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Social Innovation Seed Fund recipients showcase their sustainable projects

Embark and SFU Sustainability collaborate to celebrate eight student entrepreneurial projects

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Sustainability was a shared concern among many young participants on a Wednesday evening at City Studio, Vancouver, as Embark and SFU Sustainability hosted an event in collaboration.

The Project Showcase event unfolded as an interactive, engaging space which celebrated grant recipients of the Social Innovation Seed Fund — a joint effort between Embark and Radius SFU to encourage entrepreneurial individuals catalyzing social and environmental impact. Each peer educator from SFU Sustainability was asked to interview one recipient about their project in depth.

Eight student projects were showcased, which entailed undergraduate students and graduate students with projects such as City Hive, Bright Ideas, As We Are, and Soap for Hope, among others. The entire room buzzed with laughter, inquiry, and storytelling as each recipient unveiled their journey with the project.

Ali White, programs manager at Embark, said, “We wanted to bring students together to inspire and learn from each other in an informal atmosphere. All the projects are unique and diverse which gives ample space to connect and network amongst each other.”

The principles of sustainability meant different things to each project. Tessica Truong showcased City Hive, a youth-driven organization that was piloted in 2016.

“We are on a mission to transform the way young people are engaged in [the] planning, designing, and shaping of their cities. We bridge gaps between big organizations and institutions facing sustainable issues and students who have passion, energy, and time,” explained Truong.

“We train young students of different ages to feel competent and confident about their capabilities, while helping organization build programs that are robust and meaningful where these students can gather invaluable experience,” she detailed.

City Hive has initiated a project called 30Network, which addresses housing and affordability within Vancouver, while the cohort of 30 are challenged to look for creative solutions. Calling for a human-centred perspective, Truong explained that City Hive enables a platform to upscale solutions collectively.

Another project, Bright Ideas, played with similar structure. Cody de Leijer, external manager at the program, explained, “Bright Ideas is one of our eight programs at Enactus SFU and we essentially fund a $100 microloan to high school students who are paired with a university mentor and encourage them to take up ventures to affect economic, social change.”

“We simply wanted to give a platform to high school students to play with the models of a business venture with many of them turning over 50% profits. Sustainability to us means that we are able to use the impact of our youth and show to them that they need to adapt to our constantly changing world,” he said.

Woven Together is one such project where students partnered Funk’N’Frost in Guildford Town Centre to sell equality bracelets for women — 25% of these proceedings are donated to a charity. The initiative, de Leijer said, musters support for violence against women — all accomplished within just three weeks by high school students.

Community impact was a major value upheld across all projects and the work they do. Another such organization was Soap for Hope; a non-profit enterprise that upcycles used bar soaps from hotels into liquid, reusable soap. From commodity-based to community-based sustainability, the project partners with Mission Possible and Hope for Freedom to provide transitional work opportunities for people overcoming addiction.

A warmth engulfed the Project Showcase event with five other projects, all of which were rich in their stories and trajectories. Terri Rutty, engagement coordinator at SFU Sustainability, delightedly remarked, “It’s truly about nurturing the small ideas and projects. I think we often get caught up in large projects and events, but forget to celebrate small changes. This is what we have successfully achieved here.”

All these projects aim to be impactful and far-reaching in their sustainability approach.

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