A Whole New World

By Joey Zhang, current Groundswell participant (Cohort 6)

“A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew...” Those were the lyrics I remembered from my childhood days from the Disney movie Aladdin. While this blog post will mention nothing more than this line from the movie, I personally feel it closely describes what I make of Groundswell.

Having known Groundswell since my days studying at SFU, my first impression of the program and café was that it is a place where everyone can stay true and genuine to their hearts. When I first learned of Groundswell via former SFU Change Lab mentor Jennifer McRae, I knew immediately that Groundswell would be the perfect place for me. Having struggled to find a niche and community where I belong my entire life, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

However, it wasn’t until a year ago that I finally deemed myself mature, knowledgeable, and brave enough to come to the program, discover my passion and purposes, and give back to the community that I grew up in. Setting aside many other agendas and priorities, I began my journey through a whole new world in Groundswell in January 2017. With a desire to bring about greater gender equality and equity in the local community, I began to dedicate my mind to ideas and ways that could best make these happen.

 A day in the life of a Groundswell student.  Joey gets his workspace ready to review course materials at home.

A day in the life of a Groundswell student.  Joey gets his workspace ready to review course materials at home.

For me, the most pleasant surprise was that I wasn’t alone in my journey. Joined by some of the best classmates and mentors who resonated with my cause, we honed our ideas to improve this world as a team of diverse individuals. In a space where we were allowed to be humans and make mistakes, I found the motivation and courage that I needed to step outside of my safety bubble and face my weaknesses.

 To learn more about gender diversity, Joey has been talking to many people and researching available materials. This is a guide he has found to be a helpful tool for framing his work. 

To learn more about gender diversity, Joey has been talking to many people and researching available materials. This is a guide he has found to be a helpful tool for framing his work. 

Encouraged by this wonderful atmosphere, I was able to fearlessly share my thoughts and ideas. From establishing a unisex clothing brand, to creating a board game that would better promote elements of gender fluidity, to finally setting up a series of public events that allow individuals to explore their gender identities while building deeper connections with each other, my vision of my social business has advanced steadily over the 3 months I’ve been here. While the form and fashion of my event remains cloudy, the resolve and confidence I have in me are clear as day.

Serving to remind me to my resolve and confidence was one of Ran’s (one of our mentors) quotes: “Entrepreneurship is a muscle. It takes a resilient athlete to keep strengthening the muscle on an ongoing basis”. Being an athlete for over a decade of my life, this quote really brings out the qualities and elements in me that have been missing for a long time. A successful athlete bears an unwavering drive to get better each and every day, all the while fulfilling the duty to behave as a responsible human being outside of work. I wish for this quote to stay with me for the rest of my life, so that I will remember to persist through both the good and hard times.

And at the end of my six months of time at the Groundswell program, I aim to make a whole new world for the better, with you and me together. I look to take you to a place where we can belong, a home for all the differences and similarities between us, and a haven where we can connect and enjoy our time.

Thank you for reading!