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Moving Past Add-ons and Division: Social x Entrepreneurship

October 31, 2017

We at the Trico Charitable Foundation are embracing a new tagline:

Social Entrepreneurship = Social x Entrepreneurship

We can sum up how we came to this point, and the layered meaning in this deceptively simple equation, in three key inflection points:

Inflection Point One: Moving Past (Through?) The Dreaded Definition Debate and on to the Core Elements of Social Entrepreneurship

If we have learned anything from the ongoing debates about the definition of social entrepreneurship it’s: a) there is no one single definition and b) one’s goals invariably shape how one defines social entrepreneurship.

Social Entrepreneurship Capstone Project

Dr. Muhammad Yunus is an inspiring individual. He has dedicated his life to not only helping others, but to creating systems that allow others to be able to help themselves. Recently, I was able to travel to Berlin, Germany to attend the 7th Global Social Business Summit, of which Dr. Yunus was a host. Those in attendance were able to hear him speak of an ideal world with zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions. Imagine living in a world where those three zeros are a reality. Is it possible? As a Global Studies student, I am critical. As a Social Entrepreneurship student, I am hopeful.

Moving from Startup to Growth: 7 Surprising Changes during 7 Years leading Ashoka U

NOTE: This article was originally published here and has been cross-posted with the permission of the author.


The last seven years working on Ashoka U have been a rollercoaster, but I have to admit that I loved every minute. Over the years, it has been fascinating to observe (and tackle) the changing nature of the challenges that have arisen through the course of building a team and growing a global program.

Looking back, it always seemed that as soon as we would start to figure things out in one domain or successfully fight a fire, another would erupt elsewhere. And just as we would settle into our groove as a high-performing startup team, there would be an infusion of new ideas that pushed us to grow to a new team size, budget or level of ambition.

As I look back, there are some fundamental shifts in operating, thinking and leading when you compare the first few years of a startup to the later years of a maturing organization. Here are Ashoka U’s top 7 areas of change:

(1) Mindset: Moving from an invincibility mindset to a risk management mindset

To get things launched, you have to entirely believe in your vision when no one else does and not be afraid to take big chances.

Once you’ve gained some maturity and started to experience progress, you need to spend more time making sure to not undo the strong foundation you have already build. It is important to foresee any potential problems and manage risks to ensure on-going success. In the beginning you have more to gain than lose from taking risks, but at a certain point, you are successful enough that you start worrying about losing what you have created.

The Ultimate Guide to Competitive Analysis

NOTE: This article was originally published on the FounderFuel website, and has been cross-posted with permission.


How will your business compete?


The purpose of performing a competitive analysis is to answer this question and provide you with the tools to blow your competition away. If performed properly, you will establish how you are or can be unique, where your competitive advantage lies, and perhaps most importantly, it will build confidence with your investors. You will better understand the market, more aptly target customers, keep tabs on competition, make more practical decisions and ultimately, over time, track trends and market scenarios.

What follows is five case studies that exemplify the importance of performing a thorough competitive analysis. Following from these case studies is a detailed breakdown of how you can perform one of your own.

CASE STUDY 1: MARVEL WORLDWIDE INC.

The question ‘what makes us human?’ fuelled a ten-year debate between
Marvel Comics and the United States Court of International Trade. Marvel argued that their action figures were toys (‘representations of nonhuman creatures’) rather than dolls (‘representations of humans’). While dolls were being taxed at a rate of 12%, toys were taxed at just 6.8%. Marvel’s research on this distinction would end up saving the company millions of dollars. Competitive analyses, like the one Marvel undoubtedly carried out, have the potential to reveal more than just direct competition. You’ll see why below.

Fueling a movement

NOTE: This article was originally published here and has been cross-posted with the permission of the author.


Mozilla was born from the free and open source software movement. And, as a part of this larger movement, Mozilla helped make open mainstream. We toppled a monopoly, got the web back on an open track, and put open source software into the hands of hundreds of millions of people.

It’s time for us to do this again. Which brings me to this blog’s topic:
where should Mozilla Foundation focus its effort over the next five years?

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know
the answer we gave to this question back in June was ‘web literacy’. We dug deep into this thinking over the summer and early fall. As we did, we realized: we need to think more broadly. We need to champion web literacy, but we also need to champion privacy and tinkering and the health of the public internet. We need to fully embrace the movement of people who are trying to make open mainstream again, and add fuel to it. Building on a Mozilla strategy town hall talk I gave last week (see: video and slides), this post describes how we came to this conclusion and where we’re headed with our thinking.

Bundles of Hope

“The most valuable resources we found for our venture was making connections and talking to people who are already entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs can help you establish your support network, which is extremely valuable.” –Willis Tat, Co-Founder, Bundles of Hope

Stepping into the
University of Calgary‘s Entrepreneurship 317 class, three Haskayne Business students could not have predicted a class project would transform into a successful social venture creating change. The project tasked students Miranda Mantey, Willis Tat, and Justin Wood to address a world issue. The result was the creation of One World Blankets a social enterprise that sought to employ local weavers in India to make blankets that would be sold in North America. Proceeds would not only provide employment in India, they would be utilized for vaccinations in India.bundlesofhopeheadshots

Where are all the young Edisons of the 21st century?

I’ve got a question for you. Who’s more likely to change the world?

A bunch of billionaires and world leaders talking shop in the Swiss Alps? Or a teenager nobody’s heard of yet, working away in a dorm room on a crazy idea that’s going to be the Next Big Thing?

