Social Innovation

Sínulkhay and Ladders: A board game that teaches decolonizing practices

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Decolonizing Practices‘ project Sínulkhay and Ladders was recently awarded Social Innovation Seed Funding. Co-hosted by RADIUS and Embark Sustainability, the Social Innovation Seed Fund allocates up to $1,500 towards change endeavours initiated by SFU students. In this article, we interview Michelle Nahanee, Founder of Decolonizing Practices.

“As our Squamish territory became an urban centre now known as the City of Vancouver, our [peoples] ways of knowing were erased. Although this is starting to change through decolonizing practices like territorial acknowledgements, who we are and what we have to offer continues to be seen as past tense. I’m interested in highlighting Indigenous innovation and tools.”

Michelle Nahanee of Decolonizing Practices. Image Courtesy of K. Ho Photography.

As a member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation, Michelle Nahanee has witnessed the Indigenous reconciliation landscape unfold before her eyes. With deep interests in Indigenous cultural sovereignty, the importance of reclaiming language, and deconstructing neocolonialism, Michelle became determined to combine her work experience as an Indigenous communications designer with her passion for social change in more impactful ways.

Michelle enrolled into the Master of Arts (MA) in Communication at SFU, where she accessed the knowledge she needed to amplify Squamish ways of knowing, communicate invisible power structures, use her language, and leverage her design skills.

“In the last term of my program, I was invited to present an interactive workshop on decolonizing practices at the EMMA Talks event I curated called Squamish Matriarchs” Nahanee explained.

At the feminist speaker series and art festival, Nahanee introduced her research-creation project called Playing Post-Colonial: a Decolonizing Activity Book for the Woke and the Weary. The centre spread features Nahanee’s board game, Sínulkhay and Ladders. Nahanee describes the inspiration for the game coming from a course she co-taught at SFU called Decolonizing Dialogue. She recalled often using the metaphor of ‘snakes and ladders’ to explain how decolonizing can often feel nonlinear, like one step forward and two steps back. From this metaphor and other experiences emerged Sínulkhay and Ladders — a giant 8-ft board game.

Image courtesy of K. Ho Photography

“The [decolonization] process is very up and down. Sínulkhay and Ladders provides a container to acknowledge space, mistakes, and a commitment to do better. The last thing I want is for anyone to stay in the shame of colonialism. We all need to stay in the game.”

The focus of Sínulkhay and Ladders is to strengthen Indigenous to non-Indigenous relations in professional settings, making sure we are holding each other up and not sliding down the double-headed serpent, called ‘Sínulkhay’ by Squamish.

It also promotes the Squamish practice of
Chen chen stway (holding each other up) while calling out neocolonial scenarios of oppression.

“Each person leaves with both a takeaway, something they learned, and a giveaway: their commitment to decolonizing practices,” Nahanee elaborated.

Memorable giveaways include commitments to hiring more Indigenous people, breaking open constructions around identity, and thinking of land ownership and wealth differently.

“This is largely individual healing work,” Nahanee explains.

“It’s never-ending.”

Michelle Nahanee is offering two upcoming summer workshops, including sessions on July 26th and August 23rd. Registration is open via Eventbrite. She is also in the process of expanding her collaborative team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous facilitators, developing a social impact fund from workshop proceeds, and designing an Educator Kit to train teachers on how to present Sínulkhay and Ladders in their classrooms.

Staying true to the notion of “stewardship-over-scale”, Nahanee is eager to explore different audiences who could benefit from workshop trainings, and she also recognizes the importance of approaching each intentionally, building community along the way.

To learn more about Sínulkhay and Ladders, visit Michelle’s website, Decolonizing Practices.

Image courtesy of K. Ho Photography

Five Projects Award Social Innovation Seed Funding

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

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. Applications for the 2018/2019 year will re-open this fall.

Five remarkable initiatives were awarded funding in the fourth round of the 2017-2018 cycle. Read about them below!


Founded by a team of Health Change Lab students, CARESEL is a toolkit that empowers teachers to incorporate the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) component of the new BC curriculum with pick-up-and-go lessons tied into subjects that they already teach. CARESEL allows teachers to choose the grade that they teach (ie. Grades 4-7) and the subject in which they want to promote SEL (ie. English, Science, Social Studies, or Math). They then receive activities to facilitate with their students that meet the BC curriculum requirements by merging the BC core competencies with some form of the SEL core competencies. This allows teachers to teach familiar activities that meet curricular requirements while integrating SEL, providing them with support and a way to incorporate new requirements during existing class time.

