Monthly Archives

May 2017

Welcome to the RADIUS team, Zoya & Marissa!

By | Community | No Comments

We’re growing! 

RADIUS is thrilled to welcome two new wonderful members to our team: Marissa Lawrence (left), First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator Program Manager, and Zoya Jiwa (right), Program Coordinator – SFU Programs & Fellowship.

Welcome aboard Zoya and Marissa! Read about them in their own words below:

Marissa Lawrence

Marissa comes to RADIUS with a rich background of designing and convening community-bridging intercultural dialogue and education programming on topics ranging from democratic engagement, economic opportunity, to reconciliation. Over the past few years, Marissa worked with Reconciliation Canada where at a senior management level, developed and maintained strategic partnerships with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, organizations and businesses and managed the design and delivery of national public programming. She has a passion for developing and nurturing community connections and new relationships and thrives in meaningful community engagement.

With a background in communications, dialogue and mindful facilitation, Marissa is inspired to incorporate the process of action-oriented dialogue into all facets of her work.

Zoya Jiwa

Zoya’s journey with RADIUS began in 2015 as a participant of the inaugural RADIUS Fellowship in Radical Doing, where she launched As We Are: an online fashion blog and community that shares the stories of people who are facing health challenges with courage and with style. Through her personal experiences with chronic illness, Zoya recognized that focus is often placed on living a vibrant life “when you are feeling better.” In response, has she created a positive and inspiring platform that encourages people to celebrate and embrace who they are, as they are, in this moment.

With interests in human-centred design, social systems thinking, and community program development, Zoya is excited to support early stage changemakers in developing their ideas that foster more just, sustainable, resilient communities.

Alongside her involvement with RADIUS and As We Are, Zoya is wrapping up her undergraduate degree at SFU, holding a major in Sociology and certificates in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Community Development. Zoya is a three time TEDx speaker, the recipient of the 2015 SFU Terry Fox Gold Medal and Prize, and the recipient of the 2016 YWCA Metro-Vancouver Young Woman of Distinction Award.

Thought Leadership: Building Positive Health Outcomes Through Social Entrepreneurship

By | RADIUS Ventures, Thought Leadership | No Comments

After studying the drivers of poor health outcomes over the past few months, it seems like humanity invests half its resources in making people sick and the other half in trying to make them well again.  The challenges are huge, multi-faceted and complex. The areas of possible improvement are multiple, diverse, and often complicated.

It’s for this reason that RADIUS has decided to apply our work to the prevention and early detection of chronic disease.  For the next two years, RADIUS is accelerating ventures that help people live healthy lives. Applications are open now.

We’ve taken a deep dive to refine both the Trampoline Business Validation Program and the Slingshot Accelerator (which now includes a $25K investment in every venture) and are working equally hard on defining a health focus that maximizes impact.  In this post, we share a bit of the behind the scenes process at RADIUS.

The RADIUS Way and Healthy Lives

For the past four months our team has been diving deep into the complexity of the health system and identifying opportunities for social entrepreneurs to contribute meaningfully to chronic condition prevention.

Getting to the unique elements of a person’s health context is like peeling the layers of onion, but medical practitioners operate within very real constraints: a short window in an appointment to listen, diagnose, and act; and a narrow scope of available solutions.  The best solution is to avoid the problem by addressing the health risk conditions well in advance.

To unpack the complexity of healthy living and understand both the challenges and opportunities for high value interventions, we’re putting ourselves through much of the same process we take RADIUS cohorts through.

We set out to understand where we can be helpful in promoting better health outcomes through our venture incubator work. We’re driven by three questions:

  1. Who can we serve?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. What can we offer them to meet these needs?

If we are to achieve positive impact, our focus needs to be clear correct and targeted.  

Finding Focus in Social Innovation

To peel the onion methodically and ultimately find the necessary focus, we work through a four-part process to define a problem statement – the challenge we’ll seek to address by developing and accelerating a cohorts of health-focused RADIUS Ventures.