A hundred years ago the answer would have been clear. These days, it’s a toss-up.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a keynote in Davos this week, he spoke of the importance of innovation, of how he wants Canadians to be known not for their resources but for their ‘resourcefulness’. He also vowed that his government is willing to invest in the future.

How do we build community in our cities?


This article was originally posted on the Possible Canadas website and has been cross-posted here with permission. RECODE is pleased to be among the supporters of Possible Canadas—a partnership of diverse organizations that share the goal of supporting forward-looking conversations about the future of Canada.


Canadians today feel lonelier than ever. But one university town is bucking the trend and building bridges that connect unlikely communities. What do they have to teach the rest of us?


There has been a wave of research in recent years on what makes people happy. Time and again, social scientists come up with the same answer: strong relationships that make us feel connected to one another.

Yet many Canadians are feeling lonelier than ever. In 2014,
Maclean’s magazine reported over 30 per cent of Canadians feel disconnected from their neighbours. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians are seeing their friends less frequently. More of us are also living alone than ever before.

Even on university campuses, places designed to bring people together, students often feel disconnected and isolated. A 2012 report by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services
found that nearly two-thirds of students reported feeling “very lonely” in the past 12 months.

How can we make bachelor’s degrees worth it for students?

This article was originally posted on the Possible Canadas website and has been cross-posted here with permission. RECODE is pleased to be among the supporters of Possible Canadas—a partnership of diverse organizations that share the goal of supporting forward-looking conversations about the future of Canada.


Denis Luchyshyn graduated from the University of Victoria in 2014 with high hopes and confidence in his newly-obtained business degree. “We had a lot of emphasis on hands-on work experience. We had co-op programs that I was a part of,” says Luchyshyn. “I did three semesters of work, so in terms of my education I felt a lot more prepared than my friends.”

Even after being readied for the work force, Luchyshyn saw his hopes dashed after a few months in the real world. He had started a job straight out of graduation, and while the pay was decent and there were prospects for growth, he just couldn’t see himself making a career of it. “I was selling online ads. We all know how much people love that.”

He and his friend Clinton Nellist noticed that a lot of their hard-working and educated friends were in a similar situation: either they couldn’t find a job in their field, or they couldn’t find work at all. That is what sparked the idea of
Road to Employment, a documentary film project created by Nellist and Luchyshyn to address the issue of unemployment amongst young Canadians. The two travelled across the country, talking with students, graduates, and employers to get an idea of what the situation looked like on a national scale, and find the solution to student employment woes.

SIX Global Council Ideas for the Future: A new mission for universities?

NOTE: This article was originally published on July 2, 2015 on the Social Innovation Exchange website, and has been cross-posted with permission.This article is part of the SIX Global Council series on Ideas for the Future.


Universities’ defined mission has in recent decades been founded on a combination of three intrinsic elements: teaching, research and what has loosely been called knowledge exchange, the process by which universities innovate and externalize the knowledge that they generate. This latter element traditionally involves a combination of various processes including intellectual property management, spin-off creation, licensing, access to funding, entrepreneurship and consultancy. It depends on a supply chain that ‘is multi‐dimensional, it has to be sustainable, and it has to have quality, strength and resilience. These attributes can only be secured through close collaboration, partnership and understanding between business and universities.’ (
Wilson Review “A Review of Business-University Collaboration” – 2012). But if this is how universities orthodoxly support innovation, how do we support social innovation? Can universities do more to support social innovators and is there a way of structuring this support to make it more effective? Universities have certainly begun to adopt the terminology and embed it within their teaching and research programmes but how much is social innovation considered part of the third mission of universities, or should there be a fourth mission defined at an institutional level?

Back in 2010 the study on Social Innovation prepared by SIX and the
Young Foundation for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors underlined the problem: “Civil society and the grant economy have long been rich sources of social innovation, but they are not well-placed to develop rigorous methods for innovation, lack R&D capacity, and find it hard to spread risk.” The report categorized four key barriers to social innovation: Access to finance; Scaling models; Skills and formation; Networks and intermediaries. Clearly, universities represent ideal partners to help break down or at least mitigate against many of these barriers. Most importantly, they can serve as intermediaries between the subversive nature of SI and its need for institutional and political recognition. They can provide appropriate R&D for robust, empirical evaluations of the effectiveness of SI, offering an understanding of what can accelerate and scale-up SI, beyond the anecdotal. Just as technical expertise in specialized areas can support commercial businesses and give them the means to help grow and expand, the same technical expertise can be offered to social innovators. But in addition to this, Universities are providers of a range of logistical support to their community that can provide real added value to SI: through the exploitation of their tacit and codified knowledge (including Open Access); through capacity building, mentoring and training; through the use of specialized equipment; through the provision of real and virtual spaces for networking, hot-desking or more formal incubation facilities; through selection and evaluation expertise; through lobbying. Just as social innovation has existed as an ill-defined, undervalued phenomenon for decades, universities have always supported civil society through a variety of activities without necessarily being able to categorize them under a unified terminology. However, I believe there are two interrelated, fundamental characteristics of university support for social innovation that need to change: i) social innovation support activities tend to be ad hoc and largely altruistic, universities have not recognized or systemized a process to measure the social return on investment; ii) as a result, while commercial innovation is recognized and institutionally supported by well-established knowledge transfer offices, there is no professional support function within universities for supporting social innovation.

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