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How Startups are Prototyping The Future of Business on Fogo Island

August 5, 2015

by Vinod Rajasekaran

The HUB

NOTE: This article was originally published on July 30, 2015 on the SiG blog, and has been cross-posted with permission from SiG.


Uncovering the keys to resilience in one of Canada’s oldest communities

A social entrepreneur, an artist, and a fisherman walk into a bar. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s not. These days, collaborations are vital to mesh old ways of knowing with new ways of business – one that holds community resilience and prosperity at its core. Social entrepreneurship has become one of the fastest growing sectors worldwide and we’re just beginning to see the potential here in Canada. This new frontier of business lies in our ability to collaborate, support impact-driven enterprises, and combine our country’s diverse assets.

So, what does a more purposeful approach to capitalism look like? Some of the answers may be found in the unlikeliest of areas – the remote coastal community of Fogo Island, Newfoundland, for example. A recent visit uncovered a new economic model that may hold learnings for communities everywhere.

My journey to Fogo began with an invitation from Shorefast Foundation, a Canadian charity building a new model for economic and cultural resilience to experience a bold new way of doing business that blends a 400-year old hosting and craft culture with reimagining business principles as a force for good.

On Fogo Island, the Shorefast Foundation approach to community revitalization has been to focus on three distinct elements: The development of a geotourism industry, with the construction of the Fogo Island Inn; Fogo Island Arts, an organization that facilitates artistic practice that is local in context and global in scope; and a micro-lending program where entrepreneurs can establish and grow their own small businesses.

In my observation, these Shorefast Foundation startups are going beyond classic business notions of keeping shareholders’ interests top-of-mind, optimizing value chains, protecting intellectual property, growth and scale as paramount aspirations, and so on – and shaking up the startup process. Two contextual pieces seem to form the bedrock of this new way.

Music Entrepreneurship

July 22, 2015

by Milo Johnson

Graduate, McGill University's Jazz Performance program

Milo Johnson is a recent graduate from McGill University’s Jazz Performance program. Just this past year, Milo incorporated his nine-person electrosoul/hip-hop band—Busty and the Bass, named “Canada’s top university band” by the CBC in 2014—as a registered business. In this post, Milo reflects on how interdisciplinary coursework in social entrepreneurship and innovation heightened his capacity for success as a musician during and after university.


As a student in McGill’s Jazz Performance program, I was immersed in an environment that heavily emphasized practice and study. Curriculum relied on classroom-based learning and focused on the academic side of musicianship, leaving us to navigate the realities of the music industry on our own.

For me and many of my peers, this resulted in an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty, so much so that most people chose not to think or talk about life after graduation. I understood that business skills were important in making a living as a musician, but to me “business” meant the pop world.

I began to understand that honing my
business skills did not mean selling out;
it meant paying rent.

Real Talk with Ryan Little from the BMW Foundation: Expert Tips for Social Entrepreneurs

July 20, 2015

by Ryan Little

Project Manager, BMW Foundation; Co-Founder, CanadaHelps

NOTE: This article was originally published on July 14, 2015 on The Changer blog. It has been cross-posted with permission from The Changer.


These videos are presented in collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG).

Ryan Little is a seasoned social and environmental entrepreneur, Project Manager at the BMW Foundation, and co-founder of the Canadian charitable giving platform, CanadaHelps, the country’s national resource for online giving, capacity building, and social media best practices. The organization has facilitated over $600 million in donations since its establishment in 2000. At the BMW Foundation, Little heads the venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship initiatives, does extensive across-organization advising, and coordinates for social startups at the German Startups Association.

In these videos, you’ll find Ryan’s personal tips and tricks for creating and sustaining a viable social business, from securing funding for your venture to forecasting trends in social entrepreneurship and responding appropriately to the ever-shifting landscape of the social sector. Watch and learn!

1. How to Get Funding for Your Social Business

In this video, Ryan offers valuable tips on pitching to investors and fundraising for your social business. He emphasizes that it is essential to have a clear and succinct story that focuses on your unique solution to a problem and lays out why you are the right person for the job. For more insider tips, watch the video.

Pollinating systems change in higher education through evaluation

July 15, 2015

by Chad Lubelsky

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

This is an exciting time for RECODE—as the work on campuses across Canada continues to ramp up, we are developing ways in which we can effectively evaluate and measure the impact of this work. Our guiding question has been “what will success look like?”. To help us answer it, we have developed anticipated desired outcomes, but we also recognize there will be many unknowns. RECODE is working within a broader system of higher education that is also complex; accordingly, our evaluation framework has to be designed and adapted in consequence.

Tim Draimin, Social Innovation Generation‘s Executive Director, recently suggested that I read The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. The book explores the role of human nature and human networks in creating change and innovation, positing that to truly affect change we need to better understand the role of ‘keystones’. In biological systems, whether a rainforest or an ocean, keystone species often act as central supporting hubs. They interact in so many valuable ways with so many other parts of the ecosystem, that their presence has a disproportionate impact on the system (pg. 70). Think of the role of the pollinating bee in our food system, and you’ll get an idea of the importance of keystone species.

Introducing the RECODE Blog!

July 7, 2015

by Danica Straith

Social Innovation Fellow

As we pass the six month mark of RECODE, we are seeing the emergence of stories, learnings, and stumbling blocks that need to be shared with the larger community. With this in mind, we are launching the RECODE blog to serve as one of the many pathways to engage the national RECODE network and interested stakeholders, to generate, diffuse, and deepen our collective efforts.

This blog will serve as a conversation starter and platform to illuminate the journey of fueling social innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education in Canada. This may include storytelling from our institutional champions and partners, community impact learnings, or sharing a breakthrough model for financing emerging social innovations on campus.

Systems Mapping

by Tony Salvador

Intel Corporation

Over the past year, we have had the pleasure of working with Intel on systems mapping, which involves crowdsourcing information gathered through their meticulously designed surveys and then sharing the data visually in partnership with Vibrant Data. Through this initiative, we have been fortunate to work with Intel’s Tony Salvador—engineer, social scientist, and most of all, a wonderful humanist. Below, Tony takes us into his world of mapping systems with RECODE.

It’s so totally cool that Canadians would consider it right and reasonable to come together to consider a question of national interest such as how to catalyze a new culture of innovation throughout the country.

At issue for us, as researchers at Intel working on systems mapping tools, is how to have the conversation in the best possible way, so that all voices are heard and that perspectives are aired to discover the wheat amidst the chaff. We find it very useful to think about Canada not just as a country or a thing like a donut, but rather as a system of interacting people, thoughts, actions, policies, and sentiments. In fact, we find it very useful to think about Canada as a complex, socio-technical system from which emerges order based on individual actions (and inactions). But as a complex system, individual actions are often not predictive of the emergent properties of the system.

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