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RADIUS Summer Program Offers Support, Collaboration, & Focus

By | Accelerator, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

When Peter Ciuffa started his artisanal pasta business, he thought that he’d use the extra income to support his acting career. He made pasta by hand as his Italian mother had taught him to do when growing up in Calgary. But the real magic happened when he sold the product at Vancouver farmers’ markets.

Peter would start conversations with people, describing what made his pasta so special, how to cook it, and what seasonal vegetables and fresh meats to use to make a delicious home cooked meal. It was more than food to Peter—pasta brings friends and family together. Most people who stopped bought a bag of pasta.

Things were going great. The only problem was Peter wasn’t making enough money to cover his costs. How was he going to turn this into a real business?

Peter was one of 10 entrepreneurs who joined the RADIUS Summer Accelerator course this summer. Through 10 weeks mixing classes and one-on-one mentoring, he learned to turn his ideas into strategy through rigorous market testing and validation. He learned marketing, accounting and business modeling. More importantly, Peter discovered that his acting skills and passion for telling stories were not a liability in the business world, but rather were exactly what would set him apart from the competition.

The hard skills of entrepreneurship are relatively few but starting a new company is one of the most difficult things that one can do in life. The team at RADIUS designed the course to maximize the time that the cohort had together learning and collaborating. Using a flipped classroom model, where the content was largely delivered via videos and exercises outside the classroom, class time was reserved for working sessions and feedback on weekly participant progress.

Many participants identified focus and accountability to the group as important factors for them in choosing to do the course. Each week instructors, Dave Cameron and Miguel Guerrero laid out the work to be done outside of the classroom and heard from each of the participants how they applied this to learning from customers about their particular idea.

The model for the RADIUS Summer Accelerator course was originally designed by RADIUS co-founder Shawn Smith as a Simon Fraser University class for undergraduate students to team up and validate their business ideas. In 2013, RADIUS partnered with SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development, Vancity, and Community Futures, piloting the model as a remote accelerator where community cohorts from small towns in BC would participate with the instructor(s) facilitating via videoconference. After several successful iterations on the Sunshine Coast and in Squamish BC, the team decided to re-vamp the material for a new in-person format open to community members in Vancouver.

The course ran in the evenings during July and August 2014, with participation open to anyone with a social business idea and willing to work hard to test it over the summer.

Peter Ciuffa has decided to focus on his sales and marketing strengths when he relaunches his artisanal pasta business in 2015. He now has the needed business skills and the renewed energy to take his business to the next level. All the while, Peter is remembering the real reason behind all of this hard work: bringing people together to share food, conversation, and connection.

RADIUS & Ecotrust Open Call for Graduate Interns

By | RADIUS Lab, Social Innovation | No Comments

Intern Posting Cover PageThe Ecotrust Lab @RADIUS is seeking multiple graduate interns to support our work on Urban Economic Innovation, in both the Sept 2014 and Jan 2015 academic terms. A collaboration between Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS—a social innovation lab at the Beedie School of Business, SFU—the Lab is modeled on social change labs worldwide and works with inner city communities to identify and co-design solutions to improve economic and social conditions. We view our internships as a training pipeline for Canada’s next social innovation leaders.

  • Term: Full time from September 3 to December 19
  • Compensation: $12,000 CAD
  • Fall applications close Thursday, July 31

Read full job announcement for more information about the role and how to apply.

SFU carpool venture launches pilot with Vancity

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Real-time carpooling app go2gether, a client of Simon Fraser University’s social innovation venture incubator RADIUS, has secured an eight-month pilot contract with Vancity credit union.

go2gether is a social enterprise that utilizes a web application to provide an automated carpool matching service, saving users money and reducing climate impact.

Through the agreement, Vancity employees will use go2gether to create carpools to work, meetings, training events, and other travel.

By utilizing go2gether’s carpooling service, Vancity employees will also engage with each other while traveling, increasing social connection among the organization’s 2,500 employees.

