Groundswell program applications are currently closed.  Sign up to be notified when applications open for our September 2017 programs. 


Groundswell is excited to announce it's summer 2017 marketplace on Granville Island.  Find out more!

Groundswell programs give you the community support, the skills and the mentoring you need to build a social venture.

Program Details

You are ready

to put your skills and ideas into action for a better world.  You feel that there is good work to be done, and are looking for a supportive framework and community to do it with. 

You have

a specific skill you want to put to good use, one great idea that's been burning inside you for a long time, or a dozen dreams that need to be distilled into an actionable business or community project.

We provide

tools, skills, mentoring and a community of support to get from idea to action in building a social business that is authentically you, and that is transformative in building a better - greener, healthier, happier, equitable -  world.



The core curriculum includes two main components:


Starting in September 2017
For people starting from the idea stage.



Starting in November 2017
For people who already have a solid idea/venture to work with.


For early idea stage social entrepreneurs:  

Personal and professional development, skills training, networking and mentorship to take you from thinking about starting a social venture to building it hands on, in real time, towards launch. 

January - June 2017
180 hours of instruction + ongoing mentoring
Schedule & details

Instructors and Facilitators:
  Gilad Babchuk | 20+ years of experience, awarded educator and social entrepreneur
  Andrea Woodhouse | personal development facilitator, putting the self in sustainable development
  Paola Qualizza | community economic development
  Iona Fresnoza | social media & communications, fair trade advocate
read full bios here

You start with an intensive and intense Kick-Off Weekend of experiences and sharing with your cohort, where bonds forge, co-learning happens, and meaningful connection is made.  We identify, capture and explore resources for social innovation, and connect with the existing community to lay the groundwork for real, reachable, social change and positive impact.

Personal & Professional Development

Week by week, you will explore your own story, map your values, skills and experiences, and uncover what really drives you and how you can best make real positive change.  In these initial weeks, you will uncover and develop your personal and professional potential so that you can create an authentic venture, and know that you can take it forward.

Foundational learning lectures, dialogues and workshops

In a parallel series of sessions you will: acquire a sophisticated understanding of how the current economic system works - and doesn't work; do on the ground community research to uncover the working of economic and social systems in your backyard; find the levers of change and explore the creative and innovative methods that drive it; and explore the language and landscape of social entrepreneurship. 

  • Explore social innovation + entrepreneurship and what real, meaningful impact looks like

  • Learn to connect to and build your community

  • Put theories of change into practice

  • Discover alternative economic models for social, economic, and environmental justice

Community Skill Building

This is a weekly session in which the power of collaboration is at the forefront.  You and your cohort will map your collective skills and share knowledge, utilizing peer-to-peer learning and teaching methods.  You will also explore the power of community outside of the classroom: make meaningful connections with community partners and engage them in your work through hands on projects, events, and conversations.  By the end of Groundswell's 6 month program you will realize that a successful social venture is not a solo project, and here is where those practical connections among your peers will start to forge. 


Meanwhile, you will ideate. Whether you have a specific project or venture in mind or not, ideas will be generated, expanded, tossed, combined, dismantled, put through the "washing machine" (as one of our mentors likes to say), examined and tested by your community of mentors and peers.  With creative approaches, your vision will be expanded, before honing in to bring a great project to life over the remainder of the program (and beyond!).


In the next stage of the program you learn and apply the tools and skills neccessary to build your social venture in real time.  Read on for more details.


Skills training, networking, and mentorship to take a solid idea and build it into a social venture hands on, in real time, towards launch. 

Included in the Full Social Venture program, or jump in on February if you already have a solid idea to work with.
105 hours of instruction + ongoing mentoring
Schedule & details

Lead Instructor: 
  David LePage | 30+ years of experience, community economic development expert, local and international leader in the social enterprise sector
  David Lepage
  Gilad Babchuk
| 20+ years of experience, awarded educator and social entrepreneur
  Jim Barker | 30+ years of experience, serial entrepreneur
read full bios here

You will:

  • Turn your idea into a working social enterprise
  • Get hands-on learning with a ready-to-launch project and complete social venture plan as the end objective
  • Get access to a team of mentors and the collective intelligence and creativity of your peers
  • Get ongoing peer and panel reviews and feedback on your pitch and presentations
  • Encounter the chaos and uncertainty of a real startup - with the support of expert mentors and a community of peers!

Cover these topics and find answers to these questions:

  • Idea Exploration: Why me? What is my product/service? Who will use it?
  • Testing the business concept: Is it feasible?
  • Social Venture Business Models: What will work for my purpose and product or service?
  • Financing Options and Opportunities: How do I find and manage the money?
  • Branding, Promotion & Marketing: From theory to design to digital execution - how will you communicate your venture?
  • Business Operations Tools and Skills: What people, products, and processes will you need?
  • Measuring Success: How to blend money and mission?

The Groundswell Method

You will explore, build and plot the journey of your social venture based on five M's.   Although we can identify each one separately, they only work effectively when they’re integrated into your social venture planning and operations.  It is important to appreciate from the start that this is an ongoing process, not merely an outcome. 

