Georgian College students are trying to disrupt business as usual by focusing on social entrepreneurship.
What they are doing is unique among postsecondary institutions in Canada and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation has recognized that by granting the college $500,000 to further develop its program.
Chad Lubelsky, Associate Program Director at the Montreal-based foundation, visited the college to see first-hand the work students are doing with non-profits.
“For a growing number of young people, social enterprise offers opportunities to work on meeting society’s challenges,” says Lubelsky. “Through our RECODE initiative and other activities, we are committed to expanding the field so that more students and recent graduates can find mentors, allies, and investors with whom to learn and collaborate. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is especially pleased to be working with Georgian College, given the strength of its Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.”
Georgian’s approach is focused on collaborating with existing non-profits to strengthen them from within, rather than on creating new ones. Students and partners work together to develop innovative ideas for cost-saving efficiencies, self-governance and new ways of delivering services.
Social Service Worker students Natasha Hedden, Eryn Stanley and Shannon Hopkins told Lubelsky about their project with Dress for Success. This organization provides professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help disadvantaged women thrive in work and life.
The students are working with Executive Director Linda Reid to grow the Orillia/Barrie chapter. They are building awareness by creating custom newsletters for volunteers and referring agencies, two of the organization’s main target audiences. They are also using social media to share inspirational stories and promote upcoming events. In addition, they are focused on resource development and are building a partnership with Georgian’s Students’ Administrative Council to hold a clothing drive.
Hedden says she has gained valuable leadership skills since starting the project that will help her take more initiative in her future work.
“I enjoy being surrounded by individuals who are striving to make a difference in the community and who encourage me to help out on many different levels,” says Hedden.
Dean and Orillia Campus Principal Mary O’Farrell-Bowers says the grant money from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is going to help more students have these social entrepreneurship experiential learning opportunities.
“When our students graduate, they’re going to bring a social entrepreneurship mindset and skillset to their employer. They’ll be creative problem-solvers, collaborators and critical thinkers who will contribute to innovative change for the non-profit sector,” says O’Farrell-Bowers.
In addition, the grant will support specialized social entrepreneurship training for faculty, new curriculum and on-campus student-run social enterprises. An example of a student-run social enterprise at Georgian is Tree Fort Creative Advertising whereby Advertising and Marketing Communications students create campaigns for clients, many of whom are not-for-profits.
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is a private philanthropic organization based in Montreal that supports Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable and resilient society.