  1. Define the possible universe

Going into this we knew our focus area was limited to influencing behavior that addresses risk factors for chronic disease. RADIUS interviewed every healthcare practitioner and health expert that we could get our hands on. Humility and curiosity are key to unlocking critical learning.

  1. Identify leverage points where new, enterprise-based solutions can contribute

This meant understanding the specific places where new enterprise-based tools could provide and reward pro-health options. Factors like income, education levels, and other social determinants of health have a massive influence, but might require policy or advocacy solutions. An app rewarding a teenager for choosing an apple over chips is useless, for example, if that local store only sells salty snacks, which they stock because their customers’ educational and income challenges prevent them from demanding nutritional options. We needed to understand the leverage points in the health field that could be effectively addressed by RADIUS launching and accelerating social ventures. This alignment is key for any social venture pursuing both revenue and impact.

  1. Assess relevant strengths (and weaknesses)

Next we assessed where our unique attributes could be most useful. We engaged the RADIUS team to map core competencies, networks and previous lessons learned. This stage is about the internal work required to understand our capacity to operate effectively on a new project.

  1. Define qualifying problem areas with sizeable markets

Finally – and this is the work we’re currently doing at RADIUS – we need to pull it all together to define a focus. That focus needs to play to our strengths, target a meaningful leverage point that can be affected by market based solutions and exist squarely within our possible universe. AND it needs to have a sizeable market. For us, this means that there must be a cluster of emerging and early stage ventures seeking to address this problem, and that the market those ventures target must be big enough to sustain them.

RADIUS works to build the capacity of Radical Doers, and to help them to scale their solutions.  Without dozens of entrepreneurs grappling with the problem from different perspectives, we don’t have the cohort participants to form a diverse, high quality program.  

At the end of this process we frame a problem statement. The problem statement will guide all aspects of the RADIUS Venture’s program, as it should all aspects of any participating social venture.

RADIUS Ventures Recruitment is Open Now 

RADIUS is so close to defining the problem statement that will focus the work we do accelerating ventures that help people live healthy lives in the 2017-18 year. We are hosting a roundtable with health experts today (May 23) and are carefully considering venture applications to 2017 cohorts.

If you’re interested in learning more or contributing to our discovery process, please email the Ventures team at

Early stage ventures that are working to help people live healthy lives can apply to a 2017 RADIUS Ventures cohort now.

Announcing the RADIUS Slingshot Investment Fund!

By | Investment, RADIUS Ventures, Slingshot Accelerator | 2 Comments

RADIUS is excited to announce the Slingshot Investment Fund  – making RADIUS the only social accelerator in Canada to offer direct equity investments in every venture that successfully completes the Slingshot Accelerator program.

The investment pool will act as a new source of pre-seed capital for entrepreneurs, helping to kick-start their fundraising efforts while complementing the Slingshot Accelerator Program‘s capacity building and network development offerings.


RADIUS’ Slingshot Accelerator Program helps early stage ventures become investment ready and market ready.  Early investment has been demonstrated to increase the probability of positive venture outcomes such as securing additional funding and kickstarting revenue and job growth.

Slingshot ventures will spend six months developing their investor packages, connecting with local angel and venture capital investors, and getting ready to operationalize their growth plans. At the end of the program’s second month, ventures that show traction and progress will receive a equity investment of $25,000; in the rare instance where this is not the case, a mutual agreement will be reached for the path forward.


SFU will invest $25,000 in exchange for a 2% equity stake and a royalty on gross revenue. This royalty will be capped at $50,000 (2x the original investment).

There are no other fees associated with participating in the Slingshot Accelerator Program.

Click here to learn more about the Slingshot Accelerator!

RADIUS accelerates ventures that help people live healthy lives & invests $25K / Slingshot venture

By | RADIUS Ventures, Slingshot Accelerator, Trampoline | No Comments

RADIUS Ventures has some BIG NEWS:

  • We invest in your ventures: RADIUS now offers a $25K investment to every venture in the Slingshot Accelerator!
  • We focus on health: We’re focusing on accelerating ventures that help people live healthy lives!

