Monthly Archives

June 2015

Doing Dialogue – a New Approach to Understanding

By | Fellows, RADIUS Edu | No Comments

RADIUS Fellow Sarah Beley discusses her project on Intercultural/faith Dialogue. All photos courtesy of the Mosaic Institute.

Inspired and formulated within the discussions and events participated through the Radius fellowship, I have arrived at the idea of a project in interfaith/intercultural dialogue.

Dialogue is the coming together of groups to engage in a face-to-face conversation in which small groups of diverse individuals can exchange and weigh ideas and opinions about a particular issue. It is not debate-style winner-takes-all, but the identification of core values, what we have in common, and what we have that overlaps rather than what is different. Discussions stem from personal experiences and examine multiple views and perspectives. Consensus is not necessarily the definition of success for a dialogue, but rather that a group ideally would understand the complexities and perspectives of the issue.

In the past, I have struggled with the compartmentalization of many issues I could see as interrelated. I believe interfaith and intercultural dialogue could be a part of the solution by deepening the conversation on issues usually discussed only from a scientific, economic or academic background. Dialogue becomes a more inclusive tool to engage communities not typically involved in important conversations.  Cultural literacy is vital to understanding, communication, and inclusive engagement.  Rather than looking at voter apathy from solely an academic or statistical background, how would the conversation be deepened if we included a cultural perspective?


Photo credit: Mosaic Institute

From my quest to identify and understand interfaith/ cultural dialogues taking place in Vancouver, I discovered that while Vancouver does deliberative democracy/ community engagement dialogue quite well, there appears to be a lack of intercultural/faith dialogues taking place, something that is more common in Eastern Canada.

This lead to a very interesting early morning phone interview with the Mosaic Institute’s executive director John Monahan. The Mosaic Institute in Toronto aims to create trust and reduce tensions among community members in Canada and to help find solutions to international conflicts abroad.  Mosaic guides and facilitates dialogues made up of Canadians with family and or community connections to international conflicts abroad, allowing participants to explore the different dimensions of conflicts with individuals they may normally have seen as an adversary, seeking common ground with one another and to work towards sustainable peace and healing.

John Monahan acknowledged the perceived difference in dialogue between Western and Eastern Canada, but couldn’t really explain why this existed.  He pondered the role the environment had on the community dynamics of Vancouverites — that perhaps the constant reminder of the environment was a unifying factor that crossed cultures as a more pressing and evident unifier.

This has led me to want to explore and create interfaith/ intercultural dialogues within Vancouver. I have been given the opportunity to participate as a fellow for Fossil Free Faith, an interfaith consortium using dialogue as a tool for divestment from fossil fuels. I hope to help build more outlets and opportunities for meaningful dialogues and that is why I am asking for the RADIUS community for connections, advice, and info about other initiatives taking place within Vancouver. I think we value hearing each other’s narratives and stories, and I hope to expand and build upon this.

You can contact Sarah at sarah.h.beley[at]

Social Innovation seed funding supports Artemis Technologies + Soap n’ Stories

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu | No Comments

RADIUS is happy to announce the latest round of recipients of Social Innovation seed funding, available to SFU students from RADIUS in partnership with Sustainable SFU.

Soap n’ Stories

The Project: This project aims to address complex social issues such as poverty and homelessness that exists in Vancouver, by creating a sense of community and employment opportunities through a soap-making skills-training program. Our team will be working with a small group of impoverished women who have overcome significant challenges throughout their lives to make artisan soap, personalize the soap with their own stories of strength and overcoming adversity, and sell the soap in our local community.


The Team: Soap n’ Stories is a pilot social enterprise project founded by Sophie Wang (MPH candidate at SFU), who has experience working with children and youth in inner-city schools and a strong passion for working with communities and her public health training to create positive social change. She is working together with a multidisciplinary team of young professionals – Sarah Chung, who is a recent graduate at UBC law and has with victims of domestic violence and rape, through volunteering and facilitating counselling sessions from for women in the Downtown Eastside, and Arianna Mao, who is a BASc (Environmental Design) graduate working in art, media and design, with a passion in helping communities leverage their capacities to create massive change.

