Monthly Archives

January 2018

From Makerspace Prototypes to Mental Health Research: An interview with student changemaker Benta Cheng

By | Change Lab, Community, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | No Comments

Recent Health Change Lab alumna, Benta Cheng, sat down with Zoya Jiwa from the RADIUS team to share how her program experiences inspired her to participate in the Map the System Challenge: an international research competition that asks students to think differently about social change. The team registration deadline for Map the System is Monday January 22nd. Find details here!

ZJ: How did you hear about Change Lab, and what inspired you to apply?

BC: When I first heard of Health Change Lab (HCL), it was from a friend and alumnus from the HCL cohort a year prior. From our discussions, I immediately understood that HCL would be a breath of fresh air from my typical undergraduate lectures. In partnership with Fraser Health and the City of Surrey, HCL brings together students from different faculties to define and propose prototypes to address a community problem within the Surrey context. I was drawn to the program since it seemed experiential, challenging, and most importantly, like it would be an opportunity to consolidate my learning into a community based project with an interdisciplinary team of students. After four years as a Health Science student, I was excited to work alongside students from other faculties, all bringing their own perspectives and strengths. The mention of “Change” was also both exciting and humbling—to think that I would be able to work with closely with a community to instill positive change through a capstone project left me eager to apply and begin.

ZJ: What were your expectations going into the program?

BC: As the semester progressed, I uncovered surprising discrepancies from my initial impressions. The ‘Change’  in Health Change Lab was referring to positive change within myself. The professors wanted to see us growing fast and failing fast. Unconventionally, failing and respectful conflict was encouraged and not looked down upon. My peers and professors created such a safe space for me to improve my public speaking, learn to give constructive and respectful criticism, build effective business skills, and so much more. My classmates supported one another through our prototyping and pivots as we navigated our respective problem areas. Overall, I quickly came to understand that the magnitude of my self-improvement and growth would determine my success in the course.

ZJ: Sounds like a transformational realization early on in the program! Who was on your team?

BC: My team consisted of an International Studies student, an IAT student, and two Health Sciences students (including myself). Although our angles were different, we came together with an initial passion for youth mental health.

ZJ: What idea did you start with, and what ended up being your final project?  

BC: After numerous expert and user interviews, coupled with mind maps and root cause analyses galore, we realized there were a number of seemingly indirect but effective approaches to support young people as they grappled with becoming an adult, navigating their life post-secondary school, landing that first job, among other struggles!

Our final prototype was a Maker School for youth adults to engage with one another and with mentors through future-ready skill building. The Maker School idea is a union between a traditional Makerspace and a youth-centered education space. This space wouldn’t just be for hobbyists, but also for young people who wanted to try their hand at making things in a low-commitment space. 

ZJ: Wow, what a journey! What was it like to present your final project and wrap up the program?

BC: During our final presentation, each team proudly presented their final prototypes in front of a panel consisting of business professionals, City of Surrey representatives, and Fraser Health delegates. As nerve-wracking as it was, seeing the final product and how far we had all come in the semester was extremely fulfilling.

During our last class, there was a sense of melancholy as we sat in a circle with our instructors watching Space Kittens on YouTube and feasting on potluck food. One by one, we shared our final thoughts about the course and how we’ve changed and grown. There were tears, laughter, and lots of hugging. It was an honour to how my peers were actively working on and overcoming their deepest struggles. I mean, was this course hard? Definitely. My head was in a cloud the whole semester and I never felt like I was on stable ground. However, I truly believe that every undergraduate student should experience something like this. You won’t regret it.

ZJ: In what ways
did the lessons you learned in Health Change Lab inspire you to register for Map the System?

BC: Besides introducing and instilling the mental tools necessary to understand and navigate a problem area, the interdisciplinary nature of Health Change Lab also introduced new perspectives to understanding the system where the problem lives. Now, when I look at a problem, instead of feeling “stuck” or overwhelmed, I can unpack and dive deep into potential solution areas, and that is extremely exciting.

ZJ: What is your team researching though the Map the System Challenge? 

BC: This is very preliminary, but our team is exploring mental health outcomes (whether this is self-perceived or by clinical diagnosis is still in question) in children of first generation immigrants living in the Greater Vancouver area. This problem space is important to me, firstly, because I am a child of two immigrant parents, but also because of the conversations I’ve had with people in my community about the unique set of struggles they face with respect to family cohesion, cultural displacement, and internalizing the struggles of their parents. My team and I are looking forward to learning more about this population.

ZJ: What advice would you offer other students who are curious about changemaking at SFU?

BC: To any student who wants to engage in changemaking, you’ve already taken the first step through being curious! There are many opportunities to engage in changemaking at SFU if you look for them. In fact, every year (every month, even!), more opportunities become available. Reach out to people you admire – they could be professors, peers, or just someone you define as a changemaker. Most people are very open to coffee or a phone call.  Since you’re here, check out the RADIUS website! Finally, don’t be afraid to seek experiences offered from other faculties as well.

