Climate Guides & Refood Awarded SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Funding!

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund is a joint initiative of Embark Sustainability and RADIUS that supports thoughtful change endeavours with social and environmental impact at their core. The Fund allocates sums ranging from $200-$1,500 to SFU undergraduate and graduate student social innovators. Our next application cycle closes May 18th, 2018. Apply now!

Climate Guides

Co-leads Caroline Mercer, Marina Melandis and Michal Marcis seek to guide a narrative of hope and opportunity rather than doom-and-gloom about climate change. Climate Guides is a youth-led initiative that connects youth under 30 to professionals addressing climate change through mentorship. Mentors come from fields of conservation, energy, food systems, marine science, communication, policy and waste, among others. In turn, these pairs champion adaptation, mitigation and awareness-oriented solutions. Recognizing that our generation of climate leaders is making tangible impacts, Climate Guides built a platform to support them.

Connect with Climate Guides online:

Facebook: @climateguides
Twitter: @climate_guides
Instagram: @climateguides


When the Refood team noticed that food vendors were tossing out healthy food surplus deemed ‘unsellable’ due to appearance, they started picking up these food items and delivering them to charities in Metro-Vancouver. The team soon realized the magnitude of the food waste problem when the amount of food they encountered often exceeded charities’ needs. So, they explored ways to repurpose the food into a product they could sell. The Seed Fund is supporting the Refood team to launch their first experiment: converting surplus tomatoes (the most commonly thrown out produce) into a nutritious, low-sodium, canned soup. They plan to sell the canned soups at existing grocery stores that they partner with, putting the revenue towards purchasing a refrigerated truck that will allow Refood to continue delivering food to more remote communities.

Connect with Refood online:

Instagram: @refoodcanada
Facebook: @RefoodCa

Refresh Project Awarded Social Innovation Seed Funding

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund is a joint initiative of Embark Sustainability and RADIUS that supports radical change endeavours with social and environmental impact at their core. The Fund allocates sums ranging from $200-$1,500 to SFU undergraduate and graduate student social innovators. Our next application cycle closes Jan. 18th, 2018. Apply now!

“A few years ago, my family took a cruise to Alaska. The whole experience was amazing for me: the views of the glaciers were amazing, the people were so friendly, and I made great use of the on board buffet. What deeply saddened me, though, was the amount of food waste I saw happening on that ship. I would see people would throw away whole plates of food just to go back for more a few hours later. Chefs would throw away perfectly good produce because it was easier to buy new food than to store it. The amount of food waste astonished me, especially when I realized that this is not an outlier situation, but rather a norm in our society.”   -Scott Quon, External Manager, Refresh

While other countries like France force supermarkets to partner with charities to stop edible food from being wasted, Canada still leaves much to be desired when it comes to food wastage. We waste over $31 billion of food per year while having no strong policies to help reduce this quantity.

Refresh is a student-run program that aims to lower that number, fruit by fruit, as well as change a culture that has grown to accept food waste as the norm. We take excess food products that grocery stores believe is unsellable because it’s bruised or misshapen, and we upcycle them into delicious snacks including jams and dried fruits, therefore diverting these unwanted fruits from the landfill. We are also able to reach a broad audience with our #tastenotwaste social media campaign to bring awareness to the problem of food waste, with our posts being viewed by over 1,000 different people.  

Thanks to funding from SI Seed Fund, we were able to purchase the equipment needed to make our products as well as getting our products tested to make sure our jam is safe and enjoyable for everyone to consume.

Over the next year we are enthusiastic to:

  1. Increase the number of jam jars we sell and to keep reducing the amount of food that goes to waste;
  2. Reach even more people with our social media campaign to bring awareness to food waste in our community; and,
  3. Introduce new and delicious products such as smoothies and fruit chips.

Cheers to Refresh for a jam-packed first year! We look forward to seeing their next steps.

Connect with Refresh online:

Humanitarians in Training Awarded SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Funding!

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund is a joint initiative of Embark Sustainability and RADIUS that supports radical change endeavours with social and environmental impact at their core. The Fund allocates sums ranging from $200-$1,500 to SFU undergraduate and graduate student social innovators.

One remarkable student initiative called Humanitarians in Training, an initiative of the Red Cross Student Movement (RCSM), was awarded funding in the first cycle of the 2017-2018 Seed Fund. Read about them in their own words below:

What is the Red Cross Student Movement, and what is Humanitarians in Training? 

