BC Ideas Announces Social Innovation Winners
BC Ideas Announces Social Innovation Winners
The inaugural BC Ideas competition announced its top social innovations today, awarding more than $270,000 to organizations building a stronger British Columbia.
A total of 33 organizations will be receiving financial support for their innovations addressing issues, including homelessness, literacy, skills development, health, and community inclusion for people with disabilities.
The winners were chosen from 466 entries, a community response that exceeded expectations says Delyse Sylvester, senior advisor at Ashoka, and BC Ideas partner.
“We were inspired by hundreds of new ideas, as well as both early-stage and established innovations, from dozens of sectors, which demonstrates the incredible wealth of social innovation in B.C.,” says Delyse.
The contest was launched in May with support from the province and 25 community-based partners, including businesses, not-for-profit organizations, universities and government. LIFT Philanthropy Partners led the co-ordination and development of the project, which is hosted on the Ashoka Changemakers online platform.
“BC Ideas brought together organizations and communities from across the province that are committed to fostering social innovation as an effective solution to address B.C.’s most pressing social challenges,” says Bruce Dewar, LIFT Philanthropy Partners CEO.
“These partners were integral to the success of the competition and will continue to contribute to an enduring culture of social innovation in B.C.”
One of the community partners is Urban Systems, a professional consulting firm with seven offices across B.C., and a mission to support vibrant communities. Urban Systems principal Ken Gauthier says participating in the competition is part of the company’s commitment to deepening its impact in the communities it serves.
After signing on as partners and reviewing the guidelines, Urban Systems saw a gap in an area it’s passionate about — First Nations Canada. Since the company was founded in B.C. more than 35 years ago, the First Nations communities of western Canada have helped Urban Systems grow its business and become an established company.
The company elected its foundation to support a new award category called Aboriginal Communities Investment, awarding a $10,000 investment to the entry that provides the most compelling innovation addressing the unique and complex social issues faced by aboriginal communities in B.C.
The category received more than 30 entries with the three Urban Systems judges choosing TASK as the winning BC Idea.
TASK, which stands for Trade Awareness, Skills and Knowledge, is a program for vulnerable aboriginal learners in the Saanich area. Launching in February, TASK works with people who leave school with virtually no core subjects, like English, math and science, completed beyond the Grade 9 level, and are unemployed.
Taking a multi-faceted approach, TASK provides technical and trades training that is eligible for credits at a high-school and college level, as well as personal self-development coaching to support students toward graduation and employment opportunities.
Of the 21 students who participated in the first semester, 19 completed the course, with 17 students transitioning to full or part-time summer employment. Twelve students are planning to return to school to complete their graduation or trades training, and one has been offered an apprenticeship.
Ken says choosing TASK as the winner was a unanimous decision by the judging group.
“It caught our attention immediately with a nice combination of effective impact addressing real issues on the ground,” he says.
Urban Systems principal Steve Brubacher, who also participated on the judging team, adds Urban Systems was impressed by TASK’s ability to partner with existing organizations to achieve its goal, working with the school district, a local college and the local construction industry to create a training program equipping people with practical and transferable skills.
TASK provides students with WHIMIS, forklift-operator, first-aid and traffic-control certificates, as well as training in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical.
“It gives students an opportunity to get a job post-graduation, and it’s not as intimidating as it might otherwise be for some students who are struggling in parts of school to get started in post-secondary,” says Steve. “The more we can get youth into the workforce in a positive and meaningful way, the stronger our communities will be.”
Based on the success of TASK , Ken says there is potential to scale the program at a provincial level with support from Urban Systems foundation, magnifying the impact across B.C.
Urban Systems will also be meeting with BC Ideas to explore several other submissions that might be of interest to their work. Ken says the focus on social innovation is part of the company’s conviction that what’s good for communities is also good for business.
“It’s something we’re very excited about, and we see a lot of alignment for the future of Urban Systems and social innovation concepts,” he says.
To learn more about BC Ideas social innovation winners, click here.
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Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.
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