A warm thank-you to Benta for sharing her experiences! We wish her team all the best with participating in the Map the System Challenge.

ReframeWork: From Insights to Action

By | Events, RADIUS Lab | No Comments

ReframeWork is a national gathering of select thought leaders and innovators on the topic of Future of Work hosted by RADIUS SFU and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Over 1.5 days (Feb. 27-28) we will explore how Canada can lead in forming new systems for good work, and understand where the richest opportunities are to engage Canadians in building the new models we want to see.

The goals of ReframeWork are to:

  • Connect a diverse, cross-sector Canadian network with broad perspective and deep expertise on relevant questions about the present and future of work;
  • Build a shared understanding of areas of greatest opportunity for innovation and solution-building that can influence broader change; and
  • Inform program design and areas of focus for a multi-year national future of work innovation program to launch in 2018.

While space is limited we are still looking for additional perspectives on the future and present of work including business leaders; academics; experts in AI, machine learning and robotics; actors in decentralized economies, platform coops and wealth creation beyond wage earning; and others who see this subject as central to their work.

If you think you should be participating in this event, we would like to hear from you. Please email

ReframeWork and the multi-year innovation program launching from it build on the success of the Banff Centre’s 2016 Alt/Now: Economic Inequality innovation program.

Jennie Winhall, Co-Lead, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
Shawn Smith, Co-Lead, RADIUS SFU
Kiri Bird, Program Strategist, RADIUS SFU


Welcome to the 2018 Civic Innovation Change Lab Cohort!

By | Change Lab, RADIUS Edu, Uncategorized | No Comments

Civic Innovation Change Lab is a once-in-a-degree immersive experiential learning program. Undergraduate students from a variety of academic disciplines – including Political Science, Health Science, Business, International Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, and Resource and Environmental Management – come together to form interdisciplinary teams. Together, they investigate social, economic, and environmental challenges within the city of Vancouver, build a sustainable business model to creatively respond to it, and pitch their ideas to community influencers – all in just 13 weeks.

Co-hosted by RADIUS SFU, CityStudio, Semester in Dialogue, and the Beedie School of Business, Civic Innovation Change Lab is the newest addition to the Change Lab portfolio. Civic Innovation refers to a method that improves the lives of citizens, the functions of cities, the practice of citizenship, or the state of community affairs. This course weaves together advanced knowledge in Civic Issues, Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, with the core practices of Dialogue, Design Thinking, and Business Model Development to allow students to become capable of producing impactful social innovations in cities.  Instructors Tara Mahoney and Jeremy Stone will leverage their strong academic and professional backgrounds in civic issues to host this Change Lab cohort. They’ll be joined by many mentors and partners from across Vancouver. Change Lab programs are generously supported by Scott Shaw.

Without further ado, meet the first ever Civic Innovation Change Lab cohort! We are so excited to work with these emerging changemakers.

Eliane Bowden

Passionate about sustainable living and bringing people together, Eliane is most in her element when collaborating with other students or engaging with just about anyone. She is completing her fourth year at Simon Fraser University in Business Administration and is looking forward to expanding her studies to tackle civic challenges in Change Lab this spring. She is most excited to work with the cohort to bring forward new ideas to improve Vancouver’s communities.

Jordan Arnold

Jordan is a 4th year Political Science and International Studies student focusing on international law and human rights. He enjoys spending his free time volunteering as a peer educator and mentor to incoming first year and transfer university students. He is most excited to work with students from a variety of educational backgrounds to see how they can create new and innovative ways to address social problems together.

Alica Felgendreher

Alica is a fourth year student pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. She is particularly interested in the production of inequality, gender relations, poverty, welfare, and public policy. Having witnessed first-hand how social inequality and stigmatization prohibits marginalized individuals from accessing basic healthcare and social services within their community, she feels strongly about challenging the individualization of social problems. Alica is excited to collaborate with students from different disciplines who share her interest in improving the lives of vulnerable community members. She also looks forward to learning practical skills and strategies to create impactful change in her community.

Abby Ferris

Abby moved to Vancouver from Northern British Columbia five years ago to pursue nothing in particular. With time and good fortune, she collected experiences and connected with people that inspired and propelled her forward. Abby is passionate and empathetic about the people and world around her. With a keen interest in the subtle but meaningful interactions between people and environment, she hopes to pursue a career in which she can simultaneously promote human wellness and environmental justice in urban centres through design thinking.  Abby is sincerely excited for the opportunity Civic Innovation Change Lab presents: to collaborate and engage with people who share an interest in the world around them.

Sarah McBain

Sarah is committed to sustainability by promoting social equity and business that strives to meet the triple bottom line. Currently, Sarah is a BBA candidate at the Beedie School of Business, studying Sustainable Business and Psychology. Sarah plans to attend graduate school, where she will continue to focus on policy development
 and promotion of cost effective environmental initiatives. 
Having travelled extensively and studied at Lund University in Sweden, she approaches her career and her personal life from a global perspective. Sarah is eager to work in collaboration with committed, diverse, and hard working students who share the same goal of promoting social health and civic innovation.