Artemis Technologies

About Artemis: Artemis Technologies uses unmanned aerial vehicles to take images of crops, and is building a software to detect diseases, predict growth patterns and reduce treatments necessary for Canadian farmers.
Artemis - Team
About the team: The team is made of 3 students from the Beedie School of Business, Brandon Chapman, Clair Lam & Joey Boulé as well as 3 students from SFU’s Mechatronics Systems Engineering program, Miguel Cruz, Jessica Peare & Ben Tuline.  As part of the Technology Entrepreneurship @ SFU program, Artemis receives mentorship and guidance from university professors Sarah Lubik and Kevin Oldknow.
Find out more at

Meet our Trampoline 2 cohort!

By | Accelerator, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

Our Trampoline 2 program is in full swing, bringing together a diverse cohort of social entrepreneurs – from upcycling design to health through social innovation, from pianos in public spaces to child care that fosters deeper connections between generations, and more. Trampoline is a validation stage program for impact focused entrepreneurs and ventures looking for support to test and refine their business model, to better position themselves for success. Our June 2015 intensive cohort is delivered by RADIUS Ventures Director Donovan Woollard and Entrepreneur-In-Residence Mike Rowlands.

Meet the Trampoline 2 entrepreneurs!

Basic Design

Basic Design is a social enterprise based in beautiful Vancouver. We are actively redefining the value of waste by giving a second life to landfill-bound materials and creating unique, cruelty-free products. We also work collaboratively with clients on a variety of interior, furniture and communication design projects, striving to use up-cycled, local and sustainable materials whenever possible.

Additionally, Basic Design is in the process of launching an initiative called Vancouver Trash Lab, which we hope will help educate participants about up-cycling and the design process, and potentially catalyze further closed loop systems and innovative ideas.

Jesi Carson

Jesi is inspired by compelling stories, engaging spaces and discovering cultures through travel. She holds a Bachelors Degree of Interaction Design from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where she undertook interactive systems and advanced sustainability studies in addition to human centered design and research. As Design Partner and Communications Manager of Basic Design, a social enterprise with a passion for up-cycling, and Co-Founder of Cultivate Projects, a non-profit focused on building collaborative food gardens, Jesi strongly believes in the power of design as a tool for activism.

Theunis Snyman

Theunis is an aspiring social entrepreneur working his way to not working at all, but doing what he loves. As Design Partner and Principal Industrial Designer of Basic Design, Theunis strives to be socially conscious while practicing good design and having fun. Theunis holds a Bachelors Degree of Industrial Design from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and his creative strength lies in his ability to make and prototype using unconventional materials. An avid dumpster diver, Theunis is not afraid to take risks and fail often on the path to the right design solution, and he believes that good design should have a purpose.

Contact Info

facebook  |  website

twitter: @basicdesignvan
etsy: @basicdesignvan
#BasicDesignVan #VancouverTrashLab

Bridge 4 Health

Bridge for Health is a local and global network committed to social innovation towards health and wellbeing for all. Our mission is to shift the public dialogue to promote a collective and holistic understanding of health and to advocate for its support by:

a) Promoting broad-based participation in creating conditions that support health & wellbeing for all.
b) Fostering innovative strategies to promote health and wellbeing across sectors.

Health is created outside of health-care. It is created in our communities, in our businesses, organizations and governments. It cannot be created if we are excluding or not engaging those who live, love, work and play in those settings.

OUR VISION: Through sharing diverse perspectives & experiences, and tapping into existing resources, knowledge and skills, we aspire to contribute to the creation of safe, just, diverse, sustainable and vibrant environments that enable individuals, groups and local communities to flourish.

Paola Ardiles

Paola Ardiles has been recognized for her innovative, collaborative and inter-sectoral approaches in health promotion research, policy and practice and was recently nominated for the 2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Award (Metro Vancouver). Paola’s passion is to create spaces that facilitate dialogue to foster the development of relevant, practical and creative upstream solutions to tackle complex health issues.

