Monthly Archives

March 2014

Breakfast with a Man of Impact: Jonathan Lewis

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Guest Blog by Sivansh Padhy

A few fellow ambitious students and I had the great opportunity to have breakfast with a man who’s passion encompasses the globe and its people.

When you first see Jonathan Lewis, you certainly can’t tell that the man sporting a large grey beard and a sweater at eight o’clock in the morning is the same man that heads Micro Credit Enterprises, an organization that aims to truly give global equality a shot at success by capturing and providing millions of dollars of micro loans to impoverished communities and to women in particular. In addition, Jonathan, or John as he likes to be called, has produced a web series with successful social entrepreneurs by the name of Cafe Impact and has launched Opportunity Collaboration, a massive social and economic justice conference that takes place in Mexico.

John amidst his passion for social change and entrepreneurship is a man who is surprisingly approachable. I’ve met only a few people who approach wickedly complex global issues, with such a profoundly simple philosophy. He is a person of few mantras. Over a bright and early breakfast, John told us that people should really take a look at what they are good at, and what they sincerely love to do, and to put it simply, focus on doing those things.

Become great at what you love to do,  do it often, and your career will follow.

Between bites of his BC Smoked Salmon (he wanted the local experience), John would drop nuggets of wisdom like this. And I feel we would all be wise to listen, simply because John’s spends his life traveling, speaking to new people, and constantly being immersed in his passion for social change, and I feel this lifestyle is something resonates with many ambitious youth in today’s world.

Why should we care? There’s millions of ambitious people in this world and millions more who want to make changes to the world for the better. Many of these people have found success in doing exactly that. So why should we care?

What I took from all this is seeing that strong leaders are not these immutable, hyper-serious figures that only a few people can connect to. They are not steely eyed and rough-browed soldiers. Often times, great leaders are women and men who take their passions extremely seriously all the while treading very lightly when it comes to their ego. I understood this when Jonathan insisted that we call him John, was not afraid of making fun of me or himself, and spent half the conversation expressing his sincere drive to make the world a better place while spending the other half detailing his affinity for hot dogs, and of his search to find the best hot dog in the world.

Breakfast for students is usually grabbing what you can out of the fridge in a mad dash to catch the bus or get to class, hoping to the forces that be that you haven’t forgotten your charger at home. This particular morning however, it was truly a pleasure to learn alongside a man who has found a way to approach life with such passion, and such incredible comfort.

Using Disruptive Strategies to Help Create a New Vision for BC’s Small-Boat Fishermen

By | RADIUS Lab, Social Innovation | No Comments

Guest Blog By Joanna Kipp

The author getting a closer look at the work.

In the fall of 2013, through RADIUS and Ecotrust Canada, I was given the opportunity to pack my bags and head to Prince Rupert, British Columbia for three months to research and write an unconventional business plan for Ecotrust Canada’s unique and ground-breaking fisheries monitoring initiative.

The experience proved highly valuable for me because I was able to put into practice many of the creative and collaborative techniques that I learned while in the SFU MBA program. Moreover, I believe that these techniques directly contributed to my ability to build trust in the community and develop a more effective and desirable monitoring system. Below, I will share three examples.

Gaining Empathy

I started by orienting myself to Canada’s Pacific fishing industry—the general ins-and-outs, frustrations and successes, and the changes that are currently taking place. Although the fisheries monitoring program design was well-underway by the time I started my work in Prince Rupert, it was still crucial that I understand the users of the monitoring system and the context in which they operate. Gathering this information helped me to empathize with these hard-working entrepreneurs, and allowed me to understand how the fisheries monitoring system I was helping to build would affect their lives and livelihoods each and every day of the fishing season.

Entrepreneurship and the Lean Start-up

Ecotrust’s fisheries monitoring initiative is a perfect example of their entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. When a fishermen’s association approached Ecotrust to explore whether they could create and offer a more accessible and affordable fisheries monitoring system, the Lean Startup approach allowed the organization to design and create a small number of prototypes for the boats in the association. Starting with a small number of clients allowed Ecotrust Canada to receive detailed, individual feedback from the fishermen on how the system should work, before putting it into practice on a larger scale.

The fishing fleet in the golden hour at Prince Rupert

The fishing fleet in the golden hour at Prince Rupert

There is nothing more valuable than this. Instead of trying to guess what the user wanted, the ongoing conversation between designer and user allowed the design to be an iterative process, with feedback contributing to the prototype during the design process instead of after. This permitted a more agile and flexible design, with the best possible products and services at the end.

Visioning Session

I think my favorite part of the internship was our community visioning session. Having just completed an MBA based mostly on traditional business concepts, I was really excited to participate in a meeting that centered around how our products and services could benefit the user—not just how the user could benefit the corporate bottom line.

Here’s the result of the visioning session:

We envision commercial fisheries that are sustainably governed using sound management policies that include harvester input and recognition of the social value of the fishing industry and not just the economic value of the landed catch.

