I had an amazing weekend, because I had a chance to attend Ryerson’s “Social xChange” on behalf of GBC’s Social Innovation Hub. And I have to say “WOW” Ryerson’s new “Student Learning Centre” is the newest addition to the Downtown Toronto growing campus. Utilizing an open concept design and expanding quiet study spaces for student use. But the one highlight of the weekend was seeing the SLC’s Launch Zone which very similar to GBC’s Social Innovation Hub aims to give students the resources to take their ideas and create a social enterprise of their own. For those unsure about what social enterprises really are “The Toronto Enterprise Fund” defines it as “A social enterprise is a business operated by a charity or non-profit organization that sells goods and/or services in the market place, for the dual purpose of generating income and achieving a social, cultural and/or environmental mission.”
Did I mention they have a foam mountain!!
Of course, GBC’s hub is fairly small and tucked away in the corner on the 4th floor of the St James Campus (We are in room 409b stop by and talk to us pleaseeee) but, the idea remains the same. A group of young students that have amazing ideas to address social inequality and want to bring about social change. We have a large variety of ideas that range from workshops, to donation drives (which will be covered very soon by yours truly), and even a clothing line for the socially conscious. It is truly amazing to see that sometimes an idea can really spark an innovative and socially forward project.
That is why I wanted to create this article and really tell people what its like to work in a Social Innovation Hub, so here is my “Top 4 Things I Learned In The Social Innovation Hub”.
Seriously GBC we need this
1. Remember As A Kid You Dreamed Of Riding A Unicorn To School Because You Just Wanted To?
One of my favourite things about the SIH is that there is no such thing as a stupid idea. In fact, thinking outside the box is encouraged. We are so use to thinking of solutions in a realistic way, when the first step really needs to be just sitting down and writing down your ideas. Don’t be scared to think big… or childlike, the greatest ideas come from the strangest places. In fact here at GBC, the hub started as an idea and had to fight for the right to even exist because a lot of people didn’t think that SSW/CYW students could successfully run a program or business.
Yeah we SSWs can be pretty tough
Inside the hub itself houses variety of different initiatives regardless how big or small, its reassuring to know that the hub is a place where these ideas can really grow into a real project. “Centre For Social Innovation” in Toronto really sums up this idea appropriately titled “Changing The World And Just Trying $#!% Since 2004” check their video out
2. Its Cool To Be A Social Entrepreneur
Being a social entrepreneur and bringing about social change is in demand and Ryerson’s space is proof of this! When I say “Non-profit” the typical images come up where you think of charities or thrift shops. What if I told you about a web tool that can provide you a gardening layout plan to make urban farming easier (Eggplantr). Or a place where you can take do-it-yourself workshops and even rent out tools for a home project (Toronto Tool Library). These are just 2 of the social initiatives that grew out of social entrepreneurship. Even the Centre For Social Innovation in Toronto has over 2000 members. This doesn’t even include the students who are part of the Social Innovation Hubs within their own schools.
Talking at the Social xChange is a lot like being a rock star without
the paparazzi (minus me who took the photo)
Many non-profits are turning toward social entrepreneurship because they want to become self sustaining where they do not need to worry about government funding or donations. In fact, many organizations are popping up to provide funding for these startups; one of the largest funders is the Toronto Enterprise Fund. The future of our economy is no longer about simple profit, its about dealing with the social issues and being able to be self-sustaining.
3. It’s OK to be lost
The cool thing is you don’t need to know the solution. If you are passionate about a problem, then come here to discuss it. Figure it out together!
Within the first month of being in the SIH, I already felt lost and debated whether this was a good idea. I remember constantly thinking about whether my idea was too small or too big and whether it would work.
Nothing says doubt like presenting your idea to a
group of people with amazing ideas
But after a couple of days working with the other hubsters, any feelings of doubt you have will eventually go away (there will be moments of doubt but you will be able to overcome this). The hub is not only a place to incubate these ideas but, it’s also a safe place to experiment and take risks. The GBC hub itself was a huge risk to the school no one knew if students would even want to do it or if it would even succeed. This is something that the hub wants to teach anyone entering it’s doors, is not to fear failing but fear never following your passion.
Chances are everyone is feeling the same
Which leads me to my favourite part of being in any Social Innovation Hub…
Being in the hub is an incredible space because like its initiatives it is “people-focused”. Its refreshing to know that every member of the hub is working toward a social initiative where they are trying to bring about social change with very little resources (at first). It is also nice to confide in your other hubsters who probably know all the troubles your going through.
“…and then he said ‘do SSWs even know business?'”
(FYI we do)
But, the one thing that really impresses me (especially in the GBC hub) is how invested everyone is into all the projects being done. We each have our own project to worry about but we all take the time to share our resources and see how we can help either by volunteering our time or having a short brainstorming session.
One of the amazing people I met at Ryerson, looks to combine a social
initiative with personal training (Bootcamps for Change)
While talking to some of the other attendees at the Social xChange and chatting about what they liked about Social Innovation hubs she had this to say “Tremendous support in this space! Everywhere you turn to is either someone who is willing to hear you out, provide you input or add you on to their initiative because they believe together you can achieve more! Resources! Resources! Resources! It’s Wonderful!”. The environment is just so supportive where people are working toward the same goal of trying to make the world a better place, where when one person succeeds everyone feels like they were part of that success.
Now that I talked about how amazing it is to be part of the Social Innovation Hub here are just some of the ways you can get involved.
For GBC Students
– Visit us at our office (Monday to Wednesday 9:00 to 5:00p) at 200 King St East Rm 409b in the St James Campus
– Visit our facebook page here
For Ryerson Students
– Visit them at 325 Church Street
– Check their website here
– Visit their facebook page here
If you live in Toronto and want to join the “Centre for social innovation”
– Visit their website here to learn more about the membership rates and locations