The Red Cross Student Movement (RCSM) is an independent and student-led initiative that strives to support the Canadian Red Cross within the community. We are a coalition of students spanning Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and various high schools across the lower mainland. Our mission is to engage the public with humanitarian issues and improve the lives of vulnerable members in our community. Humanitarians in Training is a day-long conference aimed to engage, educate, and empower youth interested in humanitarian issues. By providing training, resources, and a peer network, our aim is to prepare motivated youth to make an impact both within and beyond the Greater Vancouver region. Following the Humanitarians in Training conference on November 18th, there will be follow up events planned where participants will have opportunities to network, form collaborations, brainstorm event ideas, and learn about effective club leadership and event planning.

Who is on your team? 

We are a team of motivated university students who come from a diverse variety of backgrounds. Each of us are dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable members of our community through spreading awareness and taking initiative both locally and globally. Each team member brings valuable leadership and humanitarian engagement experience to the event. Through becoming involved in our communities through educational and volunteer experiences, we have each experienced immense personal growth and development. We wish to provide that same opportunity to many more youth from across Metro Vancouver. We acknowledge that we are not experts on the humanitarian issues that we are discussing and we are committed to constantly learning, growing, and challenging our personal perspectives. You can read more about each of us on our website!

Connect with Humanitarians in Training online:

Sustainability, Transparency and Accountability in the Souvenir Shop Industry: What does it all mean?

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About this time last year, I was strolling down Water Street on my way back from work, with tourists mingling around me. It was hard to miss the shopping bags they carried – and equally hard to not imagine what they’d purchased. Clothing. Gifts. Souvenirs.

Something to remind them of their visit to Vancouver, Canada, a city that welcomed more than 16 million visitors last year alone (Tourism Vancouver, 2016).

Our idea for Woodpickers did not begin then, but in 2015 as an SFU Change Lab project called Wood Source Co-op, where myself and three other interdisciplinary students teamed up to reduce landfill wood waste by connecting material users with suppliers to strengthen the circular economy in Strathcona, Vancouver. Our project inspired me to apply what I’ve learned to Woodpickers.

Now two years later, my partner James and I are excited to combine our love for the environment as SFU Faculty of Environment grads with our shared experience in tourism, retail, woodworking, and design, to introduce a line of sustainable souvenirs into the Vancouver tourism market.

We’re motivated by the lingering questions that keep us up at night:

What if souvenirs could be more than just a keepsake or a product?

What if souvenirs, and their make, can be more transparent and accountable to the environment around us?

What if souvenirs could be tools of dialogue to discuss “hot” topics like climate change and environmental conservation by transcending borders, culture, and countries?

Read More

Three Projects Awarded SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Funding

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund is a joint initiative of RADIUS and Embark Sustainability that supports radical change endeavours with social and environmental impact at their core. The Fund allocates sums ranging from $200-$1000 to SFU graduate and undergraduate student social innovators.

Three remarkable student initiatives were awarded funding in the fourth and final round of the 2016-17 Seed Fund. Read about them in their own words below:

Virtual Reality (VR) as an Ethnographic Medium

This virtual reality (VR) project introduces K-12 classrooms to faraway countries, customs and people via “virtual field trips” in order to increase empathy, awareness and understanding of other cultures.

About Rachel
Rachel Ward is a PhD student in the School of Interactive Arts + Technology at Simon Fraser University. As a member of SIAT’s Making Culture Lab (MCL), Rachel strives to develop new digital methods in the field of cultural anthropology.

Find Rachel’s project online:

Voices Against Extremism

Voices Against Extremism aims to promote diversity and inclusion by giving everyone a voice and hosting events that bring people of different backgrounds together. We believe in the power of art and storytelling as a way to bring attention to the issue of radicalization and extremism.

About us:
We are a team of current and formed Simon Fraser University students standing up against extremism and radicalization. We want to bring people together and show we all have more in common than we think.

Find Voices Against Extremism online:
Instagram: @voicesagainstextremism

Project S.A.V.E.

Project S.A.V.E. aims to integrate writing instrument recycling programs into major education establishments in Metro Vancouver. Partnered with Staples, we strive towards recycling and reusing stationary wastes to divert them from our landfills. Additionally, we educate and inspire students to start incorporating waste reducing methods into their daily activities for a more sustainable lifestyle.