Melissa Nelson

Melissa is a fourth year student pursuing her undergraduate degree in Communication with an extended minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.  She is currently working as the Communications Assistant at the Women’s Health Research Institute and enjoys learning new ways to harness the power of social media for change.  Melissa is excited to work with such a diverse group of students, and looks forward to discussing the future of AI!

Jessica Mayne

Jessica is in her third year of studies in the Bachelor of Business Administration program at SFU. She has interests in marketing, entrepreneurship, and supporting local businesses. Jessica is excited to combine her interests in business and community connection for Civic Innovation Change Lab! She hopes to diversify her skill set by learning from the several disciplines of her peers. Outside of SFU, Jessica is passionate about her work as a youth ministry coordinator at her church. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys skiing, salsa dancing and baking.

Tawanda Masawi

Tawanda is a member of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Company of Young Professionals. He is a versatile global citizen who has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East. He has a passion for emerging trends and technology. Tawanda is currently working towards gaining competency in the application of Blockchain technology to inter-organizational data management for financial firms and supply chain management. He is excited about Civic Innovation lab, as he hopes to bring people and technology together to support and design the next generation of city services.

Maya Schofield

Maya Schofield is beginning her third year of undergraduate studies at SFU. Maya believes that positive innovation is the culmination of a community of effort. For this reason, she is most looking forward to meeting and working with people who have diverse skill sets and forward-thinking attitudes towards tackling social problems in Vancouver. Maya is also excited to learn which issues are most concerning for the communities in which we will be working, and the approaches people within the
community believe should be applied in addressing these.

Sarah Smith

Originally from Victoria, BC,  Sarah Smith is a fourth year student at SFU. Completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology and a Legal Studies Certificate, she is looking forward to being challenged in a new focus that is different from her usual field of study. Following her graduation in April 2018, she will be pursuing further education in either a Juris Doctor program or graduate program in Policy Analysis. Her extra-curricular passions include sports and outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. In Civic Innovation Change Lab, she is most excited to build connections with team members of diverse backgrounds while working towards a common goal.

Adam Rossi

Adam is a fourth year Communication student with a particular interest in social freedoms and sustainable development through information technology. He believes that in our age of connectivity, all voices should be heard. A passion for responsible development drove Adam to participate in Civic Innovation Change Lab, where he is excited to be part of a creative environment that is engaging in social entrepreneurship. As a student getting ready to transition to the business world, he hopes to learn how to grow his ideas into vehicles for social change.

Nura Safaie

Nura is a fourth year student at Simon Fraser University studying Political Science with a focus on human rights and policy analysis. Outside of school, Nura is a member of the Surrey Youth Council and is currently working on various projects aiming to better the community and environment. Nura believes that the Civic Innovation Change Lab will allow her to gain more knowledge and hands on experience in community level initiatives. She is excited to meet new people and to begin working towards creative and sustainable solutions to real world problems.

Jocelyn Singh

Jocelyn is in her fourth year at SFU studying Resource and Environmental Management. Sustainable city development is a topic that she would like to focus her degree on, so she is eager to explore topics such as, social housing, community health, and green infrastructure through Civic Innovation Change Lab. She believes that this program will give her the exposure and hands on experience she needs to better understand the complexity of urban landscapes.

Kaiqi Yang

Kaiqi is an exchange student at SFU from Sciences Po in France. She has lived and studied in China, France, and Canada, and she loves to travel. Kaiqi is passionate about communicating with intelligent and inspiring minds from all over the world. She has great interests in political science and law. She is also an enthusiastic learner of languages and photography. She wishes to work as a lawyer in Public International Law in the future and contribute to the international community. She looks forward to meeting and working with the Civic Innovation Change Lab students while contributing to the community.

Queenie Tran

Queenie is your local East Van gal studying Public Health and Gerontology. She has a repository of working in the service sector in which she elevated mundane moments and turned them more than mediocre memories. In her leisure time, she enjoys practicing yoga, running senselessly on the streets, and discovering the affluent food scene in Vancouver. Queenie looks forward to exploring urban economic resilience in the city and how to foster further community engagement.

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong is a Communication major and an International Studies minor with a keen interest in civic engagement, urban planning, and public space activation. Outside of the classroom, Rachel is also a radio host, writer, foodie, and a musician. She is excited for the hands-on experience that the Civic Innovation Change Lab will bring, as well as learning about how the future of work will impact our cities and urban spaces.

Saba Yassemi

Saba moved to Canada in 2011. After graduating from SFU with a
Bachelor of Sciences degree, she continued her co-op placement as
a Special Education Assistant (SEA) working with children with
special needs. As a long-term goal, she is considering a career in
coaching, with the intention of improving the quality of employment
in organizations who are challenged by business management issues.
She is excited to practice and acquire leadership skills through the
Civic Innovation Change Lab experience and meet mentors and team
members who will accompany her through this journey.