The vision is based on the following principles:

  • Collaboration: Builds trust, empowers fishermen, and increases the flow of information between industry, regulatory bodies, and monitoring service providers through working together towards the common vision of sustainable fisheries.
  • Affordability: Using pricing models that support scaling and continuous development instead of maximizing shareholder value will improve fishermen’s margins and demonstrate that these models are sustainable.
  • Accessibility: Aims for all those that need/want monitoring to be able to access it, whether it is mandated or voluntary.
  • Adaptability and Integratability: allows a base monitoring system to be customized for different fisheries at a lower cost and allows the monitoring system to be seamlessly integrated with other existing compliance tools to offer a comprehensive monitoring and compliance toolkit which will contribute to more sustainable fisheries.

I believe that these unique and disruptive strategies will help to bring success and sustainability to BC’s fishermen and coastal communities, and the resource they depend on. Widespread use of these methods would undoubtedly have an impact on resource management around the world.

Build Your Dream in Social Venture Accelerator Summer Course

By | Accelerator, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

Are you, or do you know, an SFU student with a killer social impact idea? Interested in helping launch a social venture this summer? Let’s do it together! Check out this hands-on entrepreneurship experience this summer open to any SFU student with 60 credits or more.

Here’s what’s on offer:

  • $150 cash on Day 1 to fund your idea, and up to $3000 in awards for shared among top ventures
  • Tons of hands on support from top mentors, and the push to make it happen, the tools to build, test and launch your team’s idea
  • 3 business credits
  • A high profile, deep learning opportunity to take what you learn inside the classroom and apply it to the real world!

There are only 24 seats! Entrance is by application with a 200-word expression of interest letter and copy of your unofficial transcript, and open to all SFU students with 60 credits. Please send to Natasha Mrkic-Subotic ( or Shawn Smith ( and once approved you will be enrolled automatically.

RADIUS Team with 2013 Accelerator Cohort

RADIUS Team with 2013 Accelerator Cohort

Course Information

Summer Intersession (twice weekly sessions for 7 weeks)

  • Courser Number: BUS 492
  • Number of Credits: 3
  • Date: May 5th – June 16th
  • Class format: seminar, workshop & learning lab
  • Instructors: Natasha Mrkic-Subotic and Shawn Smith

Some Stats and Quotes from Previous Years

  • 45% rate as their best class ever, while the other 55% highly recommend
  • 80% rate themselves more confident/likely to become an entrepreneur (10% were already convinced coming in, 10% decided its not for them)

Quotes from 2012 Cohort

“This was the most eye opening and enjoyable class by far I have ever taken. Social Venture Accelerator gave me the fundamental knowledge on how to be an entrepreneur.”

“It was an experience of a lifetime, that forced me to go outside my comfort zones and actually begin to put to practice all that I had learnt and been sitting on in all my years at SFU. Because of this course I feel more confident in my abilities as well as entirely revolutionizing my conception of how much I can accomplish, and essentially there are far less No’s in my vocabulary.”

“This class was AMAZING! The instructor ensured I was able to understand all the concepts and apply them to my business, which was much needed as I knew absolutely nothing about business before taking this course.”

“Enrolling in the Social Enterprise Accelerator was the best decision I ever made at SFU. I learned more in the last 3 months than I did in 6 years at SFU/coop. You’ll learn so much about what social entrepreneurship is, how to create a positive impact, and what it takes to create and run a successful business.”

“BY FAR the best class I have ever taken at SFU. It teaches real world skills following a proven, tested system. This class is essential for any aspiring entrepreneur and even non-entrepreneurs as the skills taught in this class will carry over seamlessly to the 21st Century workplace.”

“Anybody from any faculty can flourish in entrepreneurship. I would recommend this course to anyone that has ever been curious about creating their own company after they graduate or have any interest in entrepreneurship at all.”

“The class was engaging, applicable, provided students with real life opportunity, and was totally hands-on. No one learns profoundly from simply reading a text book.”

“This class has changed my life and increased my courage and confidence to pursue my dreams.”

Venture Examples From Previous Cohorts – a ride sharing platform that allows university students and professionals to instantly find anyone they want to ride share with, saving time and money and reducing CO2 emissions.

ReFilamer – building a unique desktop 3D printing filament recycling solution that creates a closed loop production cycle, saving users money, reducing CO2 and keeping waste out of landfills.

Aspire – creating a software testing company that employs autistic individuals for their excellence in detail oriented, repetitive tasks.

Shawn Smith and the winning team, Enablelife, from 2013 cohort

Shawn Smith and the winning team, Enablelife, from 2013 cohort

Fusion Kitchen – cultural cooking classes taught by women who are experts of the culture building self confidence, work experience and income generation opportunities for women who have recently immigrated to Canada.

Foodavinci – a dynamic recipe engine for people with multiple allergies and food restrictions, providing food substitutes, products and recipes for unique diets.

Daycarepedia – daycare search and rating service bringing transparency and efficiency for busy parents in an opaque and inefficient daycare market.