About us: 
Project S.A.V.E. is comprised of SFU undergraduate students who are passionate about environmental sustainability. We are determined to make a positive change in this world by educating and promoting new methods of recycling.

Find Project S.A.V.E. online:

We wish all three projects the very best and look forward to hearing about their learnings along the way!

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

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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.

Why CityHive? | The power & potential for youth to transform cities

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Guest blogger Tesicca Truong (@TesiccaT on Twitter) is the co-founder of CityHive, a recent recipient of RADIUS and Embark‘s SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund. The 2016-17 cycle of the Seed Fund is currently open, with the next deadline coming up on Feb. 6th – apply now

When I was young, my neighbourhood underwent major redevelopment. High-rises, condos, parks, and playgrounds started to replace the home I knew. Everything changed so quickly, and there was little that the residents of our neighbourhood could do about it. Though I love Joyce-Collingwood, it was the process – how exclusive it was to the residents in the community – that bothered me. As a kid, I was powerless to stop it.

Though I am older now, that sense of intergenerational injustice in the planning and design of our spaces has stuck with me.

Why don’t young people have a say in the important planning decisions that affect their lives and cities? What possibilities are being missed every day because young people are excluded from the conversation? What harm is done? What message are we communicating to the next generation when we silence their voices?

It was these same questions that led me to come together with a group of youth when I was 15 years old, and organize a city-wide forum called Plan-It Earth (pun very much intended). The event brought together youth from across the City of Vancouver to learn about issues of urban sustainability. More importantly, youth were asked to design their ideal city, and present those ideas in the form of Co-Design drawings to planners and city decision makers. This was the critical piece. My peers were becoming more informed, but, they were also being given the opportunity to act on their newfound knowledge.

The forum was by no means a perfect solution, but it represented the first of my many iterations to address this sense of deep-rooted injustice. The Plan-It Earth forums grew to become the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Conference, currently in its fifth year. Read More

Speed Friending & West Coast Woodpickers Awarded Social Innovation Seed Funding

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund is a joint initiative of RADIUS and Embark that supports radical change endeavours with social and environmental impact at their core. Funding amounts ranging from $200-$1000 are currently available for SFU graduate and undergraduate student social innovators. The deadline for the current round of funding is February 6th 2017 – apply now!

The Social Innovation Seed Fund Committee recently awarded funding to two exciting new student initiatives: Speed Friending and West Coast Woodpickers!

Read about both projects in their founders’ own words below:

Speed Friending events will gather people together in central community locations to complete speed rounds of meeting and connecting with each other through a series of activities and conversations.  The purpose of these events is to connect people from different backgrounds (intergenerational, cultural, socioeconomic) to form valuable friendships and engage people who may not normally have the opportunity to interact with one another in a meaningful way.

Ashley Kwon, the founder of the Speed Friending events, is an SFU Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology graduate student and she works full-time in health promotion for a local health authority.

West Coast Woodpickers is a start-up project dedicated to upcycling unused wood materials into beautiful, west-coast souvenirs. We hope to provide a sustainable, locally-made, and locally-sourced alternative for intrepid adventurers and tourists looking for a memento of their visit to the beautiful west coast of British Columbia!

Michelle Chen and James Wiltshire are graduating students within the Faculty of Environment at Simon Fraser University, with an affinity for sustainability and a love of woodworking.

Find West Coast Woodpickers online on Facebook, Twitter and their website (in progress). Read More

SFU Participating in the Skoll Global Challenge

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SFU is participating in the Skoll Global Challenge along with other top schools from around the world. This is a unique competition focused on understanding social problems before trying to solve them and we’re looking for SFU students to participate around issues they are passionate about!

  • Who can apply? Individuals or teams of up to three people. You must have at least ONE SFU student (undergraduate, graduate or doctoral) or recent alumni (within 1 yr), and may include community members.
  • What’s the deadline? December 20th to complete the short registration form, and Feb 6th for your full submission to the SFU local competition round.
  • Do I need a solution idea for my problem? No, you just need a thorough understanding of the problem and current gaps or opportunities.
  • How do I apply? All the info you need is here – note the registration deadline is Dec 20th – this is just a 20 minute process.
  • What problem should my team work on? Anything you are passionate about – all the better if you have already been  working on something. We are particularly interested in learning more about:refugee and immigrant integration, informal economies, circular economy (and particularly clothing industry sustainability/recycling), sustainable food systems (including food waste and food security), precarious work, first nations economic development, and community health topics (inc. health, ageing, active transportation)
  • What do we submit? Pretty simple –  1) A visual map or representation of the issue, 2) a document or slide deck (max 2000 words), 3) bibliography of sources.
  • What can we win? Prize money, trips to Oxford and the Skoll World Forum, access to further funds and support, fame and glory.  SFU will provide at least $1,000 for the top SFU individual or team, and $500 for two runners up. There is a special $1000 local prize for the top team working on refugee settlement issues, and more funding at the national and international levels.
  • What support is there at SFU? We’re hosting a workshop in January and we’ll do our best to advise any teams looking for input on their work before the submission deadline in an informal manner. There are also lots of great resources posted by the Skoll Centre already.