“Not only is Vancity go2gether’s first enterprise client, but its values and corporate mission are very much aligned with our own,” said SFU Beedie School of Business alumna Alice Park, CEO and co-founder of go2gether.

“We are pleased to support Vancity’s efforts to reduce its CO2 emissions through employee commuting.”

Park co-founded go2gether as a student at SFU’s Beedie School of Business. After graduating she participated in the SFU Venture Connection entrepreneurship incubator before joining the first RADIUS cohort in November 2013.

In February 2014 go2gether announced that SFU had signed an agreement making it the venture’s first institutional client.

“Through this pilot scheme with Vancity we plan to learn more about the key factors that will make this new relationship an unconditional success,” said Park.

“Through those lessons, we intend to expand to serve more businesses across the lower mainland.”

Launched in spring 2013, RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society) is an innovation lab and venture incubator at SFU’s Beedie School of Business.

It seeks to change business education and launch high-impact solutions to social challenges.

“Vancity is a company that has consistently recognized excellence and innovation in purpose-based business,” said Donovan Woollard, Director of RADIUS Ventures.

“Partnering with go2gether is another example of Vancity’s commitment to social business.”


RADIUS’ ‘Office Hours’ Supports Early Stage Social Entrepreneurs

By | RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

RADIUS is excited to announce the pilot of a new venture service. We are calling it RADIUS Office Hours. Community members are invited to sign up for 30 minutes slots with an expert adviser from the RADIUS Ventures team to discuss questions about their social impact ventures. The service is completely free, but times are limited.

“At RADIUS, we want to be a positive influence on the growth of new social impact ventures in BC. We believe the RADIUS Office Hours are a valuable way to do it,” observes Donovan Woollard, Director of RADIUS Ventures. “The quality and the timing of guidance can have a significant impact on the direction and future success of early stage ventures.”

Entrepreneurs who are interested in signing up for RADIUS Office Hours are encouraged to come prepared to discuss their venture and ask their questions. The 30 minute time slots are on Thursday mornings starting at 10:00 am until 12:00 pm.

“We want to instill a sense of possibilities,” states Miguel Guerrero, Program Manager for RADIUS Ventures. Guerrero continues: “For ventures at an early stage, there is a real possibility of innovating on the business model as well as on the product or service offering. We hope to share some of our tools and experience with social entrepreneurs.”

Designed to help teams or individuals, RADIUS Staff will share advice and guidance on business model generation, social entrepreneurship, or any question that the entrepreneur has. Participation is not limited to SFU students, but is open to anyone.

RADIUS Office Hours are design to be for in-person meetings primarily, but some arrangements to can be made to conduct teleconference meetings.

For those interested in learning more or signing up, please complete the form below.

[ninja_forms_display_form id=2]


Breakfast with a Man of Impact: Jonathan Lewis

By | Events | No Comments

Guest Blog by Sivansh Padhy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By | RADIUS Lab, Social Innovation | No Comments

Guest Blog By Joanna Kipp

The author getting a closer look at the work.

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

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

Gaining Empathy

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

Entrepreneurship and the Lean Start-up

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

The fishing fleet in the golden hour at Prince Rupert

The fishing fleet in the golden hour at Prince Rupert

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

Visioning Session

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

Here’s the result of the visioning session:

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

The vision is based on the following principles:

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

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

Build Your Dream in Social Venture Accelerator Summer Course

By | Accelerator, RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

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

Here’s what’s on offer:

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

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

RADIUS Team with 2013 Accelerator Cohort

RADIUS Team with 2013 Accelerator Cohort

Course Information

Summer Intersession (twice weekly sessions for 7 weeks)

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

Some Stats and Quotes from Previous Years

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

Quotes from 2012 Cohort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radical Doer Internships at RADIUS LAB