Sinulkhay & Ladders

Developed by Michelle Nahanee during her MA in Communications at SFU, Sinulkhay and Ladders is a giant 8-ft board game that promotes the Squamish practice of Chen chen stway (holding each other up) while calling out neocolonial scenarios of oppression. Its purpose is to provide a framework for developing decolonizing practices for working better together. The focus of the game is bettering Indigenous to non-Indigenous relations in professional settings, making sure we are holding each other up and not sliding down the double-headed serpent, called ‘Sinulkhay’ by Squamish.

Learn more about Michelle’s workshop trainings by visiting the Decolonizing Practices website. Also, check out this Eventbrite page for upcoming Decolonizing Practices workshops in July and August.


Tumblershare is a program that aims to reduce coffee cup waste on SFU campuses through a tumbler membership service. Currently being piloted at Renaissance Coffee at SFU Burnaby, Tumblershare participants pay a $10 deposit fee for a membership card. When they visit Renaissance Coffee for a hot drink, they can exchange their card for a tumbler for their coffee or tea. Once they are finished their drink, they simply return the tumbler to the cafe and receive their membership card back.


When a team of Mechatronics Engineering and Business students collaborated on a project, SonoRail was invented. SonoRail is a robotic device that allows sonographers (medical professionals performing ultrasounds) to remotely control an ultrasound machine. Sonographers commonly experience Work Related Muskuloskeletal Disorders (WRMSD), including carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder capsulitis, due to repeated application of force and sustained pressure in administering these medical tests.  The SonoRail team seeks to prevent sonographers from having to sacrifice their health in order to support their patients. They are developing a device that will be comprised of two main components: an arm holding an ultrasound probe that will be controlled via a remote, and a remote control that the sonographer can use that simulates their wrist motions with the probe and the physical sensations of moving the probe.


Co-founded by 2018 RADIUS Fellow Larissa Chen and her business partner Delara Tabari, Böues is a personal care brand dedicated to creating natural body care products that work. Böues  challenges existing products on the market that typically involve unnecessary chemicals, single-purpose usage, and excessive packaging. The Böues team didn’t want to use these products for themselves or see their family and friends use them. With health-conscious hygiene practices and sustainability in mind, they discovered a natural alternative: upcycling leftover beeswax and raw honey into bath and body products. Through in-person sales and digital marketing campaigns, Böues also educates people on the importance of being mindful of the impact of daily hygiene products on ourselves, our communities and our ecosystem. Stay up to date with Böues by following them on Instagram: @bouesofficial.

SFU Students: Apply now to Join the Health Change Lab Fall 2018 Cohort!

By | Change Lab, RADIUS Edu, Social Innovation | 2 Comments

Applications for Health Change Lab are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis until the program is full. Please note that the Round 2 deadline has been extended to Tuesday May 22nd, 2018.

What is Change Lab?

Change Lab programs have been running at SFU since 2011. These unique, once-in-a-degree studio programs are intensive opportunities to hone your skills at developing practical solutions to real-world challenges.

The Spring 2018 Civic Innovation Change Lab cohort has just wrapped up, and Fall 2018 Health Change Lab applications are now being accepted.

Health Change Lab Schedule and Logistics

  • Studio days: Tuesdays 11:30am – 5:20pm at SFU Surrey.
  • Project coaching: Thursdays 2:30pm – 5:20pm at the RADIUS Social Innovation Lab (200-308 West Hastings Street, Vancouver).
  • Retreat: There is a day-long offsite retreat on September 11, expenses covered.
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

ChangeLab Studio Day

(11:30am – 5:20pm)

 @ SFU Surrey


Project Coaching

(2:30pm- 5:20pm)


(downtown Vancouver) 


What will you learn and do?

In Health Change Lab, participants work in interdisciplinary teams to investigate a community health-related challenge. Then, they develop and test an innovative, venture-based response. Teams will present to partner panels for feedback mid term and be given the opportunity to connect with community and City partners and leaders to help build their ideas with the possibility of seeing them proceed in the real world.

Sessions are a mix of hands on workshops, coaching by instructors and experts, limited content lectures, guest speakers, and open work time in your teams to advance your ideas.

Personal learning and leadership:

Ideal Change Lab students come in with keen curiosity and a willingness to explore and deepen their own leadership skills. Individual reflection and journaling are part of the course. Participants will be challenged to both give and receive feedback from peers and instructors. Openness, vulnerability, and the ability to listen deeply are highly valued.

