‘We’re better together.’ Sounds a bit buzzwordy these days but let’s use it to unpack ChangeUP, the sold out social entrepreneur event coming up on Wednesday in Kelowna.
ChangeUP brings six local social enterprises together in an open community forum to share their stories. A social enterprise sells goods or services to help achieve community, social, or environmental initiatives. An example is Habitat for Humanity and Habitat Restore who is featured at ChangeUP. They are a non-profit home improvement store which uses its profits to fund affordable housing units to allow families to invest in home ownership.
Social entrepreneurs take the lead on solving some of the toughest challenges our community faces daily. Featured this week will be Change Gamers, Elevation Outdoors, One Big Table, Start Fresh Kitchen, Do Some Good and of course Habitat for Humanity. These organizations are leading on diverse issues like youth engagement, youth mental health and outdoor sport, local food system improvement, corporate social responsibility, and affordable housing. Their leadership on tough issues is supported by many others.
The first organizers of ChangeUP, Okanagan Changemakers, gathered after a TEDx Kelowna event several years ago with a goal to take the success of the TEDx event and enable people to get ongoing support and mentorship for projects which positively impact the community. Fast forward several years and ChangeUP was passed over to Purppl to take the lead on the event in conjunction with long-term structured acceleration programs for social entrepreneurs.
ChangeUP is built by community. Valley First again leads as a presenting sponsor. They shifted their support from an event sponsor to an ongoing relationship to deliver structured mentorship for social enterprises. While you may see Community Futures Central Okanagan’s logo on the sponsor page, where you don’t see them and where they don’t often get credit is for their ongoing initiatives to support this growing ecosystem of social entrepreneurs.
The story is similar with several others. BDO opens their facilities regularly to support the ecosystem while also encouraging staff to volunteer on boards. Lawson Lundell, a recent entrant into the Okanagan has been supporting ecosystem development for years through complimentary access to legal professionals. Urban Matters and Urban Systems have started to incubate social ventures where they add tremendous strength through their internal and external expertise; it’s a long term journey that few corporates are willing to explore.
KPMG goes beyond the cheque and adds their expertise to those who can’t afford it at a stage when social entrepreneurs can’t afford it. Shaw commits to local content like ChangeUP which surely won’t drive traffic that other clickbait could. Accelerate Okanagan (we are admittedly biased) takes a huge role in supporting community building and entrepreneurial mentorship programs. The networks, infrastructure, and best practices built for supporting tech and tech-enabled entrepreneurs is increasingly valuable for all entrepreneurs. Little known fact, Accelerate Okanagan’s shared workspace at the Innovation Centre is not only open for tech entrepreneurs, but also social entrepreneurs. This was a deliberate choice by the leaers behind the Innovation Centre.
This group of recognized community builders is joined by an overlooked group of many who don’t often receive (or want) credit. In addition, a very established social sector has been working on social issues and social enterprise for decades.
What is clear is that behind the logo garden of any event or initiative are a diverse group of people who span organizations, ages, experience, and ability. This diversity is our strength.
It’s not perfect, and it never will be, but together we are building a community that serves the needs of the many.