By | RADIUS Lab, Social Innovation | One Comment

The LAB program at RADIUS is getting it done

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

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

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

We’re tackling big issues and having fun doing it

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

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

We want you to join us

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

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

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

Changemakers Tell Stories of Empathy and Impact

By | Events, Social Innovation | No Comments
Jonathan Lewis speaking on the power of empathy for social entrepreneurs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RADIUS Way for Radical Doers

By | RADIUS Ventures | No Comments

At RADIUS Ventures, we like to say that this is a place for ‘Radical Doers.’ But what does that mean when we talk about launching, building, and growing social impact businesses? Over the last few months, I have given a lot of thought to how we design a curriculum for radical ventures. I wanted to share some of the values and philosophies that informed the RADIUS Ventures curriculum. Here’s how we have expressed the concept of a radical action orientation when it comes to our entrepreneurship curriculum.

RADIUS Ventures borrows from and combines three significant and current trends in business.

  1. Lean Startup (or Lean LaunchPad)
  2. Human Centered Design (or User Centered Design)
  3. Impact Enterprise (or social enterprise)

From Lean Startup, we adopt the principals of ‘startup activity as primarily search,’ ‘business model innovation,’ ‘small batch sizes,’ and ‘constant testing of our assumptions’ using ‘get out of the building user / customer research.’

From Human Centered Design, we get an emphasis on empathy-driven research—looking for the human emotions, needs, and desires—an overarching commitment to deep, radical collaboration on cross functional teams, and a time tested design process (of divergent and convergent problem and solution spaces).

IDEO, Google Ventures and others have opened their doors and shared their processes, learnings and methods for others to adopt and adapt. These methods have been proven not only effective as a set of practices over the history of design, but have been continuously refined as they are applied to many more areas beyond industrial design and urban planning.

From the emerging movement around creating impact enterprises, we commit to work with socially and environmentally impactful businesses with social and environmental sustainability at their core. We guide these businesses and organizations to meticulously measure their impact and demonstrate social as well as financial return.

Behind each of these themes and sets of related values, we have some key organizations that have helped to shape the direction of our thinking. This is by no means a complete list, but I thought that I might share some of the most significant organizations or techniques.

Steven Blank and many others within the technology industry have famously and generously shared their approach to making new businesses and we believe that Lean Startup is a powerful way to build a new organization, whether or not it is technology focused. One technique that has emerged as central to this approach is the Business Model Canvas—a flexible collaborative tool to enable a team to consider many variations on their basic business model.

Related to Lean Startup, the work of IDEO, the innovation and design consultancy out of the Bay Area that is famous for coining the term ‘Design Thinking’ when referring to their process and approach, has been very influential for RADIUS. Their social innovation related work is shared at OPEN IDEO and

One organization that is doing a great job in paving the road towards accountability and measurability in the enterprise space is Mulago Foundation. Their CEO, Kevin Starr, has been outspoken about the need to cut through the jargon and just say simply what you do and how you measure it. His eight word mission statement has been blogged about by Harvard Business School.

Finally, a word about how we work that is aside from our philosophy, influences, or values. When we sign up a venture to join the RADIUS Ventures cohort, we develop a custom set of shared goals that we are driven to partner with each venture to achieve during the six month program. We believe that such a structured and focused approach improves both a firm’s strategy and its subsequent operational execution to have a lasting impact on our community and beyond.

SFU Changemaker Showcase to Feature Jonathan Lewis

By | Events, Social Innovation | No Comments

RADIUS and Ashoka Canada are proud to host the next SFU Changemaker Showcase on March 6th at the Lost & Found Café, featuring renowned speaker, teacher and social enterprise leader, Jonathan C. Lewis, and talks from several leading changemakers connected to the SFU community.

Jonathan Lewis will keynote the SFU Changemaker Showcase this year.

Jonathan Lewis will keynote the SFU Changemaker Showcase this year.