EnableLife – online community and forum for the disabilities community to share life hacks, tips and tricks that is already showing strong interest from organizational and individual users.

*Several teams from previous programs are building their companies, with many receiving media, funding, formal incubation opportunities and other support post accelerator. This is a once in a degree opportunity.

Radical Doer Internships at RADIUS LAB

By | RADIUS Lab, Social Innovation | One Comment

The LAB program at RADIUS is getting it done

Launched in 2012, the RADIUS LAB program is an interdisciplinary collaboration with Ecotrust Canada and the Beedie School of Business. Graduate level students are provided first-hand experience in the field of social and ecological innovation, working on real-time projects with professionals and people-in-place. Our work to date has covered 3 cohorts, 9 students, and 13 projects.

In an ecosystem of labs that spans the globe, our program can be categorized alongside other Canadian ‘Social Innovation’ labs — we are focused on developing breakthrough solutions to intractable problems, we bring new components together in new relationships for disruptive change, and we’re working to tip systems in the direction of greater resilience in sustainability.

Zaid Hassan has defined ‘social innovation labs as “social, experimental, and systemic.” More than a singular tool or methodology, we represent a particular social technique that combines the best of a number of pre-existing social technologies. We’re continuously improving and we’re excited to have a chance to learn from Hassan when he visits Vancouver in April.

We’re tackling big issues and having fun doing it

Resource development, social license, impact investing, and supply chain management have all been on the table. Our teams have worked on product traceability, emissions reductions, new business model generation, and pay-for-performance models of social finance.

What ties these projects together is a common focus on developing integrative solutions to complex social problems. We do this through a process of creative problem-solving that combines academic rigour with insightful exploration. We mix empathy and empiricism with equal measures of audacity, humility and humour; what results are Radical Ideas Useful to Society.

We want you to join us

Systems are a function of people and purpose – our LAB is no different. We rely on a diversity of perspective and we thrive on challenging assignments. Bring us your problem, lend us a hand and join in the process of strategic exploration.

We’re looking for graduate students who are interested in learning first-hand what it takes to tackle systems change. We’re also seeking ‘firms of endearment’ who want to share in the adventure and can lend some practical expertise.

If you’re interested in joining us or if you want to learn more, reach out to me, Colin Stansfield.

Changemakers Tell Stories of Empathy and Impact

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Jonathan Lewis speaking on the power of empathy for social entrepreneurs.

Jonathan Lewis speaking on the power of empathy for social entrepreneurs.

When Denise Taschereau, SFU alumna and CEO of Fareware, sits down with new customers she makes sure to talk about the “costs of change.” She has discovered the value of introducing the change management concept to her clients early, as she knows from experience what they might feel as they begin to work with a new promotional goods supplier.

This counter-intuitive sales tactic came to light during her talk on the power of empathy as part of the Second Annual SFU Changemaker Showcase. Co-hosted last night by Ashoka Canada and RADIUS at Lost + Found Café, over 100 changemakers and social entrepreneurs came together for an inspirational night of speakers, lightning pitches and networking with likeminded souls.

Another speaker, CEO Alice Park of real time ride sharing application go2gether, a recent alumna of SFU Beedie and multiple courses run by RADIUS Director Shawn Smith, kicked off the event by sharing her journey to become a social entrepreneur. Along the way, she moved from personal frustration to an impossible to ignore drive for social change, and particularly to working to address the environmental crisis. Once Alice decided that traffic congestion was a powerful leverage point, she employed her powers of empathy to do thousands of hours of customer research to help her understand people’s motivations. She knew that she had to position her company’s services from their perspective, not hers, so instead of discussing the carbon cutting benefits of carpooling she focused on how a daily carpool can help to cover the driver’s gas and insurance costs.

After hearing from Alice and Denise, the crowd enjoyed a series of passionate and speedy Lightening Pitches from impact entrepreneurs with new ideas, and then Jonathan C. Lewis took the microphone as the keynote speaker. Jonathan has a impressive record of starting diverse and resilient organizations to address injustice and create economic opportunities for the world’s poor.

Jonathan spoke of his work on Café Impact video series where he interviewed 22 mid-career social impact entrepreneurs and community change makers. Surprisingly, he discovered a single set of three lessons from this diverse group of leaders: “Witness injustice, be empathetic, and embrace listenership.” In his humble and sincere manner, Jonathan spoke about how every individual interviewed had had first hand experiences with injustices. They opened their hearts and felt how others feel, and continued the practice through making a  habit of listening as they built their teams and organizations.

For the audience of social impact change makers, the SFU Changemaker Showcase held much to learn, but there was also reason to celebrate. RADIUS had been launched at last years’ SFU Changemaker Showcase and thus reached an important milestone this year: its first birthday. After hearing an update from Ventures Program Director, Donovan Woollard, about the many activities of RADIUS over the last year, the audience broke into an impromptu version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to RADIUS.