The workload:

Commensurate with 10 credits, you should expect this to be an intensive experience. Many students have described the course as the most transformative of their undergraduate degree – but you have to be interested in and committed to:

  • developing and testing real ideas,
  • getting out of the classroom and talking to people, and
  • taking responsibility for the direction of your learning during the term.

There isn’t a lot of mandatory reading or information to memorize – you work with us to figure out what you need to learn to effectively advance your project.

The content:

Some of the topics you will learn about are social entrepreneurship, systems thinking, public health and community health issues pertinent to Surrey, determinants of health, business model development, personal development, effective teams, and more.

The specific credits that you are awarded are:

  • BUS 453 (Sustainable Innovations) – 3 credits
  • BUS 494 (Design for Innovation) – 3 credits
  • HCSI 495 (Applied Health Sciences Project) – 4 credits

Health Change Lab 2018 Instructors

This course is co-taught by experienced instructors Shawn Smith (BUS), Tamara Connell (BUS), and Paola Ardiles (HSCI). Mentors, speakers, and project partners are sourced through our extensive networks.

The cohort

You do not need any past business or health experience to thrive in this course! Expect your changemaking peers to bring a variety of perspectives from departments and faculties across the university, a breadth of experience from their own lives, and a shared passion for social and environmental issues.

While we value experience in social change, leadership and project creation of all sorts, we also encourage anyone excited about the description here to consider applying.


Note: certain prerequisites may be waived at discretion of instructors in extenuating circumstances:

  • 60 credits
  • 2.67 GPA
  • Some relevant work or volunteer experience

How to apply to Health Change Lab 2018

If the above description motivates you to apply, please email with the following three documents in one PDF file (if possible):

  • A 500-word letter of motivation describing your interest in this program;
  • An unofficial copy of your transcripts; and
  • A copy of your resume/CV to outline your relevant work and volunteer experience.

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.

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:

Health Change Lab Retreat: Moving from Individual Interests to Interdisciplinary Collaborations

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

Applications are NOW OPEN for Health Change Lab, co-hosted by RADIUS, SFU Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Beedie School of Business,

By Health Change Lab alumna Stephanie Lam

It has hardly been one month since the Fall 2017 semester has started, and being enrolled in Health Change Lab has already inspired professional, academic, and personal development for my classmates and I. Initially, I felt anxious about my ability to be in an interdisciplinary and self-directed program. Nevertheless, I approached the term with excitement and hope to see what the semester would contribute to my learning journey. When the Health Change Lab cohort attended our first team retreat at Camp Alexandra, my nerves were immediately eased.

Following an early morning drive to White Rock, I arrived feeling calmed by the serene environment of Crescent Beach. From the start, it was clear that the retreat was designed to provide opportunities for peers to bond through a series of activities and workshops while providing a safe space to learn about ourselves.

At the beginning of the retreat, we all gathered around a fire pit. Upon the request of our instructors, each student brought an object that represents our motivation behind why we are interested in social change and community health. One by one, we presented our objects and dug deep to share the emotional and inspirational stories behind our current goals and future ambitions. As we sat around in a circle, it was amazing to see where all of my fellow classmates came from. As an interdisciplinary group of 21 individuals with varying backgrounds, it was amazing to see and feel that we were all connected as students who aspire to create positive change for the people around us.

Alongside sharing our personal objects and motivations, another challenging but illuminating activity was called the Super Social Vision Portal, which took place on Crescent Beach itself. As we walked along the sandy beach and took in vast views of the sea, we engaged in an activity that helped us practice deep listening, idea flow, and envisioning of our futures. Our instructor asked us to situate ourselves one year from now, as if we could time travel to September 2018. We spoke to 3 different partners about how and what we wanted our year to look like. The only catch was that we had to talk to each partner for 5 minutes, and they weren’t allowed to say or acknowledge anything that we said. Not only was it difficult for a group of young students to speak for 5 minutes straight about their futures, but talking to someone who couldn’t respond to us or offer feedback was interesting to say the least. This activity allowed me to fully engage and listen to my partner’s words. I couldn’t interrupt, share my thoughts, or lead the discussion towards a different trajectory. Instead, I discovered how important it is  to let people be in flow with their thoughts and ideas to engage in genuine and authentic conversations. The activity taught me a valuable lesson in improving my listening skills with my colleagues, friends, and family.