Lewis is an accomplished social entrepreneur and a compelling public speaker on economic development issues and social change. He is the Founder and Host of Café Impact, Founder and President of Opportunity Collaboration, and Founder and Board Chair of MicroCredit Enterprises.

“We are excited to return to SFU with our partners this year,” comments Charles Tsai, Director of Learning Networks for Ashoka Canada. “With the Changemaker Showcase, we hope to inspire change and help build the community of changemakers at SFU.” Ashoka Canada will document the event and publish short videos to be featured on

The event will also feature presentations from Alice Park, Beedie School of Business alumna and CEO and co-founder of real-time carpooling app go2gether, and Denise Taschereau, CEO and co-founder of Fairware, a Vancouver-based company that creates and distributes custom-branded sustainable products.

“RADIUS is very excited to bring together a room full of inspiring social innovators to share their brightest ideas,” says Shawn Smith, Director of RADIUS. “Vancouver continues to punch well above its weight in the global social innovation movement, and we are particularly happy to have an international leader like Jonathan Lewis to share his perspective.”

If you are feeling curious about social entrepreneurship, looking for inspiration to start your change project, or building sustainable solutions to tough social and environmental problems, then SFU Changemaker Showcase is for you. Join us on March 6 for this free community event and hear from our community’s most engaged organizations and individuals. REGISTER NOW

About RADIUS & Ashoka Canada

RADIUS is a social innovation lab and venture incubator based at the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University. Formed to enable SFU’s leadership in building the new economy, RADIUS works to strengthen impact focused businesses and the ecosystem that supports them, develop and test new ideas for an economy that prioritizes people and planet, and build a pipeline of emerging social economy leaders with real world experience.

Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs – individuals with system-changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Ashoka Canada runs the Learning Networks Program, which is a three-year mission to help educators transform higher education in Canada. During this time, we plan to engage 30 colleges and universities in co-creating vibrant ecosystems that support changemaking and changemakers within higher education.


Connecting Design and Social Innovation

By | Social Innovation | No Comments

By Guest Blogger: Miguel Guerrero

I have been working with Design Thinking in one form or another since 2010 and I have long heard about IDEO, the design consultancy that coined the term and led the development of the human-centered practice. I finally got the opportunity to tackle IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown’s book Change By Design over the rainy holidays.change by design cover

Brown takes the reader on a ride through projects, partners, and fellow travelers. Brown’s stories of product and service innovation and organizational transformation flow easily from one to the next. While the process was not new to me and many of the stories were already familiar, I was inspired again to get back into the messy process. All in all, this is what a good holiday read should do.

However, Brown did manage to surprise me in this celebratory tour of (mostly) IDEO’s successful projects. It was in the way that his discussion flowed from creating value for corporate clients to the consultancy’s long commitment and notable success with helping social enterprise. Indeed, IDEO’s commitment to social innovation led the organization to found a new nonprofit in San Francisco,

But how do the techniques for product innovation lead to social innovation? The answer is not as simple as it might seem. After all, there is plenty of money to be made by helping corporations continue to innovate. Oral-B children’s toothbrush was the number one selling product for 18 months after IDEO helped them redesign the handle. Brown continues the story:

Just six months after its launch, the lead designer in this group was walking along an isolated beach in Baja California and noticed a colorful blue object lying just out of reach of the surf. It was not a turtle. One of our ergonomically designed, dentist-approved, commercially successful Oral-B toothbrushes had washed up on shore.

Perhaps this is just a dramatic turn, but the effect was real. Citing famed Canadian environmental designer Bruce Mau, Brown goes on to discuss dozens of stories about social and environmental innovation projects, both IDEO-led and by others in the field.

In particular, Brown’s tour of social projects takes an acute interest in the organizations that blend business models and social missions. It is worth pausing to unpack the relationship between Design Thinking methods and social enterprise. In Brown’s book, I find three themes that make the connection more than just a coincidental one.

