David Phipps, RIR-York
CommunityBUILD is a unique partnership between community, business and the university that is creating a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region. Combining the assets of different sectors creates opportunities that none could support working alone.
BÂTIR ensemble est un partenariat unique entre la communauté, le monde des affaires et l’Université. Son objectif est de créer un réseau de soutien et d’appui aux entreprises d’économie sociale de la région d’York. En alliant leurs atouts, les trois secteurs ouvrent des possibilités qui ne s’offrent pas à chacun d’eux pris isolément.
build: construct (something) by putting parts or material together (Oxford English Dictionary)
BUILD: a program of ventureLAB “designed to support entrepreneurs of technology ventures – especially first time entrepreneurs.” (http://bit.ly/1pKUsW6)
communityBUILD: a program of ventureLAB (VL), United Way York Region (UWYR) and York University designed to create a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region.
This past week communityBUILD ran the first Mash Up. Mash Up sought to identify new ideas to address to grand challenges in York Region: youth employment and food security.
An open call was made for innovators and their supporters to submit ideas that addressed one or both of these grand challenges. Twenty nine ideas were submitted. Nine were selected to come to the Mash Up. Within 45 minutes of the first day these were down to four: one addressing food security, one addressing youth employment and two of them addressing both.
Over two days of Mash Up and one day of work the four teams of between three to six team members worked with mentors from VL, UWYR and York to develop their ideas. These four ideas were then pitched to a panel of social entrepreneurs and community builders. Each had the chance to secure $5,000 of consulting services, become a VL client and receive VL mentoring.
- Upstream New Gardens Initiative is a project of York Region Food Network that sought to build on its existing hydroponics facility and use sale of hydroponic lettuce to fund Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Networkfood awareness programs.
- Mentor Network seeks to match youth job seekers with experienced mentors who will use their own networks to help make a match between youth and the 80% of jobs that are never advertised through traditional recruitment methods such as job fairs. Mentor Network will pilot with Seneca College students.
- Hon’r Snacks places healthy food snack towers in offices and proposes to use youth from the NEET (not in employment, education, training) group to stock the towers.
- Cultivating Opportunities builds on the established therapeutic connection between nature and young people living with mental illness and addictions to provide farmers with steady employees. Youth with lived experience of mental illness and addictions will work on the farm and be paid in vegetables that they can then sell as healthy food baskets in farmers markets or to office workers.
From a one minute pitch on Monday morning to a 10 minute presentation on Thursday all four groups successfully went on a journey with their mentors through the Lean Start Up and the Business Model Canvass.
Keys to success of the Mash Up were:
- A clear call for projects addressing critical issues important to York Region
- A well structured journey
- Mentors to guide along the journey so that teams were actively supported every step along the way
- Experienced judges to provide critical feedback
- A pool of talent in York Region and the GTA open to growth and opportunity
- Three partners each bringing unique assets to the table
communityBUILD is a partnership between the academic, community and business sectors. It is not a campus centric incubator. It is not charity. It combines the power of lived experience in community with the discipline of business with the perspective of academia. Each partner contributes unique assets that combine in complementary ways to create a system of supports for social enterprise. The Mash Up is the first roll out of communityBUILD that has already helped four new ideas move toward implementation. They aren’t social enterprises yet but they have started on a path that will support their early exploration.
Neither VL, UWYR nor YorkU have a mandate to support social enterprise. Only by working together and combining their assets could a regional system of supports for social enterprise be developed that promises to grow from the Mash Up into a new player in the social and economic infrastructure of York Region.