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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Canada's Catching Up!

 “Canada, like many other jurisdictions, is at an innovation crossroads.”
-Ilse Treurnicht

We may have been lagging behind countries like the UK in the development of social finance markets in Canada, but after reading this recent post by Ilse Treurnicht, the CEO of MaRS Discovery District, I feel confident in Canada’s ability to catch-up with the global movement in social finance and social innovation as a whole.

In the article, Treurnicht announces that Social Innovation Generation (SiG), a national project partnered with MaRS (check out this project if you haven’t yet!, has launched an independent Task Force on Social Finance. The Canadian Task Force will help boost the social investment sector in Canada, creating potential for more businesses aimed at driving social and environmental change. Hopefully, the Task Force will work to build a structure that enables social entrepreneurs to obtain the capital they often have trouble accessing.

I’m very excited to see the growing interest in social finance being put into tangible practice! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments this new Task Force accomplishes.

Some great quotes from this post:

“Governments need to open more public services to charities and social enterprises – the organizations that bring in revenues, even running profitable enterprises, and then channel the surplus back to the community. They need every opportunity to expand their work.” –The Globe and Mail (editorial)

“We have had tremendous success in Canada in unleashing business to create wealth. We have learned that entrepreneurship is an unbeatable force. Government unleashed the power of business entrepreneurs when it provided them with needed public goods and functioning capital markets. Government needs to do the same for social entrepreneurs by providing them with the wherewithal to succeed.” – Canada’s former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Task Force Member.

Melinda French Gates on

In one of my favourite videos, Melinda Gates does a fantastic job of articulating how learning from powerhouses such as Coca-Cola can drive change in developing countries:

 So, if we're going to take one thing from this video and put it into practice, it's going to be the three lessons Melinda has learned from Coke's success:
1. We must use the real time data and drive it back into our work in developing countries;
2. We need to leverage local entrepreneurial talent to gain optimal understanding of the people we are working with.
3. We must create marketing techniques that are localized and appealing to the individuals in the communities we are working with.

Why are Canadians caring NOW?

Why do people care more about international social and environmental issues than ever before? I’ve thought about this question a lot in the past year.

I posed this question to one of my brilliant professors who lives and breathes sustainability. I shared her answer in a paper I composed in my last year at Ivey, and now I would like to share it with you.

There are 3 reasons why global concern over finding sustainable solutions to global crises has exploded in the past decade:

1. Limits to growth
We have reached the world’s limits to growth. For the first time in our lives, we can visibly see the effects of climate change. And climate change is not an isolated issue— it is a confluence of issues; carbon emission is related to ocean acidification which is related the quality of air we breathe, and so forth. People can see these issues and business professionals are beginning to understand how their operations push these limits to growth. The business model is broken and companies must find ways to replace it.
2. The Internet
With the endless pool of information and real-time advantage the internet provides, people can actually see world issues as they occur and instantly connect with one another. This real-time connection affects people emotionally. When huge global issues affect people emotionally, they want to see solutions. Thus, the internet has sparked a desire amongst individuals to instigate change on a scale that did not exist fifteen years ago.
3. Wealth
The future generation of business leaders generally grew up without knowing scarcity. The oil boom is the primary reason for this wealth and has provided energy products that no generation had before. Therefore, because individuals of the new generation have not experienced poverty, they are looking for another kind of experience elsewhere; they care because they have the liberty to care about serious issues currently affecting others.

I think my professor’s opinion is very compelling; she illustrates a realistic picture of how socio-economic and technological trends are affecting people’s mindsets toward sustainability. I remember sitting in her office listening to her answer and being extremely affected by reason #1. For the first time, I was genuinely scared about climate change and the human impact on the environment.

My professor is right. We really can see and feel the effects of climate change now… in weather trends, the frightening increase in natural disasters, the ever-growing deforestation that exists on every continent. I personally see it in the little things, like when I cough from a running car’s exhaust emissions or watch people deliberately throw their garbage on the street. We’ve done a real number on our earth, and I am so grateful for the recent surge to reverse the damage done.