I look forward to the upcoming months, where I will collaborate with my fellow student changemakers to explore and propose interventions to improve community health within the City of Surrey!


SFU Students: Apply Now for the Entrepreneurship and Changemaking Activators (E&C) Program!

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

We are excited to announce that RADIUS SFU and Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection have joined forces to launch the new Entrepreneurship and Changemaker (E&C) Student Activators Program!

This paid opportunity brings together six students from a variety of faculties to support student engagement in a broad suite of changemaking opportunities at SFU, from promoting experiential learning opportunities like Change Lab, CityStudio and the Charles Chang Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, to designing and hosting workshops.   

Given that SFU was recently designated as one of just over 40 Ashoka Changemaker Campuses in the world, we are eager to activate student voices to build the momentum of SFU’s diverse ‘changemaking’ initiatives, where creative approaches are taken to addressing social, economic and environmental problems. The Changemaker Campus designation was a rigorous process conducted by Ashoka U, a global leader in social entrepreneurship. It recognizes colleges and universities for their commitment to social innovation through their research initiatives, their curriculum design, and their vibrant changemaking communities.

This program is supported by SFU Innovates and the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship.

We invite SFU students from all faculties to apply by September 12th, 2017 at 11:59PM.

You are:

  • A current SFU student with an expected graduation date no earlier than Fall 2018;
  • Passionate about social impact, innovation, entrepreneurship, and envision yourself as a changemaker;
  • An emerging student leader from any faculty with proven results and achievements;
  • Excited to help build a stronger entrepreneurial and changemaking ecosystem across SFU’s campuses;
  • A team player willing to work with a multi-disciplinary team;
  • Committed to learning how to present changemaking opportunities to your peers and to the broader community;
  • Willing to learn, take risks, make mistakes, and try novel approaches to problems.
  • Curious about and dedicated to continuous learning, personal development, and self-reflection.

You will:

  • Promote entrepreneurship and changemaking opportunities at SFU, including class presentations, tending booths, and attending events;
  • Coordinate and host events, such as workshops and speaker series;
  • Help with social media and branding of SFU as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus and the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program;
  • Be active on all three campuses over three terms;
  • Attend E&C Activators team meetings up to twice per month; and
  • Act as an ambassador on behalf of the SFU changemaking community, including RADIUS and Venture Connection, fulfilling your leadership role as a student changemaker.

Value to you:

  • A $4,000 stipend
  • Access to professional development (e.g. via workshops, coaching, etc.)
  • Profiles on RADIUS SFU and Venture Connections websites, newsletters, and blogs
  • A fun and engaging year connecting SFU students with an amazing array of opportunities

Time Commitment: 6-8 hours/ week
Timeline: October 2017 – September 2018
Application Deadline: September 12th, 2017 @ 11:59PM

How to Apply

To apply, send in your resume and cover letter in one file to Zoya Jiwa at by September 12th at 11:59pm with the subject line “Application: E&C Activators.”

In your cover letter, please concisely address the following in no more than two pages:

  • What are you studying at SFU, and what is your expected graduation date (semester / year)? How did you hear about this opportunity?
  • Which campus(es) are you based at most often?
  • Why are you the right person for this program? What relevant experience makes you a good fit?
  • What are two of your proudest achievements, and why?
  • Imagine: You return to campus in 10 years. What has been the impact of your involvement?

All applicants will be notified of their application status by Monday September 25th.

About SFU Innovates

SFU Innovates is a university-wide strategy that builds on our dynamic culture and seeks to strengthen SFU’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.

About the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship

The Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship works to make SFU a global leader in entrepreneurship, providing unparalleled opportunities for SFU students.


RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society) is a social innovation lab and venture incubator at the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University. We develop and deliver cohort based programs to build the capacity of Radical Doers and to cultivate their projects and ventures in service of systems change. We are working towards a transformed economy that is dynamic, just, sustainable, and resilient. Read more about our work.

About Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection

Founded at SFU Surrey and serving all three SFU campuses, Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection supports SFU ventures from initial idea validation through to operating businesses. Services of the program include mentorship, office space, networking opportunities, internship/co-op terms, competitions, educational workshops and speaker events. Since 2008, the first-of-its kind, innovative, and groundbreaking program has engaged over 6000 participants, provided mentorship to over 200 student teams, and business development services to over 170 early-stage startups. Read more about their work.

About the Charles Change Institute for Entrepreneurship

SFU Innovates is a university-wide strategy that builds on our dynamic culture and seeks to strengthen SFU’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.



