When I first accepted my offer of admission into the Environment & Resource Studies program at the University of Waterloo, I had no idea where I would find myself five years into the future. Now, as I anticipate graduation, it seems as though the entrepreneurial bug that bit me during my co-op work terms won’t be going away anytime soon: I have found my passion in social entrepreneurship.
Much like entrepreneurs strive to change the business world, social entrepreneurs come from a variety of fields to tackle society’s most pressing challenges. Their passion for social good is infectious. They present ideas in a simple, ethical and thought-provoking way that engages widespread support from their communities with profound impacts.
I met and shared stories with many of these change-makers while attending the SociaLIGHT Conference in Toronto in mid-November. Advertised as “Canada’s Ultimate Entrepreneurship and Leadership Event,” SociaLIGHT boasts 20 acclaimed speakers and contributors, and is attended by more than 1,000 entrepreneurial minds that come for the inspiring talks and networking events. The impressive roster of speakers included Mastin Kipp from The Daily Love; Allen Lau, founder of Wattpad; Tonya Surman, founder of Centre for Social Innovation; and Agapi Stassinopoulos, Huffington Post blogger and best-selling author.
I left the event feeling motivated yet overwhelmed, but also excited to see where the ideas I generated will take me next. My favorite segment was Jennifer Corriero’s talk about TakingITGlobal, the online community she founded in 2000, which empowers youth around the world to connect and share the tools to become successful social and environmental change-makers.
SociaLIGHT wasn’t a typical business conference. Creating positive and measurable social impact is at the root of their mission. I feel as if I’ve acquired enough fuel to keep me motivated in this final stretch of school, and I look forward to keeping in touch with all the amazing people I met. There are many challenges associated with creating and maintaining a business with a triple bottom line (accounting for people, planet and profit), but I am confident that one day I will be able to successfully pursue a social enterprise of my own!
Interested in social entrepreneurship? Here are some resources and opportunities to get you started:
- Ashoka Youth Venture supports young people in their efforts to become successful change-makers with training, a network of entrepreneurial contacts, newsletters and funding opportunities to launch their own social enterprises.
- Have an idea but don’t know where to start? Check out The Social Journal – a collection of tools and informational resources to transform your ideas for social change into a reality.
- Ontario Centres of Excellence is running a Social Enterprise Student Competition with up to four prizes of $20,000 up for grabs. Submissions are due January 7, 2013.
- Imagine Canada and the Muttart Foundation are running Students (Verb) Charities, a contest to create a public awareness campaign for Canada’s charitable sector. Concepts are due November 30, 2012, and the top prize is $50,000.
The Green Student blog shows off a sampling of writing from TheGreenStudent.ca, Alternatives' sister site aimed at students in environment-related programs. In addition to housing A\J's comprehensive guide to environmental education in Canada, TGS provides students with a forum for sharing their writing, campaigns, and events. We publish about two Green Student posts a month, and you can find more at The Green Student website.
Nicole Dufraine is an Environment & Resource Studies student at the University of Waterloo and runs TGS as part of her undergraduate thesis. She is interested in the business side of environmental management and aspires to become a social entrepreneur. In her spare time she enjoys writing, cooking and travelling on a student budget.
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