More on the competition from the global host, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford:

The Global Challenge is a chance for students and recent graduates to learn more about the issues they care about and present their findings to the world.

Tackling global challenges starts with understanding a problem and its wider context, rather than jumping straight into a business plan or an idea for a quick fix. Participants are asked to demonstrate a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental issue by mapping out the landscape of the current solutions and identifying missing opportunities for positive change.

Winners will be invited to attend the Skoll World Forum and all finalists will have an opportunity to apply for further funding to directly ‘apprentice with a problem’ in a global location relating to their chosen topic.

More questions? Check out their FAQ, then register!

Feel free to contact Shawn with any questions you can’t find answers for on the website –

The Global Challenge at SFU is offered in partnership with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at The University of Oxford, RECODE at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and the Trico Charitable Foundation.

Apply Now: SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund Launches 2017-18 Cycle

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Funding is available to SFU students to support meaningful projects in the community. RADIUS and Embark have partnered for a third year to offer the SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund to current undergraduate and graduate students.

The SFU Social Innovation Seed Fund

The SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund supports radical change endeavours with social and environmental impact at their core. It provides amounts of $200 to $1,000 to successful student and student group applicants.

Social innovation projects considered by the fund can be initiatives, ventures, products, programs or processes that contribute to positive transformation for SFU and its broader communities.

Past SI Seed Fund Recipients

For three years the SI Seed Fund has been supporting impactful projects.

Past projects include…

  • Slow Streets: an observational research initiative that documents the effects of having one form of transportation dominate a city;
  • CityHive: a youth-empowerment program to help youth influence, shape and co-create their cities;
  • Butt Out Vancouver: an initiative aimed at reducing cigarette butt litter; and
  • As We Are: an online style community featuring people navigating health conditions.

Read about the other awesome projects that have been supported to date.

Applying to the Social Innovation Seed Fund

Do you have an idea or project that could join the esteemed ranks of the SI Seed Fund recipient list?

The final Seed Fund deadline for 2018 is May 18th at midnight!

APPLY NOW for your chance to receive seed funding!

Other Social Innovation Funds for SFU Students

Not sure the SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund is a good fit for your idea? Check out Embark Sustainability’s Community Grant. This fund offers up to $500 of support to student-led sustainability projects that engage diverse groups of people on issues of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

More Information

If you have any questions or concerns, please email Navjot Gill, Social Innovation Seed Fund Coordinator, at studentseedfunding[at]

Two Student Groups Receive Seed Funding to End 2015-2016 Cycle

By | Funding, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | One Comment

The SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark, provides project funding of up to $1000. Applications are now closed but will open again for the 2016-2017 school year! Stay posted for our next fund availability announcement in the fall.

The Social Innovation Seed Fund Committee awarded funding to two exciting new student initiatives at the end of the 2015-2016 cycle, closing out our seed funding allocation for this school year on a high note. We are pleased to showcase these forthcoming projects – CityHive and Socks for Change!

The project teams write:

CityHive is an emerging youth-led, Vancouver-based organization empowering youth to influence, shape, and co-create their cities. Our three pillars are advocacy, education, and empowerment. We will advocate for the inclusion of youth in planning decisions in cities, organizations and institutions. We will educate and empower youth in getting involved in civic issues. We envision a Vancouver where youth are fully engaged in the planning, design and creation of their cities. CityHive will be the go-to-convener for youth on urban issues in the city.

Tesicca and Veronika are the dynamic duo behind CityHive. Read More

Changemakers Are All Around Us

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Hello! Remember us? Yes, we’re the guys who interviewed some amazing local changemakers around the Vancouver area to inspire others to do good in their field of work.

Well, how did it go?