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.

Four 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. 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 – the last of the 2016-17 Seed Fund – is April 17, 2017 – apply now!

Four remarkable student initiatives were awarded funding in the third round of the SI Seed Fund. Read about them in their own words below:

Soap for Hope

Soap for Hope  is a non-profit social enterprise that collects and sanitizes gently used bar soaps from hotels and upcycles them into liquid hand soap. Partnered with Mission Possible and Hope for Freedom, we work towards providing wages and transitional work opportunities to marginalized individuals who help with production, all while diverting reusable materials from the waste stream.”

About the team:
The Soap for Hope team is comprised of SFU students that come from diverse backgrounds. Ranging from first-years to near graduates, we utilize our unique experiences to innovate creative solutions.

Find Soap for Hope online:
Twitter: @soapforhopeSFU
Facebook: /soapforhopeSFU
Instagram: @soapforhopesfu

Bright Ideas

At Bright Ideas we implore high school students to pursue their entrepreneurial idea, make a tangible difference in their community and to learn about the business world. Bright Ideas aims to showcase the diversity of our community, empower our youth, foster creativity and emphasize teamwork, all in a professional and engaging program.

About the team:
The program is run solely by SFU students beginning from the creation of the curriculum to the facilitation of every workshop. Each group of high school students will not only be mentored by industry professionals from the community and Beedie Alumni but will also be paired with an experienced Enactus SFU mentor throughout the program for guidance.

Bright Ideas is holding their Spring 2017 Final Showcase on April 1st – visit the Facebook event page to learn more or register here.

Find Bright Ideas online:

Team Phantom

Our mission is to inspire the innovators of next-generation electric vehicle technology. By building a Formula SAE Electric race car, we aim to provide SFU students with tangible experience in technical design and leadership. We strive to shape the story of sustainable transportation, a vital component of building vibrant communities and combating climate change and pollution.

About the team:
Team Phantom is an interdisciplinary group of over fifty committed SFU students across all faculties. We believe strongly in experiential learning, collaboration, and innovative design.

Find Team Phantom online: 


Refresh collects and utilizes excess food products and turns them into a variety of enjoyable culinary delights. The goal of the program is to provide an alternate future for excess groceries to prevent food wastage.

About the team: 
The Refresh team consists of 15 SFU undergraduate students who all share a passion for helping their community.

Find Refresh online:

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

Do you need funding to get your idea off the ground? Visit the SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund page for deadlines, eligibility, and more!

SVI Vancouver | Discounts & scholarships available for RADIUS cohorts & alumni

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The good people at Hollyhock are offering RADIUS members and alumni a 20% discount to attend the Social Venture Institute Vancouver (SVI) from April 19-21, held at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts in Vancouver.

About Social Venture Institute Vancouver

SVI Vancouver is an amazing opportunity to connect with business leaders and social entrepreneurs for an intensive, interactive inquiry into the day-to-day challenges of running a socially conscious enterprise. The SVI community is notorious for supporting one and other. RADIUS loves SVI and we are excited to be able to connect you with this community!

Discount code for RADIUS Members

Current participants in a RADIUS program and alumni are invited to apply as a RADIUS Alumni (there’s an option to indicate that on your SVI application) and you’ll be sent a discount code.

And a full scholarship to SVI Vancouver too

What’s more, RADIUS also has a pair of full paid scholarships for the conference. In order to apply for one of these, fill out this short application form.

Meet the winners of the Oxford Global Challenge at SFU

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The Oxford Global Challenge is a unique competition focused on understanding social problems before trying to solve them. SFU is participating in the 2017 Global Challenge along with other top schools from around the world.

On February 17, 2017, shortlisted teams from the SFU round of the Global Challenge delivered their presentations for a panel of judges at the RADIUS Hub. Of the teams that presented, one winner and two runners up were selected. The winning team, in addition to receiving a $1000 cash prize, will be travelling to Calgary on the weekend of March 24, 2017 to pitch in the Canadian final of the Global Challenge. Each of the runners up were awarded a $500 prize. Read about the winning team and runners up below:

WINNER | HealthShare

Team Members
Alec Yu, Iman Baharmand, Kimberly Venn

“Our team is investigating current problems, solutions, and gaps within solid waste management in Vancouver hospitals. We highlight the interplay between hospital practices, government/health authority policy, and private companies. Inspired by our own experiences in Vancouver hospitals, we saw an opportunity to combine our abilities as social entrepreneurs and aspiring physicians in tackling a comprehensive topic. By providing a thorough analysis of diverse stakeholders in this issue, we are driven to illustrate actionable gaps that improve patient care nationwide.”