Paola is an active volunteer and board member of the Public Health Association of British Columbia, a provincial non-profit organization that advocates for healthy public policies. As an Adjunct Professor in Health Sciences at SFU, Paola has published and contributed to numerous public health issues and is known to be a catalyst for change by supporting paradigm shifts in the way we conceive health. In 2012, Paola was awarded the 2013 Dr. Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Award of Distinction, for her local, provincial and national work to advance the mental health agenda.  In 2013, Paola founded Bridge for Health, a local and global network aimed to promote social innovation in health. With local, provincial, national and global partners, Bridge for Health is building a social enterprise to support the design of healthy businesses to advance the triple-bottom line.

Contact Info

facebook  |  website

twitter: @Bridge4Health

Devon Carr

Devon is a freelance consultant, activist and entrepreneur. Working with a variety of organizations including universities, non-profits and private sector companies, he advises and contributes to multiple initiatives and assists on the federal election campaign of a candidate for Member of Parliament.

Founder and Principal of Guerrilla Consulting, a small consultancy with a focus on project start-up, and new venture leadership, his core values are sustainability, stewardship, innovation, people and most of all, adventure.

Experiences working overseas motivated him to leverage both public and private-sector growth for social and economic development in emerging and domestic markets. During three years in Malawi, Devon ran an entrepreneurial support network in water service delivery (a multi-stakeholder partnership of non-profits, the Mzuzu University and the Malawi government) before serving as Director for a large-scale agri-processing start-up.

Originally from Vancouver Devon is also a classically trained chef, and an avid adventurer.

Guardian Angels

My name is Mohak Goel, I am from India and I am a 4th year Business student, concentrating in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Operations Management. Last semester I wanted to work for the betterment of the life of seniors in Vancouver. After doing primary and secondary, my team found this can be done by connecting generations.

My team then launched Guardian Angels: “We offer educational babysitting service by connecting wise elders and young life learners in Vancouver area to create meaningful and trustful relationships.” Our aim is to connect families with grandparents through this, a two-way relationship will be fostered, wise elders will get an opportunity to meet the young ones; the children on the other hand will gain invaluable wisdom and nurturing.

Currently, I am working as a Teaching Assistant in Simon Fraser University. I believe “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”

Keys to the Street

Keys to the Streets placed 10 free pianos in Vancouver public spaces from July 1 to August 23, 2014. This project is inspired by similar pop-up piano initiatives which have appeared in cities such as Montreal, Toronto, and New York, and will be back on the streets of Vancouver for the 2015 season starting July 1st. Join the conversation with #Keys2Streets.

Aaron Tilston-Redican

Aaron was born and raised in Merville, British Columbia, a sleepy town on Vancouver Island’s east coast. Being surrounded by ocean, mountains and forest, Aaron developed a deep appreciation for the environment and a love of exploration. Aaron just recently completed his undergraduate degree in Environmental Geography at Simon Fraser University.  Aaron is currently employed as a research assistant at CityStudio, as well as being one of the project leads for the Keys to the Streets program.  In his spare time Aaron can be found cruising the coastline on his sailboat, surfing, or hiking.  Aaron is passionate about outdoor learning, and one day hopes to teach at an outdoor school.

Becky Till

Becky Till is a graduate of Human Geography and Dialogue from SFU and is ready to take on the world of sustainability and social justice through alternative education. She feels she is in exactly the right place working to make the CityStudio vision come alive and when she’s not there, she spends her time as a committee member of Youth For Policy Alternatives, singing in her band, and dreaming about her next meal.

Kim Luu

Kim is an aspiring change maker and creative professional. She has over 15 years of experience in fashion industry, primarily as a fashion designer for an international label based in Vancouver. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Design in Fashion Design and Technology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Kim is excited to get back into the workplace after taking a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom. Never happy with keeping the status quo, she is inspired by stories of entrepreneurs who are bringing innovative solutions to create positive social impact. She looks forward to utilizing her fashion experience to promote sustainable design and help elevate the lives of others. In her spare time, she enjoys thrift shopping, sewing, pinning beautiful photos of tiny houses and small spaces and photography. Connect with Kim on LinkedIn.