We could not be happier with how it went! In the course of a week, we were able to film 6 interviews with some of Vancouver’s amazing changemakers. I could not of imagined how incredible our interviewees’ stories would be. Ajay Puri, our amazing host, did a great job creating an open and engaging space for the interviewees to talk about what they do, why they do that work, and how their work impacts their communities. And yes, there was chai. We shared masala chai homemade by Ajay himself, and it was delicious. The interviews lasted about an hour and a half, and we will be cutting them down to around 10 minutes.

Who are these changemakers?

As I mentioned in our last blog, we started off by interviewing Ashok Puri, an elderly South Asian man who travels all across the world staying with locals rather than in hotels. His story of overcoming fear and realizing the best way to experience countries is with the locals was a beautiful start to our journey. He left us with a great message that retirement is not the end but the start of a new chapter. Read More

Kuelii Smart Design: What We’re Doing

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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 an update from Kuelii Smart Fan, a project team funded earlier this year. See their first and second posts to catch up on their story!

Image 2.1

My old office summer setup — a trusty but loud Holmes fan.

I used to place fans by my window to achieve a cooling effect after especially hot days. It was a stopgap solution for only the hottest nights because it was so disruptively loud, inefficient, and had a tenancy to over cool. I then looked around the market for a solution that not only worked but looked unobtrusive while doing so. Around now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Jay what you’re making sounds a lot like a product already on the market: the window fan.” If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re largely correct!

Innovating an age old solution

We’re making an Internet of Things solution that innovates on the age old window fan, bringing it into the 21st century (no, it’s not super exciting like a shiny new device, but we think you’ll love it just as much.) Our solution uses two high power computer fans that are optimized to move air. We thought since computer fans are excellent at quietly moving air through crowded and messy spaces, why not use it to cool a room?

Image 2.2

Let’s stick a computer fan onto a window!!!


Image 2.3

Of course, this is what people will say if we just used computer fans.

Not only does our fan need to work, it also needs to look great. We’re working hard on making an enclosure that is unlike the loud plastic solutions currently out there. Read More

Recommendations for a Successful Startup: Advice, Legitimacy, Logo and Online Presence

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The SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark, provides project funding of up to $1000. Below, Butt Out Vancouver, a project team funded earlier this year, shares their advice for your startup endeavours.

So, you have a great idea about how you can make an impact in your community and want to start an initiative but don’t know where to begin. We understand – we went through that exact feeling! We knew that we wanted to focus on cigarette waste reduction but didn’t know where to start. Based on our experiences developing Butt Out Vancouver, here are the top four aspects we recommend focusing on when beginning a project of your own:

Ask for advice. We reached out to colleagues, groups and organizations that were working on our topic of interest or were addressing the issue in a similar way to how we wanted to approach our issue of interest. The Internet is your best friend for this since most (if not all) organizations have at least a contact email listed on their website. Before Butt Out Vancouver even became Butt Out, we talked with colleagues (current and past), SFU professors as well as friends and family about what we had in mind. We even met with Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer for feedback. Click here for more details about how we did it! Here are some of the steps to take when asking for advice and developing your idea:

  • Dive into the literature and get as much information as you can on the issue you want to address – know your facts!
  • Verbalizing your thoughts and discussing it with others will help the team figure out some of the kinks and shadows in your idea.
  • Once you have read what is out there and have reached out for advice you will most likely find that your idea has changed or shifted slightly. That is okay! It is important to realize that the more you peel away the layers of any problem, the more you will find that it is not always what it seems. It is important to stay open to changing your approach!

Gain your legitimacy. Once we knew how we wanted to move forward with our idea the next issue we stumbled upon was legitimacy. People wanted to know who we are, why we were talking to them about this topic and why they should talk to or listen to us. Allies, partnerships, and collectives give the team both legitimacy and access to resources, which enables growth. Read More

Kuelii Smart Design: The Beginnings of a Journey

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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 Kuelii Smart Fan, a project team funded earlier this year. Catch up by reading with their first post here.

Twas the middle of winter and in our hands was the first 3D printed and assembled model of our proof of concept. I unlatched and shoved the heavy window separating us from the cold world outside. As we gathered around, I took our model and slid it into the gap before closing the window tightly around the model. Then Cindy plugged it in. It came to life.

At least that’s the way it played out in my head.

