Today we had the pleasure to talk social innovation and share our cohort’s early stage social impact ventures with the Hon. Michelle Stilwell, BC’s Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. It was a treat and an honour to host Minister Stilwell in our Café & Clubhouse in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and explore the intersection between community development, business, and the young people who want to create innovative ventures that put community service above financial profit.
“It was exciting to have a government representative here expressing genuine interest in what we’re doing.” says Zay Brignall, one of Groundswell’s current participants.
Stilwell directed some hard questions to the cohort about their ventures, building on the program’s morning session where ideas are pitched and critical feedback is provided from the audience of peers and Groundswell mentors. The Minister engaged in comfortable conversations with our tight knit group with her down to earth nature and genuine interest in what each participant’s hopes and dreams were for their social impact ventures, from creating accessible work placement services for the deaf community to using art to build sustainable local economies.
Having Stilwell visit our little organization on Powell Street was not only an honour, it was a symbol of the changing ways of the business and community services sector. Communities seek a thriving economy that also serves their social needs. At Groundswell we are building hybrid businesses to serve those needs, such as enterprising non-profits and worker co-operatives that serve employees and their communities, both models which are starting to regain legitimacy in this transforming economy.
“It made me feel that social innovation and social entrepreneurship are models for change that are respected by the government. That we are perceived as equal partners. The acknowledgement of the government visiting us [social entrepreneurs] and get to know us is very empowering.” Chris Schuchmann, Groundswell cohort member.
Hons. Michelle Stilwell Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation with Groundswell’s 2015-16 cohort