Monthly Archives

June 2016

The City as a Forest: The Urban Nestwork Invites Community Members to Rewild Their Neighborhoods

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | No Comments

Azlan Nur Saidy, co-founder of the Urban Nestwork, is an aspiring urban planner, student of the natural world, and a recently indoctrinated birder, excited to explore the intersections between human health and the natural environment. The SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark, provides project funding of up to $1000. Below, we get an update from the Urban Nestwork, a project team funded earlier this year.

What if I told you that you are in nature right now? Ridiculous, isn’t it? You can’t really be in nature walking down a concrete street, can you? Listen closely however, and you may be surprised! Our city is full of birds, bees, coyotes, and salmon that are just on the edge of our vision. If you walk too fast, they may just disappear before you can spot them. Slow down, however, and the city suddenly becomes a forest. Eagles soar above Trout Lake, salmon swim upstream in a residential neighborhood, and whales wander into False Creek. Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the way we currently build our cities also destroys habitats for the animals that live in them. Forests and other habitats are often cleared to make way for human homes and businesses, and the animals that live in them are left without a place to go. Urban life makes it hard to think about nature because it is often pushed to the background of human activity. Is there anything we can do? The answer is a resounding YES! We can incorporate nature into our neighborhoods, homes and everyday lives to rewild ourselves and our city.

The Urban Nestwork, a group of SFU students, came together to increase accessibility to nature for our friends, family, neighbors and city. While brainstorming ideas of how to create this connection for people, our team had a close encounter with a northern flicker – a native woodpecker to the west coast – and instantly felt a tangible connection to nature. We wanted to share this connection we felt with our community.

As Urban Nestwork, we provide do-it-yourself bird house kits that community members can adopt. Uproot, a local wood waste diversion organization, has partnered with us to provide upcycled wood materials for our bird houses. We invite community members to not only build a bird house for native birds whose populations are in decline but also build a visceral connection to the home they are offering to the birds. Seeing and hearing birds use something that you created can be a powerful tool in bridging the sense of displacement between people and the natural world.

Urban Nestwork Pic #1
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Masala Chai Mondays: Conversations with Vancouver’s Changemakers

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | No Comments

Shyam Valera, recent SFU graduate, co-founded Dunya Media, a communications agency that uses film and storytelling to connect diverse audiences with stories they can relate to. Follow him on Twitter at @shyamvalera. Below, we get an update from Masala Chai Mondays, a project team funded earlier this year through the SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark.

What a ride! We started off with an idea and with the help of RADIUS and Embark we were able to take it into action and the results were glorious.

Wait, who’s “we”?

We’re a newly formed grassroots group of passionate people interested in social change. Over the past 10 years we’ve been fortunate to start or be part of some amazing projects that have empowered individuals in making change on a variety of social issues. We’ve founded many grassroots movement-based organizations that use novel ways to share stories and engage diverse and intergenerational audiences including:,, BeeVancity, and most recently (digital storytelling) and (action-based network hosting events). Working together we can combine our energies, interests and skills; particularly in the areas of digital storytelling, hosting engaging events, and empowering people to action.

And what was your idea?

Good question. We wanted to begin showcasing powerful stories to inform, inspire and empower action, so we started a webseries called Masala Chai Mondays. Through open, conversational interviews with changemakers in Vancouver over a warm cup of masala chai, we share insights on why they do their work, how they’ve gotten to where they are and what their dreams are for the future. Read More

The Importance of Pivoting and Refocusing when Designing Solutions to Social Problems

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | No Comments

Rachel is a Change Lab 2015 alumni and business major at SFU, concentrating in entrepreneurship and marketing. She was also the Director of Outgoing Exchange, Global Talent at AIESEC Simon Fraser University. With support from the SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark that provides project funding up to $1000, Rachel and her team are launching a food accessibility project called Urban Oasis this fall, allowing her to follow her passion for design and social entrepreneurship. 