Soon after the end of IAT 267, Dolapo, TA for IAT 381: Android Development, joined us and we took our proof of concept on a road trip down to University of Washington (UW) Startup Weekend. There we joined up with Andrew and Adam of Sodo Makerspace, Tuan from UW, and Rob to bring an MVP to life over the weekend. We came in 2nd overall! Through the process, we picked up important skills such as evaluation and validation as well as pitching and presentation (see the video we produced for the Startup Weekend UW in 24 hours below).

Read More

Connecting with our Neighbirds and Beyond: Thoughts from the Urban Nestwork Bird Experience

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Urban Nestwork affiliate Anna Kraulis is passionate about birds, rewilding, ocean swimming, and outdoor adventures. Below, we get a second update from the Urban Nestwork, a project team funded through the SFU Student Social Innovation Fund.

How do we cultivate meaningful kinship with other species? How do we fit into this notion of “rewilding”…can we rewild ourselves? These are some of the questions that prompted us to design and host “The Urban Nestwork Bird Experience,” as part of the Wild About Vancouver outdoor education festival. We knew it would not be a traditional bird watching tour, nor do we consider ourselves bird experts. Rather, our goal was to create an experience to help participants engage more deeply with the natural world. Lanie Fung and I, in co-ordination with Urban Nestwork founders Azlan Nur Saidy and Nathan Ross, set about creating an afternoon that would combine experiential activities with group dialogue.

To be honest, we had no idea how the activity part would go! Getting adult participants from across the city, as well as the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, The Honourable Judith Guichon, to explore their playful side by responding to bird “cues” (i.e. dropping up and down in tandem with the diving ducks in the pond), climbing over and under rocks to create a “perch” in which to observe birds in the canopy, and so on are not really everyday things for most of us. In the end, we were relieved to hear that people actually dug getting to explore their playful side and respond to the birds’ movements. Some mentioned it made them feel more like active participants in the rhythm of their surroundings.

Urban Nestwork 2

The participants diving with the ducks by the pond.

Read More

SFU is on the Road to Butt Out

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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 an update from Butt Out Vancouver, a project team funded earlier this year.

Did you know that cigarette butts can actually be recycled? I didn’t either until a very short time ago. Did you know that one cigarette butt contaminates up to one hundred litres of water? And that’s not the only negative impact that cigarette waste has on the environment.  With over five trillion cigarette butts littered each year, they are the world’s largest litter problem, and we want to do something about it!

Our team, Butt Out Vancouver, aims to implement a cigarette waste recycling program in the greater Vancouver area, whilst encouraging responsible consumer habits in order to protect our environment.  As recent graduates of Simon Fraser University, our team is comprised of innovative thinkers who have diverse areas of expertise and are eager to bring change not only to our campus but also to the city we call home.  Our initiative started with the small idea of not throwing our butts on the ground and has since led us to an increasingly broad range of new ideas such as making pylons out of the materials made from recycled butts, educating people on the facts surrounding butt recycling, and establishing a campus wide cigarette waste recycling program. We have now been generating research from our on campus surveying and have established partnerships in the meantime which have proven to be of great value to us in both our validity and our scope.

Butt Out 1How’d it all begin, you ask? Well, when half of our team attended a music festival in Eastern British Columbia back in 2013, we were exposed to these small devices called Pocket Ashtrays, which are, quite literally, portable ashtrays that will fit into your pockets!  On these awesome little helpers were facts regarding the negative impacts that cigarette waste has on our environment, as well as words of positive reinforcement on the inside of the pouch that read, ‘Good job! You just saved 40 litres of water!’.  This not only educated us, but it also encouraged us to develop more responsible habits of our own when we were disposing of our butts. When we returned to the same festival one year later in 2014, the merchandise headquarters were actually handing out free Pocket Ashtrays with the festival’s logo on them, which meant that clearly they had made an impact! Cool, eh?

Through our outreach efforts to implement a city-wide recycling program, we developed a relationship with the folks at Brain Garden who we learned were actually the group who brought Pocket Ashtrays to this festival in the first place! Initially, our colleagues at Brain Garden handed out Pocket Ashtrays for free outside of the festival’s mandate; however, following the clean-up that year (2013), the organizers of the festival noticed a drastic decrease in the amount of cigarette waste around the grounds and realized the significance the ashtrays had for collecting such waste.  Consequently, the following year (2014) they employed Brain Garden to make customized Pocket Ashtrays for their festival and to have a collection bin on-site, where festival-goers could empty their receptacles so that the butts would later be recycled instead of being thrown into the landfill. Read More

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

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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

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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

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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