In addition to receiving a $25K investment in your venture, entrepreneurs in the Slingshot Accelerator will:

  • build business and innovation acumen,
  • grow a powerful network of mentors and peers,
  • develop strong financial, legal and marcom strategies,
  • benefit from an expanded pool of service providers, tech interns and experts.

RADIUS has refined our Ventures programs to maximize the impact we can offer. We’re building on past success and responding to the needs of early stage entrepreneurs to get you market, growth and investment ready.

RADIUS focuses on accelerating ventures that help people live healthy lives.  

Early stage entrepreneurs working on ventures that prevent chronic disease by creating or incentivizing healthy choices are encouraged to apply to a 2017-18 RADIUS Ventures cohorts before June 30.

The RADIUS Slingshot Accelerator

The RADIUS Slingshot Accelerator helps early stage impact ventures become investment ready and growth ready. Slingshot’s six month program offers…

  • Direct redeemable equity investment of $25,000
  • Cohort based learning, to build close ties with other entrepreneurs grappling with the same challenges and opportunities;
  • Individualized capacity building, with a dedicated Entrepreneur-in-Residence and a broad mentor and advisory network;
  • Pro bono legal, accounting, and marcomms support;
  • Access to a tech intern for 4 weeks; and
  • Access to Gastown office space and a range of business perks.

Learn more or apply now

The RADIUS Trampoline Business Model Validation Program

The Trampoline Program is a validation stage program for new and emerging impact ventures looking to test and refine their business model. The program is designed to support entrepreneurs and ventures to test alignment, or potential alignment, between the following three core themes:

  1. Is the problem you hope to address real, significant, and a driver of negative health outcomes?  
  2. Is the solution that you offer a viable, effective, and competitive way to address the problem?
  3. Are you the entrepreneur that can bring this solution to market (and have fun doing it)?    

Learn more or apply now

Let’s not forget about these folks

The launch of the RADIUS investment pool is made possible in part through the support of the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship.

The Slingshot Program is supported the Business Development Bank of Canada and delivered with support from Miller Titerle + Co, Manning Elliott, and Junxion Strategy.  RADIUS is proud to be an official “Social Change Partner” of Vancity Credit Union.

Have a question? Want to connect? Know a friend who should apply? Comment on this post and the RADIUS Ventures team will respond!

The Art of Impactful Presentations

By | Events, Fellows | No Comments

Guest blogger Lana Friesen (pictured in the middle above) is a dancer, activist and member of the 2017 RADIUS Fellows. She will be one of the 22 changemakers presenting their “asks” at RADIUS’ signature concAUCTION event on May 16th – get your tickets now! Photograph by Byron Dauncey.  

As systems thinkers, many of us have looked very intensely into a vast web of interconnecting problems, opportunities, and strengths. Part of our challenge as changemakers is to present our proposed interventions and how they address needs within these webs. It can be quite a daunting task to communicate all of this in an impactful capacity when we feel overwhelmed by the amount of information we need to succinctly convey – as if we need to capture an entire galaxy of stars within a 60 second pitch.

One of the most useful tools Simon Goland offered the RADIUS Fellows at our most recent session was the Stepping Stones method. We identified a maximum of 7 different “stepping stones” that make up our presentation, and these stepping stones each consist of one image and one emotion. Rather than memorizing a script which has the tendency towards a cold delivery, presenters remember their intention as well as these stepping stones as a general, fluid path to follow while presenting.

I felt the impact of this method very strongly when Terri Rutty of the Food Trade Game transformed her presentation to a powerful story that grabbed my heart immediately after one sentence. With the help of other fellows in the program, Veronika Bylicki of CityHive shared her story and I could very vividly imagine some of the images she might have used as stepping stones.