How can a city like Vancouver with so much rain be home to a desert? Well with respect to food, urban areas experiencing a scarcity of nutritious and affordable meals may be more common than you expect. Also known as food deserts (not to be confused with oh-so-delicious food desserts), these neighbourhoods have really gained my interest lately, prompting fellow SFU student Sebastian and I to work on launching a program to help fill gaps in our food system.

I met Sebastian, my project partner, in Change Lab fall 2015 (a course offered by the Beedie School of Business and the Faculty of Environment with support from RADIUS, Embark, and the SFU Sustainability Office). We were tasked with creating a social change project or venture focused on the False Creek Flats industrial area in Strathcona. We soon discovered the food needs of the area and began the groundwork for our Urban Oasis project.

The goal of Urban Oasis is to provide food that is healthy, convenient and affordable to areas of the city that need it. Of course designing a potential solution to a social issue is challenging, but finding a problem worth tackling can be tricky as well. Our original direction was to try to reduce food waste by selling or giving away food that is blemished or slightly past its best before date but still edible. However, as we talked to grocery stores, food trucks and food warehouses, we found that most businesses already have systems in place for reducing food waste, such as giving unwanted items to food banks or selling them at discount. So instead we decided to look into a problem parallel to that of food being wasted: food not being found.

Blog Photo 2

At this point in our project we first realized that to have a meaningful project we needed to be open to change and receptive to feedback at each stage, from problem identification to prototyping. Walking through the neighbourhood we came to realize the lack of grocery stores, restaurants and soup kitchens in the area, and also found that some of the people who most frequently visit the area face food insecurity and/or nutrient poor diets. Read More

RADIUS Fellowship for Radical Doers: An Exercise in Systems Change

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Written by RADIUS Fellow Amy Lubick

It happens to a lot of us: we’re going on our merry way through life, doing our thing in our own little box, when suddenly we realize – actually, there is a much bigger problem upstream of the problem we’re working on – we’re just making a life preserver and there is a flood coming. Don’t get me wrong, we need those life preservers, but someone really needs to be looking at what is causing the dam to break in the first place (or the dam being built might be the problem, as in BC, but that’s another blog post).  We then discover we need to change the system upstream to stop the flood.  I was first introduced to the concept by Upstream, which focuses on the social determinants of health – their video sums it up nicely:

When I first heard about the RADIUS Fellowship, I wasn’t sure it was for me (sounded wonderful, but I’m not an entrepreneur), but I applied with an entrepreneurial spirit and have felt so lucky to be part of such an amazing group of people from all walks of life and areas of social, environmental and economic intervention. These are super smart folks to be sure, but the passion, dedication, and general selflessness has been a gift to behold. All of our sessions were helpful, some were mind blowing, some very eye opening, but I almost wish our session on systems change, with Darcy Riddell, had been earlier, as I think it might have been a key one for me. It was a great one to end on though. Read More

The 3rd annual RADIUS Blastoff Celebrated Seven Radical Food and Beverage Ventures

By | Events, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

Written by Sonam Swarup | All photos by Jackie Dives Photo

The Slingshot program at RADIUS Ventures wrapped up its 3rd cohort of radical ventures at the Backstage Lounge on Granville Island on June 6th.  Hosted by RADIUS Ventures Director Donovan Woollard and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mike Rowlands, the evening was part social innovation mixer, part demo-day and part kick-off to Startup City: Impact. 


Over the last six months, the Slingshot entrepreneurs had the opportunity to test, challenge, learn and grow their venture alongside one another. The program is designed to deepen their business knowledge, expand their networks, provide hands-on coaching, and to establish a peer community of Doers moving forward.  Based upon the number of BlastOff guests that stated that their favourite part of the event was watching the entrepreneurs support and congratulate each other, we are proud of the results.  Thanks to everyone who came out, and check out how it went down on Twitter! Read More

Normalizing Sex and Intimacy for Women Living with HIV

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | No Comments

SFU social innovator Allison Carter is a public health researcher and PhD student, studying and promoting positive sexuality for women living with HIV. Follow her on Twitter at @MissAllieCarter. Below, we get a second update from Life and Love With HIV, a project team funded through the SFU Student Social Innovation Fund.

