In 2017, Social Innovation & Sustainable Development were some of the most common themes chosen around the world for Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is a 54-hour weekend event where participants can kickstart their entrepreneurial journey by learning how to build a real company from idea to execution alongside a team. No experience needed. It follows the same format in cities all over the globe and was recently held in Kelowna on March 9-11.

The perception that only non-profits can do social good is changing. Social entrepreneurs are creating solutions to some of the toughest community, social, and environmental challenges in our communities. These can be organized as nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid models. Cities across the globe such as Houston, Montreal, and Santiago have already hosted Social Innovation themed Startup Weekends to encourage and enable changes in their community.

This year, the theme for Startup Weekend Okanagan focused on Smart Cities with some extra incentive to focus on building solutions to affordable housing or to address homelessness. The weekend is all about shaping innovative ideas, learning to use entrepreneurial tools, and building diverse networks within the community. As with any Startup Weekend, there was no lack of ideas brought to the table on the first night of the weekend. Ideas from 65 participants on the first night ranged from social, technological, environmental, and everything in between.

A diverse crowd at Startup Weekend Okanagan created some exciting and unexpected ideas that focus on social impact. One team built Say Something, a safe and anonymous platform for reporting sexual assault. Another team, Driving Change, focused on funding DUI prevention initiatives by selling awareness merchandise. Both are great examples of the types of innovative thinking that came from the weekend. Dwell In wants to address the problem of urban densification with their platform that promotes transparency and builds trust between landlords and tenants in the long-term rental market.

After a weekend full of work, sweat, learning (and lots of coffee), teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges, other participants from the weekend, and community members. Startup Weekend isn’t really about winners. The real win was seeing the global trend of social innovation showing up in the entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs in our own community.

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