpretation which led her to start Bridge Interpreters and Translators (B.I.T). A non-profit organization, B.I.T provides services that break down communication barriers by bridging the gap between Newcomers and Canadian until Newcomers are fluent in either English or French.
Alberta is impressive. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and raised in Sierra Leone and Kenya, she moved with her family to Canada for years ago as a refugee. She has been working as a part-time interpreter in English, French and Swahili at settlement offices in Saskatoon where she resides. She also does medical phone interpretation in English, French, Swahili and Krio at Status Online Phone Interpreters. Alberta is completing her degree in International Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
Tala Mahmoud founded the Maple Leaf Network, a social enterprise created with the aim of helping new immigrants to Canada transition into their new lives. This organization addresses the needs necessary in order for newcomers to become self-sufficient in their new communities.
Milton is pursuing a B.A. (Honours) in International Development and Economics at McGill University as a Loran Scholar, Canada’s largest undergraduate scholarship based on service, character, and leadership. Born in Guatemala, Milton has been making the most of opportunities available to him in Canada and is determined to use them to improve other people’s quality of life.
Milton’s drive to create change led him to co-found MealCare. MealCare aims to make Montreal’s food system more efficient by diverting surplus food from food retailers such as cafeterias and grocery stores, and delivering it to community organizations such as homeless shelters. MealCare is designed for local food retailers who are beneficiaries as well as customers, as they reduce their food waste through data collected by MealCare, saving them money in the long term. Amazingly, MealCare currently runs at zero cost and is scalable to other communities across Canada.
The impressive Yvonne is a fourth-year student at Carleton University, studying Neuroscience and Mental Health with minors in Amercian Sign Language and Business (wow).
She is currently the program director of Young Sustainable Impact and a Faculty of Science Councilor for the Carleton University Student Association where she helps young adults for entrepreneurship ventures aimed to table the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As President and Founder of the Terry Fox Club, she helped to raise over $220,000 for cancer research and continues to volunteer and do outreach within her community.
She created the social enterprise, Empower Many (EM), building off her passions for women’s empowerment and community resilience. EM is an online platform that helps survivors of sexual abuse and aids in their mental health. By offering unique services that focus on prevention, support, and awareness, it can aid in uplifting a community.
And The Winner Is…Rebecca Dunphy
A huge bravo to each of these finalists! The winner of this stellar competition is Rebecca Dunphy. Rebecca, a proud Cape Bretoner, founded Rampage, a social enterprise that will manufacture portable and affordable accessibility ramps out of the end-of-life tires and other waste rubber. The management and production of Rampage will take place within an Indigenous community, thus creating employment opportunities. Rampage will increase accessibility in our communities and reduce the amount of waste within landfills while creating job opportunities for indigenous people within the community where production takes place.
A huge thank you to the British Council in Canada, the British High Commission and the United Nations Association in Canada for including me in this important event. To say I was “impressed” by this young group of brilliant social innovators is a huge understatement. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for each of them!