VIM House

The Vancouver Independent Music Centre Society is a non-profit, charitable organization made up of musicians, music presenters, managers, concert goers, business people and professionals who support the development of an affordable, accessible, sustainable and culturally diverse music centre in Vancouver.

We’re dedicated to getting it right. We’ve come a long way over the past three years and responses from all sectors of the community continue to drive us forward. A series of studies has determined the feasibility for a new state-of-the-art venue that suits the needs of audiences and the greater music community. Those studies have given us the foundation to move on to the next stage of the planning process.

We are developing an operational model that will work for audiences as well as the diverse music community. A favoured model, based in part on the Roundhouse Community Centre, is that the VIM House would partner with existing and emerging presenters as well as individual artists to present concerts and to support community, neighbourhood and educational programs, classes, workshops, clinics, creative residencies and music appreciation. This will enable a wide range of music programming over time.

Diane Kadota

Through Diane Kadota Arts Management, Diane is dedicated to supporting the composition, development, presentation and dissemination of creative music by Canadian artists. DKAM represents artists who have a high level of musicianship and artistry, creative vision, a respect for and knowledge of cultural traditions, professionalism and a commitment to the artist/manager relationship.

Contact Info

email: info(at)

facebook  |  website
twitter: @VIMHouse


Evolving mom collective. Handmade head wraps for the stylin’, individual, adventurous child.
Watch our story unfold! Drop us a line at

Bernice Paul

twitter: @BernicePaul
instagram: @peartreepaul

Bernice is one of those dime-a-dozen chemist-turned-marketers. Through high school she had wanted the career of the fictional FBI Agent Dana Scully, so after her BSc she started out with the RCMP forensic lab in Vancouver. After almost six years there she felt that operations could be greatly improved so she embarked on a part-time MBA program offered through UBC’s Sauder School of Business. It was during the MBA experience though, that Bernice transitioned into the business world: first in the green sustainability space and then quickly moving toward marketing and branding for values-based organizations.

Prior to her first maternity leave, Bernice was Marketing Director at Modo, where she enabled cultural shift within the organization and shepherded the rebranding project. After a protracted “matirement” Bernice has now rejoined the marketing world, currently enjoying part time work for the BC Co-op Association.

Hailing from East Van, Bernice now calls North Vancouver home with her husband Christian and daughters Pasha (1) and Bowie (almost 3). Bernice is the thinker behind Wuchild, always in search for the right approach.

Yvette Wu

twitter: @YvWu

Born in Winnipeg and raised in Steveston, BC, it was in her late teens that Yvette headed to Montreal to start her undergrad at McGill. The energizing atmosphere and thought-provoking leadership on campus was where Yvette was first exposed to the idea that business could be a vehicle for social and environmental change.

Not yet brave enough to explore this as a future career option, Yvette readied herself for the long haul in academia, in childhood development. Her inner calling to explore impact business was too strong to ignore so she took a leap of faith and enrolled in UBC’s MBA program.

Since the MBA, Yvette has held various consulting roles as a strategic advisor to different business functions. She built her business foundation at Best Buy and Aritzia and then entered into the social enterprise space through Lunapads and Vancity. Her current work led to the design and launch of Vancity’s “Fair & Fast Loan” an alternative for payday lending. Disrupting the payday loan industry has been exhilarating and rewarding for her.

Yvette is mom to one-year-old Henny, the original muse and inspiration to start her own business. Yvette is the heart of Wuchild, a natural connector with big dreams.

Contact Info


facebook  |  website

twitter: @hellowuchild

Seattle & Portland Social Innovators: Vancouver Changemakers want to meet you!

By | Events, Social Innovation | No Comments

RADIUS is gearing up for its first ever Cascadia Social Innovation Tour and we could not be more excited.  Next week, 55 of us — including our inaugural cohort of RADIUS Fellows — are hoping on the Amtrak to come visit Seattle and Portland and we want to know all about what makes your cities so awesome by meeting YOU, the folks who make it so.