Mission – every social venture has to understand and clarify its purpose, the “why” of your social venture. The mission identifies the change - the social, environmental or cultural impact you want to have in the world.

Market – a social venture, whether a business or a program, has to have clarity on what product or service it provides, to whom, and how to produce, promote and deliver it.

Manage – how decisions are made and how our stakeholders are engaged is critical for the effectiveness, efficiency and community building of a social venture. You will explore corporate models (sole proprietorship, co-operatives, non-profit, etc.) and organizational culture.

Money – The start up phase requires financing of various forms and sources…and once operating you must have the tools to report, assess and evaluate financial processes.

Measure – a social venture measures its success with a blended value bottom line. It must understand the data, the metrics, and the process of feedback and improvement on the social impact and the financial progress.


Groundswell programs are flexible and adaptive to the impact you want to make, to your idea, and to the place you are in your life.  Where you're at after the six month program is personally and situationally determined.  The outcome formula is (what you put in) x (venture complexity), so there are a range of outcomes (not mutually exclusive!):  

  • a ready to launch/already launched enterprise, organization, or community project
  • a complete lean business plan
  • ready for additional resources to take your venture forward
  • ready to find a partner
  • ready for investment
  • a job placement doing what you love (aka intrapreneurship)
  • a clear understanding of your skills and potential and the direction of your journey forward
  • a diverse and productive community of support around you

Regardless of where you're at, you never "finish" the program: the vitality of Groundswell and the ventures created here come from a growing ecosystem of people, skills, stories, sharing, services, and ventures that is constantly being created in and around this community.  

Mentors & Facilitators

The entrepreneurs in Groundswell's core team span a wide range of expertise and experience, from international entrepreneurship to community economic development to personal coaching.

Read the team's full bios here

Gilad Babchuk | 20+ years of experience, awarded educator and social entrepreneur | cofounder, mentor, instructor
David LePage | 30+ years of experience, community economic development expert, local and international leader in the social enterprise sector | mentor, instructor
Paola Qualizza | community economic development | managing director
Jim Barker | 30+ years of experience, serial entrepreneur | co-founder, mentor
Iona Fresnoza | social media & communications, fair trade advocate | community builder
Andrea Woodhouse | personal development facilitator, putting the self in sustainable development | mentor, instructor
Chris Nichols | ethics and the economy, cooperatives | instructor
Ran Kohavi | entrepreneur, start-up development, technology | mentor
Julie Granhøj | anthropologist | visiting researcher, community enagagement

Watch this video to meet the Groundswell team and discover the paths they took to co-create this creative, community based "business school".   ▶︎


Schedule and Details

4 month BUILD
 Social Venture Program

If you already have a solid idea/venture to work with.

  • 105 hours of instruction & workshops
  • Weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions
  • Access to professional networks
  • Co-working space 
  • Access to extremely affordable event space to support your venture

February 2017 - June 2017

Weekly schedule
Mondays 9:30 am - 4 pm: Lectures, workshops, mentoring.
Tuesdays 3 pm - 7:30 pm: Workshops, mentoring, guest speakers + occasional potlucks.

+ 3 Saturday special topic workshops 

February Start - $2200
Actual program value: $6500*

6 month Social Venture Program

Have an idea? 100 ideas? Start here.

  • 180 hours of instruction and workshops
  • Weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions
  • Access to professional networks
  • Co-working space
  • Access to extremely affordable event space to support your venture

Kick-Off Weekend: January 13-15, 2017
Regular schedule: January 16 - June 6, 2017

Regular weekly schedule
Mondays 9:30 am - 4 pm: Lectures, workshops, mentoring.
Tuesdays 3 pm - 7:30 pm: Workshops, mentoring, guest speakers + occasional potlucks.

+ 4 Saturday special topic workshops 

Actual program value: $8000*



*Approximately 75% of the program cost is subsidized by grants and in kind contributions.  Thanks to our funders, the sweat equity of our co-founders, and the generosity of our community partners for making Groundswell's programs accessible.

See more details on How To Apply
Check out Stream - our evening and weekend program


Social Venture Showcase Gala

At the end of the program, you'll have the chance to present to potential funders, investors, partners, collaborators and the rest of the greater Groundswell community to continue to build momentum around your venture or project.  But this is not the end.  You are now a lifetime member of the Groundswell community!
Watch a video of the 2015 Showcase Gala.


Groundswell is located at 566 Powell Street, in Vancouver BC, on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people.  Come visit our Cafe & Clubhouse!

Some sessions take place next door at our buzzing neighbours's Bee Space, Hives for Humanity, or at Another Space, 1523 E. Pender, a project of Groundswell alumni Sarah Peacock, and Tad Hozumi.


Follow us on social media for updates and events!

Watch videos on alumni projects, our team and a participants made clip about what they think about Groundswell.

Check out Groundswell alumni and their  projects here

Read our blog to hear about people's Groundswell experience first hand and see what we're up to.


 Details subject to change.  Any necessary changes will be updated on this web page.