  1. Brown makes the point that in order for Design Thinking to take hold in an organization, it’s necessary to have a culture of optimism. Optimism is a pre-curser to the playful experimentation that is essential to Design Thinking. For a social entrepreneur, a healthy dose of optimism is a pre-requisite to starting a new mission-based enterprise. The social entrepreneur needs to be able to take risks and see the way that world could be, instead of just how it is.
  2. Design Thinking is also sometimes called Human Centered Design. It speaks to what’s unique about the design process. Human Centered Design also resonances with the social / environmental values of the social entrepreneur. Indeed, the process of gaining deep empathy with humans leads almost any designer to discover their social values.
  3. Ever since Alex Osterwalder busted the lid off the business model trash can with his book Business Model Innovation, business models have become just another aspect that is subject to the creative energies of the design team. This is a positive for many, but especially for those interested in social innovation because entrepreneurs’ who are able to innovate around how business models work hold a key to solving some of the hardest social problems.

As RADIUS continues to evolve our ventures curriculum for social impact entrepreneurship, Design Thinking and the methods described by Tim Brown and many others will remain important tools for building better businesses and solutions.

Warmth & Inspiration at RADIUS’ First Failure Wake

By | Events | 2 Comments
miguel guerrero headshot

Miguel Guerrero

Guest Blogger: Miguel Guerrero

Note this blog has been re-posted with permission from

SFU’s Radius had a sold-out crowd at the Portside Pub in Gastown for their first ever Social Entrepreneur Failure Wake last night. When I first heard about it, I thought that the idea of sharing stories about failed social ventures would be a good source of stories. I had no idea how educational and inspiring it would be. It was also a lot of fun.

The idea was simple. They would take over a pub, sell tickets, get brand name sponsorship from Vancity, and find some entrepreneurs to tell their stories about how their social ventures had reached their untimely ends.

At the heart of the event was the idea to embrace failure and with it, the rich learning and practical experience that will bring later success. I felt that this mindset aligns well with the practices of Design Thinking and Lean Startup that I have been chronicling in my personal blog.

Everyone loves a good story and perhaps more than success, a story about failure makes a compelling tale. Tragedy, it seems, captures our attention, but also serves a larger point. The stories contained salient, often emotional, messages about wrong turns and missed opportunities.

First up was a story about Ecotrust Canada’s efforts to build the local economy on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Satnam Manhas told the story of how there was no shellfish processing facilities in the Clayoquot Sound area when Ecotrust began their project to get local processing of shellfish for area residents and resorts. New federal food safety rules resulted in additional expenses for the recently up and running facility, yet the original equity owners were not able to pitch in to cover the unforeseen costs. Other problems mounted and the plant had to close soon thereafter.

Young entrepreneurs Chantelle Buffie and Sonam Swarup of Fusion Kitchen traded the microphone back and forth as they told their touching story of a classroom project turned social venture. Their idea was to create community and connections for recent immigrants through cooking classes. The cooking classes were a platform for immigrant women to gain work experience, develop their transferable skillsets, and build their self-confidence to increase their employment opportunities in Canada. They had a great series of lessons learned that I only wish I had a pen to note down.

Finally, Grace Sai, founder of Hub Singapore gave a talk about an early mistake she made in her choice of who to partner with. She also spoke movingly of the challenge of balancing vulnerability with showing strength in leadership. I had to laugh when she confessed to the audience that her therapist had asked her, ‘don’t you think that Obama cries sometimes?’

At the conclusion of each presentation, Mike Rowlands of Junxion Strategy threw an Irish accent and delivered elegant toasts as the speakers were offered Jameson Irish Whiskey. It was a playful, yet thoughtful, way to show appreciation to the entrepreneurs for their courage, passion, and reflection.

As I rode my bike home, surprisingly I felt full of inspiration—not despair. Here was a community that would support you, in both your successes and in your failures. What more could you ask for as a social entrepreneur?