Visual Map | Report | Bibliography

RUNNER UP | On Assistance, Can Work: Employment and Income Generation in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Team Members
Kim Mackenzie, Anna Migicovsky

“Our team has worked on this issue (employment, income generation and income assistance in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside) in various capacities in the Downtown Eastside community and are passionate about innovative solutions to poverty and unemployment. Anna brings her experience running an employment program in the neighborhood, and Kim brings her policy and research knowledge to create a community-academic partnership. This research draws on many ideas that have come out of the LEDlab, both from our own work with the lab and that of others.” All of the graphics for this project were created by Andrea Robertson of Hypsypops Design Co.

Visual Map | Report | Bibliography


Team Members
Khayla Almonte-Davila, Katie Mai, Fehintola Okunubi

“Post migration trauma is a commonly under-looked but important risk factor of poor refugee mental health. With Canada receiving such a large influx of refugees, we found it important to understand the resettlement process to learn how to support the refugees’ journey to Canada.” SFU International provided an additional $500 prize to the REACH team for their work on refugee related issues.

Visual Map | Report | Bibliography

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

RADIUS Spring Workshop Survey

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RADIUS is planning a workshop series for spring 2017 and we want your input!

We want you to have an opportunity to share your thoughts with us regarding the types of workshop programming that would best support your professional and personal development needs. Specifically, we want to know about your preferences in terms of the content, structure, price point and scheduling arrangements for our spring workshop series. Got five minutes?

Fill out the survey below or open it in a new window by CLICKING HERE.

We appreciate your input!

Amplifying the Millennial Voice on Housing in Metro Vancouver

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Housing & Affordability: Tired of talking about it yet?

You can’t get through a conversation in Vancouver without housing or affordability coming up. With a steady stream of news articles, stories, research and reports creating buzz, it’s been a hot topic in Vancouver and continues to dominate Vancouverites’ concerns.

Millennials and younger generations are being disproportionately affected by astronomical costs of living. With more millennials living at home than ever before and millennials spending more of their income than almost any other age group on housing costs, we need to find solutions to make housing in particular more affordable.

There has been lots of talk about millennials, but has there been much dialogue with or by millennials?

Go to any open house or community consultation, and millennials are often largely underrepresented. How do the voices, desires, and needs of millennials get heard if they aren’t at the table or don’t show up to where it matters? And more importantly, how do we create productive, solution-oriented conversations if this voice is missing at the table?

That’s where the 30Network comes in. Read More

Meet the 2017 BC Social Innovation Youth Award Winners

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The 2017 BC Social Innovation Youth Awards are a celebration of the province’s extraordinary young leaders and innovators. RADIUS had the pleasure of co-presenting this year’s awards with the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. A diverse array of individuals with a variety of project types were nominated from around the province. The panel of social innovation experts tasked with reviewing the nominations and selecting the winners had their work cut out for them!

Ultimately, from a large and impressive collection nominations, twelve winners emerged. It is our honour to share their names, faces and stories with you now… Read More

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

The 2017 BC Social Innovation Youth Awards

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Do you know an exceptional youth social innovator in British Columbia? 

RADIUS and the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation are partnering to deliver the 2017 BC Social Innovation Youth Awards!

The awards will celebrate the accomplishments and leadership of remarkable youth in British Columbia who are tackling tough social issues and creating positive, lasting change for the province. If you know a changemaker under 30 who fits this description, you can nominate them here [closed]. If that changemaker is the person in the mirror, then feel free to self-nominate!

Nominations will be reviewed by a diverse panel of social innovation experts. They will be looking for a clear vision and direction, evidence of a creative approach to problem-solving, and demonstrated growth and impact of nominees’ projects. Nominees’ social innovations can address but are not limited to community development, social entrepreneurship, public health, Indigenous peoples, arts and culture, the environment, and education.

The 10 selected finalists will each receive $1000 in prize money and be invited to accept their award at the BC Summit on Social Innovation in Vancouver on February 8, 2017. Travel and accommodations will be covered for finalists living outside of the Lower Mainland. In order to be eligible, nominees must be residents of British Columbia and must consent to the information they provide potentially being shared with the public.

Learn more here, or submit a nomination now![closed]


Speed Friending & West Coast Woodpickers Awarded Social Innovation Seed Funding

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

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.