When they say ‘a picture tells a thousand words’, I think we underestimate the ability of words to create images that convey an exponentially larger picture than a script alone – particularly if the communicator has an image in their own mind powering their words.

To convey the complex, intricate web of systems that we’re wrestling with as changemakers, it’s quite a relief to realize that we need not fully describe every single star – we simply need to hold the image and emotion in our minds, and let the words flow.

RADIUS Fellows alumnus Jannika Nyberg pitching at concAUCTION

concAUCTION – A Pivotal Moment

By | Events, Fellows | No Comments

Jannika Nyberg is a 2016 Fellows alumna and youth education superstar. 

This year’s concAUCTION is coming up on May 15th – get your tickets now!

I joined the RADIUS Fellowship because I was in search of my tribe, a community of dope humans who were actively building lives of courageous citizenry. At the time, I was working on a community development fellowship and feeling fairly isolated. I applied to the program, inspired by the promise of personal growth development and social innovation learning.

I left the program connected to a community of dope humans who continue (to this day) to support, challenge and inspire one another.

This collective support came in super handy when preparing for the 2016 concAUCTION, as I was forced to consolidate my complex-systems community development applied to democratic education project into a one minute pitch. Obviously, I need major help.

When I was first told about concAUCTION I was skeptical and nervous. A night to pitch our changemaking projects in one-minute to a room full of local leaders? Sounds scary.

It’s kind of like a live crowdsourcing of ‘asks’ (needed resources, suggestions or mentorship). People raise their hands to indicate they’d like to chat with a numbered Fellow, they get tagged with the corresponding number, and then on the break – BOOM! – idea sparks connection.

The night before the Auction of innovative ideas, I called up my fellow Fellows for pitch-perfecting advice. Thank goodness my cohort is full of concise, critical thinkers who so lovingly cut through my scattered mind.

The night of the event was…… Pivotal.

It was the first time I’d ever put my pitch on auction. It was the first time I’ve ever landed a dream job by pitching my idea live!

Well, almost…

concAUCTION introduced me to my current boss at YELL Canada, who would later hire me to live out my dream job.

Call it synchronicity… call it a happy coincidence… concAUCTION creates the space to connect you to amazing opportunity and above all, amazing people.

You never know who you’ll meet.

I’ll see you there.

The 2016 Fellows get ready to make their asks of the crowd at concAUCTION.

The 2016 Fellows get ready to make their asks of the crowd.

Vancouver’s LEDlab presents a replicable funding & program model for social labs in higher ed

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

This article was re-posted with permission from the RECODE Blog.

Local Economic Development Lab Program Manager Kiri Bird outlines the LEDlab program model, and sheds light on the opportunity that universities have to leverage the Mitacs Accelerate Research Grants for social change. To learn more about leveraging Mitacs partnerships, register for Kiri’s webinar on May 17th

In the Fall of 2014, RADIUS SFU, a social innovation lab and venture incubator at Simon Fraser University entered into a three-year partnership with Ecotrust Canada to create the Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab) in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Drawing on Ecotrust Canada’s 20 years of on-the-ground community development practice, we worked to understand the local community’s priorities for economic development and innovation. Building on this foundation, we drew from RADIUS’s expertise in process innovation, and social venture development to build a unique program. The model developed at the LEDlab works at multiple scales to incubate community-driven social ventures, while building community capacity to identify and act upon opportunities for systemic change.

The LEDlab leverages a Mitacs Accelerate Research Grant to incorporate 30 living wage, four-month, full-time graduate internships over three years. Graduate interns provide actual human capacity, research and prototyping support to under-resourced community organizations to advance innovative ideas. We use a cohort model for projects, students, and community partners to develop shared skills and knowledge, collaborate, and change the economic system in support of the local community over time.

Now approaching the third and final year of our planned three-year initiative, the LEDlab has evolved as a platform for systems change that works alongside a broad network of partners to build, test and scale solutions that put money in the pockets of Downtown Eastside residents; enhance the capacity of individuals, organizations and networks for social innovation and social enterprise; and positively disrupt traditional patterns of power and resource use in the community.