We’re only in each city for a very short time and to better facilitate meeting all the awesome local innovators we’d like to connect with, we’ve rented out some pubs where you can join us.

This is our invitation to you: If you live in Seattle or Portland and want to connect with a diverse group from Vancouver that includes makers, movers, shakers, micro brewers, social entrepreneurs, politicos, city builders who are united in our interest in all things local and new economy, social innovation and impact entrepreneurship, please do come out! 

Seattle Details 

Friday June 19, 6pm – 8:30pm at Elysian Fields, 542 1ST AVE S. SEATTLE, WA 98104

RSVP here so we can manage numbers.

Portland Details 

Saturday June 20, 7:30pm – midnight at The Oregon Public House, 700 NE Dekum St. Portland, OR. 97211

RSVP here so we can manage numbers.  


We can’t wait to meet you!

Media coverage: RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator

By | First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

RADIUS Ventures will be delivering the RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator, announced at the end of April by SFU’s Beedie School of Business.  Check out some of the media coverage below. The RADIUS team looks forward to sharing more information as we get ready to host our first cohort in the winter.


Vancouver Sun: SFU-based program to help First Nations entrepreneurs

“The First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator will help ‘entrepreneurs who are serving aboriginal communities develop their ventures so they’re ready to launch and get funding,’ said Donovan Woollard, ventures director for RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society)…

“‘For the first six months, we’re going to make sure we’re developing the right program, so that the resources are used to serve a real need in these communities and for these entrepreneurs,’ Woollard said.

“Besides the RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator, the RBC Foundation is also funding an award for Aboriginal business and leadership. The award provides $30,000 per year in scholarships for the next 10 years to encourage First Nations undergraduate and graduate students to consider entrepreneurship as a career option.

“‘We want to add value to what’s already there,’ Woollard said. ‘If we look at communities like Westbank in the Okanagan, or Sto:lo in the Fraser Valley, there’s a lot of entrepreneurial activity for us to engage with.'”


Globe & Mail: Beedie initiatives to lift next generation of First Nation entrepreneurs

“Nurturing a new generation of First Nation entrepreneurs is a priority for some business schools, donors and aboriginal communities.

“The most recent example is a $1.3-million pledge over 10 years from Royal Bank of Canada to fund two initiatives at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business: $1-million to support startups and social ventures in B.C.’s First Nation communities and $300,000 for aboriginal undergraduate and graduate students to pursue entrepreneurship as a career.

“‘We know aboriginal communities are key players in the economy focusing on developing entrepreneurs who can lead the way through innovation in both social and business ventures,’ says Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer for RBC. ‘Graduates of the [Beedie] program will inspire others and will go back to their communities and mentor others.’

“The twin focus of the donation is ‘phenomenal,’ says Christopher Derickson, a council member of Westbank First Nation in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, and a University of British Columbia-trained lawyer pursuing an executive MBA in aboriginal business and leadership at Beedie in Burnaby, B.C.

“‘Any investment into a First Nation enterprise is going to be an investment into a community,’ says Mr. Derickson, whose self-governing community of 800 First Nation and 9,000 non-members is home to more than 400 on-reserve businesses. ‘Our experience at Westbank is that when you create opportunities for your members to move into the business world, as opposed to creating jobs for them, that the job creation after that has been exponential’…

“‘Economic reconciliation is clearly a part of reconciliation in general,’ adds Mr. Selman. ‘If aboriginal communities are struggling, if they are in poverty, then it is impossible for there to be a balance in terms of how aboriginal and non-aboriginal people relate to each other.'”


Business Vancouver: Vancouver’s newest business incubator will target aboriginal entrepreneurs

“The program will be designed for aboriginal entrepreneurs who already have a business they are interested in growing, or a well-developed business plan. The participant don’t need to be enrolled at SFU, Woollard said.

“‘We’ll spend the next five or six months doing some market testing to get a sense of where we can use the funds to most effectively serve the needs of aboriginal entrepreneurs, and we expect the first cohort to start this winter,’ Woollard said.”

