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The business of making a difference

[Social Innovation Boot Camp]
Ara Dungca (Com’16), Kirsten MacMillan (Sci’17), Adam Beaudoin (Kin’15), John Sibbald (Com’18) and George Henry (EMBA’16) begin discussing their idea for the Social Innovation Bootcamp Pitch Competition. Their team, “Heads Up,” went on to win first prize as well as the people’s choice award in the competition. (University Communications)

Queen’s School of Business (QSB) Centre for Social Impact has launched a new interdisciplinary initiative aimed at creating, invoking and inspiring social change.

Designed to span across faculties and departments, Queen’s RECODE will support the development of a social innovation zone on campus.

“Many faculty and students at Queen’s are committed to resolving some of society’s most pressing needs and challenges,” says Tina Dacin, Director, QSB Centre for Social Impact. “By consolidating and leveraging this activity, we have the potential to put Queen’s at the leading-edge of creating knowledge and teaching social entrepreneurship and social innovation.”

QSB Centre for Social Impact launched Queen’s RECODE with funding from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and matching private donations. At the end of last year, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation launched the national RECODE program to support the development of social innovation and entrepreneurship “ecologies” within and in proximity to universities and colleges, along with business, community and public sector partners.

With the RECODE funding, QSB Centre for Social Impact will scan existing efforts on campus, convene a steering committee comprised of students, community, faculty and staff, and design interdisciplinary content and approaches to developing a mindset and toolkit for advancing social innovation.

Pitching social innovation

Queen’s RECODE expands the social innovation work QSB Centre for Social Impact has done over the past several years. Those activities include workshops and conferences on social enterprise, Aboriginal issues and design thinking. The centre also hosts an annual Social Innovation Bootcamp. This year’s bootcamp, held March 13-14, also featured the official launch of Queen’s RECODE.

In addition to dynamic and informative speakers, this year’s bootcamp included for the first time a pitch competition where students could work together to identify, design and test their social innovation ideas.

“Heads Up,” the team of Ara Dungca (Com’16), Kirsten MacMillan (Sci’17), Adam Beaudoin (Kin’15), John Sibbald (Com’18) and George Henry (EMBA’16), won the pitch competition and the people’s choice award.

They pitched the idea for a new type of mobile app platform to improve students’ mental health. Students would track their sleep, eating and studying habits and if there were any major deviations from their patterns – often an indication of a mental health issue – the app would prompt the student to reach out to a person they trust, and help set up a method of checking in on the student.

The team also wants to work with universities and ensure the app connects students with mental health resources offered on campus.

Heads Up received $1,250 of seed money – $1,000 for claiming first prize and $250 for the People's Choice Award – to continue developing its idea, but Ms. MacMillan was just as excited about the acceptance they received from the judges and their peers.

“We really wanted to show our passion for mental health. It was exciting that a roomful of people also agreed that mental health is important and it’s something we can talk about openly,” she says. “As we try and move the idea forward, it’s exciting to know that we have the backing of other students who are passionate about the issue.”

Ms. MacMillan says the bootcamp opened up a new world of thinking for her.

“Throughout the weekend, I was exposed to amazing and interesting perspectives. I’ve always thought I would have to make the choice between working with a non-profit organization or a for-profit company. It was eye-opening for me to hear people who are pursuing socially responsible businesses that have a positive impact on the world.”

Visit QSB Centre for Social Impact website for more information.