Lesson Learned: Be Flexible in your Process and Committed to Emergence

Whether you like it or not, a social lab will take on a life of its own. In our opinion, labs should not be defined by rigid process, but should be committed to responding to emergent needs and opportunities, with a clear focus on assessing each opportunity for its potential impact. Through a rigorous learning and reflection process, we constantly ask ourselves and our partners: What does the system need now? How can we add unique value? We try to be flexible to the needs of our partners and broader community, and we build our processes in response to these needs.

Challenge: Organizing Research around Community Impact

Engaging faculty in traditional research has been a challenge. While our grad students have been prolific in research outputs, working with faculty to develop SHHRC or other large grants hasn’t been possible to date. Reflecting on this challenge, I would design future community-university lab partnerships to have a research mandate clearly defined and supported by the University from the outset, ideally with interdisciplinary or pan-university faculty advisors commitment.

Opportunity: Leveraging Mitacs Partnerships for Social Change

To the best of our knowledge, in 2015 we were the only social innovation lab leveraging a Mitacs Accelerate cluster grant for social change. Since then others have adopted the model, such as the Creative Publics Lab at SFU. Mitacs recently received an additional $221 Million dollars in funding in the 2017 Federal budget and are accepting partnership applications on a rolling basis. We are hoping that more universities will take an interest in becoming active solution-building partners in their communities, and will adapt it for their own use.

With a goal of scaling social innovation labs within higher education through meaningful campus-community partnership, we will be hosting a webinar in partnership with RECODE in May, where we’ll share the details of the Mitacs partnership and funding model in the Local Economic Development Lab. Please register for the webinar, and don’t hesitate to sign up for the LEDlab newsletter to learn more about our evolving work in the labs space.

I Like RADIUS So Much, I Don’t Even Want To Pee

By | Events, Fellows | No Comments

Guest blogger Abeer Yusuf (pictured second from the left above) is a radio producer, scholar and member of the 2017 RADIUS Fellows (to name just a few titles). She will be one of the 22 changemakers presenting their “asks” at RADIUS’ signature concAUCTION event on May 16th – get your tickets now!

It has become such that now there’s an internal sign in my head that says: TGIT – Thank God It’s Tuesday.

I cannot wait to leave work and my home to turn up, say hello to all my friends, grab a glass of water and sink into some serious learning.

Unfortunately this also means I cannot pee for three hours on Tuesday evenings.

I am so in awe of everything everyone has to say, so excited to see how the other 22 minds in the room run – that I am afraid to leave the room for even 2 minutes lest I miss a really important point that someone makes during a session on mindfulness, or lose out on a great book recommendation or a snippet of an interesting conversation on decolonising travel (thanks Erin!).

Our group is a varied bunch – and each person, from the worlds they are connected to, brings something totally different to the circle we congregate in. I have really come to admire what each person has to say, what perspectives people contribute, and also just the learning I get to be a part of because of an insightful question a peer asks.


I really enjoy the small traditions that are evolving and developing. I make it a point to have an early dinner with someone different each Tuesday before our session begins; Randall, Lana and I engage in debriefs while walking back to the Skytrains on our respective ways home – which I know others in the group do too.

I am learning more and more about what people do, the value of checking with your heart and not just stopping at your head and the importance of different perspectives in solution-thinking.

Thanks to my growing RADIUS community and the friendships I’m developing, I feel a little more validated in my daily battles, I feel a little more at ease knowing that there are honest, genuine humans like me who are also up against similar challenges and issues, I feel a little more happy that I can take away pieces of knowledge and learnings from others and I feel completely overwhelmed at one of the best things to happen to me in a little while – RADIUS.

So what if I have to hold my bladder from 6-9pm on Tuesday evenings?

2017 Fellows with RADIUS Lead Educator Tamara Connell. All images by Byron Dauncey.