The Peak: SFU gives Aboriginal entrepreneurs a head start

“The accelerator, which will be run out of RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society), a business incubator within the Beedie School, will help fledgling ventures get off their feet and assist in the growth of more mature enterprises.

“The FPEA was originally conceived to be part of the First Peoples House, which was proposed in 2012 as a centre for Aboriginal students, faculty, and staff on Burnaby Campus. Once the First Peoples House project is complete, the two ventures will be linked.

“Donovan Woollard, ventures director at RADIUS, spoke to the origin of FPEA: ‘SFU and the RBC Foundation were in conversation around how to have a lasting impact and the concept of supporting entrepreneurship in First Nations communities came up as an exciting prospect.’

“This winter, the Enterprise Accelerator will welcome its first cohort. Over the next six months, RADIUS will be ‘figuring out what do Aboriginal entrepreneurs need and what are the places where we can help them with those needs.’ Woollard added, ‘[There] are lots of ways to waste $1 million and only a few ways to actually add some real value.'”

Full house at Backstage Lounge for the 3rd annual Social Venture Failure Wake

By | Events, RADIUS Ventures, Social Innovation | No Comments

On Wednesday night, we hosted a full house for the third annual Social Venture Failure Wake at Backstage Lounge on Granville Island. We celebrated the stories of our brave speakers: Mary Macintyre of Little Nest, Tom Kineshanko of, Myriam Steinberg of the In the House Festival, and Jeremy Bell of Wattage.

Huge thanks to Vancity for their founding and ongoing support of RADIUS Ventures’ flagship programming, and thank you to BDC for sponsoring the Failure Wake and for their exciting new partnership!

Photos by Kris Schmitz and RADIUS livetweets by Maggie Knight. 

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We hope you’ll all join us next year!

RADIUS SFU partners with BDC to fund social entrepreneurship

By | Media Releases, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

June 3, 2015
Simon Fraser University
University Communications


Donovan Woollard, SFU RADIUS, 604.720.4223,
Maria Constantinescu, BDC, (514) 496-7146,
Ross MacDonald-Allan, SFU Beedie, 778.782.9492,


RADIUS SFU partners with BDC to fund social entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs whose business ventures are designed to positively transform society will get a financial boost at Simon Fraser University thanks to a new partnership between the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and SFU’s RADIUS Ventures.

BDC, Canada’s only financial institution dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs, has launched a new lending initiative for social and environmental projects, using British Columbia as the pilot region.  As part of this pilot, BDC will donate a portion of every loan fee to RADIUS as the ecosystem partner that supports social entrepreneurship. This is the basis for BDC’s commitment to provide RADIUS Ventures – a branch of RADIUS that finds and amplifies top emerging social ventures – with $50,000 in financing for the next fiscal year.

RADIUS Ventures will use the funds to support its Slingshot venture accelerator program. The six-month program is focused on growth stage impact ventures, helping them to become market and investment ready.

“BDC has taken a leadership position in recognizing the growth potential of Canada’s impact venture space, and is the first financial institution in Canada to achieve B Corp certification as a responsible business,” says Donovan Woollard, Director of RADIUS Ventures.  “We look forward to working with BDC in the coming years to develop, grow, and fund the entrepreneurs that can shape our world for the better.”

The new partnership will also see BDC and RADIUS collaborate on a series of workshops for growth-ready ventures within the RADIUS community, covering topics such as globalization; strategy and growth management; IT infrastructure; B Corp certification; and financing.

“With RADIUS Ventures, BDC hopes to find more entrepreneurs whose ventures aim to create a benefit for society.” says Craig Ryan, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at BDC.

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.  SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada’s comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.


Dreaming of Learning: ReSchool 2015

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Written by RADIUS Fellow Elaine Su. Her dream school includes surfing lessons, stargazing, Bananagrams with elders, and tutelage from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. All of which may or may not be happening at her real-life dream school, Compass Community School. You can also check out how #ReSchool2015 went down on Twitter. All photos by Kristopher Schmitz.