There is a long overdue need for research and support dedicated to the positive aspects of sexuality for women living with HIV.

Desire. Arousal. Orgasm. Pleasure. Satisfaction. Intimacy. Consent.

There are many benefits to sexuality yet far too few resources are available for supporting women living with HIV to thrive in their sexual lives, whether they’re having sex with a partner or not (both are okay and normal!).

After many years of casual conversations with women living with HIV about sex and relationships and recent research documenting their reduced sexual activity and sexual satisfaction in Canada, HIV activists and community-based researchers from Simon Fraser University have teamed up to create an online resource, Life and Love With HIV.

The site will be dedicated to sharing positive and respectful research, support, education, and advocacy that moves beyond an emphasis on safe sex and embraces the possibility of pleasurable, satisfying, and fulfilling sexual experiences and relationships after HIV. We want to engage all the positive women and allies who are already working daily on this cause, and build momentum to advance positive women’s sexual rights around the world. Read More

Ophthalight Digital Solutions: Track What Matters

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark, provides project funding of up to $1000. Below, we get a second update from Ophthalight Digital Solutions, a project team funded earlier this year. See their first blog post here.

Two years ago, when we initiated our new venture, Ophthalight Digital Solutions, we were passionate about the idea of automating the manual routine eye tests and its benefits for physicians in terms of speed, accuracy, and ease of use. At the time, we were mostly looking for sustainable solutions for doctors to enhance their daily routines and maximize their profitability. During the course of the device design and implementation, we noticed another important stakeholder at play, the patient. Increasing the accuracy of the tests is enabling early-stage diagnosis of chronic diseases and drastically changing patients’ quality of life.

During the past couple of months, we have been lucky enough to see the device save one patient’s life. This is a moment of pride and satisfaction, which was not possible without the help of various incubator programs and seed funds such as RADIUS and Embark’s Social Innovation Seed Fund, Venture Connections, Coast Capital, and Wavefront. We would also like to thank the SFU Beedie School of Business and the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization program for helping us study our venture in more detail as well as providing financial support to validate our business assumptions.

During the course of the clinical trials, we encountered a young lady who was suffering from blurred vision. She had the same problem a couple of months before, but a routine examination at the doctor’s office did not result in any specific diagnosis. When she reached out to our colleague, she was still suffering from the blurriness. Three experienced ophthalmologists had checked her eyes to find the reason for the problem, but they couldn’t find anything. At this time, our colleague (who was performing the clinical trials) suggested an examination with O-Glass, which resulted in diagnosing a very mild optic nerve deficiency. As she had a family history of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), she was then referred to a thorough MRI examination and a very early stage of MS was detected. Currently, she is being treated and has a high chance of complete recovery, which is possible only when MS is diagnosed at early stages; this early stage diagnosis rarely happens. Read More

Kuelii Smart Design: Hello World!

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | No Comments


The SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark, provides project funding of up to $1000. Below, we get an update from Kuelii Smart Fan, a project team funded earlier this year.

After a long journey of hard work and long nights, we’re finally ready to say hello in our first blog post!

First of all, allow me to introduce myself and the team at Kuelii Smart Design. I’m Jay, a design student at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology department of Simon Fraser University and a founder of Kuelii Smart Design. With past experience in project management, media production, and UI/UX design, I’m the CEO and experience designer on the team.

Ok that’s enough about me, let’s talk about the team.

Our team is made up of talented students from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and University of British Columbia (UBC) with a variety of backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences. On our technical development team, we have Dolapo who handles software, Johnson who works our electrical systems, and Cindy who designs our hardware models. To the business end, we have Kevin for business development and Adeline on graphic and interface design.

The Kuelii team during our mentorship trip visiting Lee (bottom row) at Galvanize in Seattle. (Left to Right, Dolapo, Kevin, Adeline, Jay, & Sittidej)

The Kuelii team during our mentorship trip visiting Lee (bottom row) at Galvanize in Seattle. (Left to right: Dolapo, Kevin, Adeline, Jay and Sittidej)

The idea was born.

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