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February 2014

The RADIUS Way for Radical Doers

By | RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

At RADIUS Ventures, we like to say that this is a place for ‘Radical Doers.’ But what does that mean when we talk about launching, building, and growing social impact businesses? Over the last few months, I have given a lot of thought to how we design a curriculum for radical ventures. I wanted to share some of the values and philosophies that informed the RADIUS Ventures curriculum. Here’s how we have expressed the concept of a radical action orientation when it comes to our entrepreneurship curriculum.

RADIUS Ventures borrows from and combines three significant and current trends in business.

  1. Lean Startup (or Lean LaunchPad)
  2. Human Centered Design (or User Centered Design)
  3. Impact Enterprise (or social enterprise)

From Lean Startup, we adopt the principals of ‘startup activity as primarily search,’ ‘business model innovation,’ ‘small batch sizes,’ and ‘constant testing of our assumptions’ using ‘get out of the building user / customer research.’

From Human Centered Design, we get an emphasis on empathy-driven research—looking for the human emotions, needs, and desires—an overarching commitment to deep, radical collaboration on cross functional teams, and a time tested design process (of divergent and convergent problem and solution spaces).

IDEO, Google Ventures and others have opened their doors and shared their processes, learnings and methods for others to adopt and adapt. These methods have been proven not only effective as a set of practices over the history of design, but have been continuously refined as they are applied to many more areas beyond industrial design and urban planning.

From the emerging movement around creating impact enterprises, we commit to work with socially and environmentally impactful businesses with social and environmental sustainability at their core. We guide these businesses and organizations to meticulously measure their impact and demonstrate social as well as financial return.

Behind each of these themes and sets of related values, we have some key organizations that have helped to shape the direction of our thinking. This is by no means a complete list, but I thought that I might share some of the most significant organizations or techniques.

Steven Blank and many others within the technology industry have famously and generously shared their approach to making new businesses and we believe that Lean Startup is a powerful way to build a new organization, whether or not it is technology focused. One technique that has emerged as central to this approach is the Business Model Canvas—a flexible collaborative tool to enable a team to consider many variations on their basic business model.

Related to Lean Startup, the work of IDEO, the innovation and design consultancy out of the Bay Area that is famous for coining the term ‘Design Thinking’ when referring to their process and approach, has been very influential for RADIUS. Their social innovation related work is shared at OPEN IDEO and

One organization that is doing a great job in paving the road towards accountability and measurability in the enterprise space is Mulago Foundation. Their CEO, Kevin Starr, has been outspoken about the need to cut through the jargon and just say simply what you do and how you measure it. His eight word mission statement has been blogged about by Harvard Business School.

Finally, a word about how we work that is aside from our philosophy, influences, or values. When we sign up a venture to join the RADIUS Ventures cohort, we develop a custom set of shared goals that we are driven to partner with each venture to achieve during the six month program. We believe that such a structured and focused approach improves both a firm’s strategy and its subsequent operational execution to have a lasting impact on our community and beyond.

SFU Changemaker Showcase to Feature Jonathan Lewis

By | Events, Social Innovation | No Comments

RADIUS and Ashoka Canada are proud to host the next SFU Changemaker Showcase on March 6th at the Lost & Found Café, featuring renowned speaker, teacher and social enterprise leader, Jonathan C. Lewis, and talks from several leading changemakers connected to the SFU community.

Jonathan Lewis will keynote the SFU Changemaker Showcase this year.

Jonathan Lewis will keynote the SFU Changemaker Showcase this year.

Lewis is an accomplished social entrepreneur and a compelling public speaker on economic development issues and social change. He is the Founder and Host of Café Impact, Founder and President of Opportunity Collaboration, and Founder and Board Chair of MicroCredit Enterprises.

“We are excited to return to SFU with our partners this year,” comments Charles Tsai, Director of Learning Networks for Ashoka Canada. “With the Changemaker Showcase, we hope to inspire change and help build the community of changemakers at SFU.” Ashoka Canada will document the event and publish short videos to be featured on

The event will also feature presentations from Alice Park, Beedie School of Business alumna and CEO and co-founder of real-time carpooling app go2gether, and Denise Taschereau, CEO and co-founder of Fairware, a Vancouver-based company that creates and distributes custom-branded sustainable products.

“RADIUS is very excited to bring together a room full of inspiring social innovators to share their brightest ideas,” says Shawn Smith, Director of RADIUS. “Vancouver continues to punch well above its weight in the global social innovation movement, and we are particularly happy to have an international leader like Jonathan Lewis to share his perspective.”

If you are feeling curious about social entrepreneurship, looking for inspiration to start your change project, or building sustainable solutions to tough social and environmental problems, then SFU Changemaker Showcase is for you. Join us on March 6 for this free community event and hear from our community’s most engaged organizations and individuals. REGISTER NOW

About RADIUS & Ashoka Canada

RADIUS is a social innovation lab and venture incubator based at the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University. Formed to enable SFU’s leadership in building the new economy, RADIUS works to strengthen impact focused businesses and the ecosystem that supports them, develop and test new ideas for an economy that prioritizes people and planet, and build a pipeline of emerging social economy leaders with real world experience.

Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs – individuals with system-changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Ashoka Canada runs the Learning Networks Program, which is a three-year mission to help educators transform higher education in Canada. During this time, we plan to engage 30 colleges and universities in co-creating vibrant ecosystems that support changemaking and changemakers within higher education.