“What is the education revolution about, and what comes after?” – Charles Tsai

There are not many things that can entice exhausted educators into voluntarily going back to school on a Saturday – but apparently the ReSchool conference this weekend was one of them. It might have been the smell of fresh coffee, it might have been all the free pipe-cleaners…but I suspect it was the permission to dream big that brought all these people out to Surrey at 8:30 on Saturday morning.


Welcome to ReSchool. On May 29 and 30, a hundred people were invited by RADIUS, Groundswell, and Ashoka Canada to SFU’s Surrey campus to ‘transform the future of learning’. No small job. But the educators, students, parents, innovators, and first-rate dreamers there were undeterred.

If you’d like to know what the school of the future will look like, I have a guess for you. If the learners and teachers at ReSchool have anything to do with it, the school of the future will be a school with no walls.

By that, I don’t just mean a physically wall-less space – although that is certainly looking likely too, if our group activities on Friday are any indication. According to those projects, in which groups were tasked with the job to design their own ‘Blue Sky’ limitless dream school, schools of the future will be outdoors, in parks, in virtual space, in yurts. As Paola Qualizza of Groundswell described, ‘Schools are invisible.’


Beyond the physical space, though, it seemed pretty clear that everyone wanted to get rid of the all the other walls trapping our existing schools. We want to see schools that act as community centres – and are open 24/7! We want to see schools that are open to everyone, no matter how young or old! We want to see schools where everyone learns together, no matter what their discipline or project!


I think Dr. David Helfand, founding president of Quest University and keynote speaker for day one of the conference, would have been happy at our wall-less dream schools. In his speech, he talked of ‘collaborating across traditional disciplinary boundaries’ and described his university, where there are no ivory towers, no tenured professors, no faculties or departments or majors. Be still, my heart.

word cloud

I think this cluster of key phrases from the first day perfectly captured what everyone in the room was dreaming of. Community is at the heart of everything we dream about for education. We aren’t interested in isolation and standardization – we want something that truly meets the needs of individual learners and whole communities.

When I look at those words, ‘hopeful’ and ‘frustrated’ are two of the first things that jump out. To me, that’s what made the ReSchool conference so great – it was full of people who were frustrated, but hopeful. Like Siv from IdEA said during his lightning pitch, ‘Why do we keep doing this? Two reasons: love and anger.’


I think we are all, at varying levels from day to day, some amount of hopeful and some amount of frustrated. We all have anger and love, because we all spend so much time fighting for the worthy cause of education. Like Charles Tsai said in his keynote speech on day two, ‘Education needs to be part of the solution, because quite frankly, it has been part of the problem.’

I thought this tension between hope and frustration was also perfectly mirrored in the conference. On the first day, we worked on hope, and designed schools that were not limited by money, politics, or reality. On the second day, we worked on frustration. More specifically, we hunkered down and worked on ten case studies to help people figure out how to overcome the frustrations that were blocking their big dreams.


As the presenter of one of the case studies, I can say with great gusto and a frightening amount of enthusiasm that the people at ReSchool know how to move from anger to love. I presented my school and the challenge of how to make an alternative school free of tuition, which is a constant concern of mine. It’s not often that you get so many like-minded brains working on a project to help you because they believe in what you are doing. I can honestly say that I’ve never had such a fun and positive time talking about money troubles and financial burdens. It’s quite a feat to start with inequality and privilege, and come out with superheroes and love.

The Vancouver Design Nerds did a fantastic job leading us all on a design sprint to attack each of our design challenges. Between deconstructing underlying mental models and storyboarding our ideas, ten teams of innovators came up with incredible ways to solve some sticky problems.


I can’t speak for the other case presenters, but I left with so much inspiration and couldn’t wait to write down all the thoughts and ideas that kept coming to me.

I heard someone say as they were leaving, ‘the optimism here is infectious!’ I have to agree. Despite all the challenges and hurdles we spent two days considering, I think everyone left with great hope for the future of education.

To quote Charles Tsai again, ‘It only takes 5% of the herd to sway the other 95%’. If the people at ReSchool were even a small portion of that 5%, I think the future of education is in good hands.