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Students to tackle social issues in new lab

The Centre for Social Impact is unveiling a new Collective Impact Launchpad, which will bring together students, faculty, staff and the Kingston community with the goal of identifying and exploring new social innovation initiatives.

[Social Innovation]
Ara Dungca (Com’16), Kirsten MacMillan (Sci’17), Adam Beaudoin (Kin’15), John Sibbald (Com’18) and George Henry (EMBA’16) participate in the Social Innovation Bootcamp Pitch Competition hosted by the Centre for Social Impact in March 2015. Students will have  more opportunities to explore social innovation initiatives this fall through the centre's Community Solutions Lab. (University Communications file photo)

The Collective Impact Launchpad will soon embark on its first initiative, the Community Solutions Lab (CSL), giving Queen’s students another venue to make a difference in the local community.

The CSL will deploy multi-disciplinary teams of students to examine complex problems faced by community organizations. The teams will use a social innovation lab approach with people from diverse backgrounds collaborating to develop solutions and quickly determine their applicability in the real world.

“This initiative fits well with the guiding principle of ‘doing better together,’” says Tina Dacin, Director, Centre for Social Impact. “The goal of the lab is to create opportunities for student teams to design and test action-based solutions that community stakeholders can implement.”

Community organizations in the Kingston area can submit issues or problem statements by email to the Centre for Social Impact. For each selected issue, the centre will assemble an impact team from across faculties, schools and departments. The multi-disciplinary team will hold a series of workshops with the community stakeholder to develop a set of prototype solutions for issues raised by the community organization.

“The Community Solutions Lab will allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom while community organizations walk away with a set of action-based solutions and recommendations. It’s really a win-win proposition for everyone involved,” Dr. Dacin says.

The Centre for Social Impact will offer CSL as an extracurricular activity during the pilot phase. The centre is examining opportunities for incorporating the CSL into the curriculum. Each project is expected to take students at least a term to complete, if not longer depending on the issue and process.

The centre has already started engaging community organizations to encourage their involvement in the social innovation lab. The first cohort of CSL is expected to commence this fall.

If you would like more information or want to get involved, contact Catherine McGill, Program Coordinator (Research and Curriculum), by email.

The Queen’s School of Business Centre for Social Impact was established in 2004 with a mission to educate students and foster outreach, research and advocacy on issues impacting our local and global communities. Every year. the centre presents and supports a wide range of programming for students, staff, faculty and members of the Queen’s community to learn more about the processes and practices that drive social impact – including the business practice of responsible leadership and, more recently, social innovation, which refers to an innovative product, process or program that profoundly and positively changes a social system and is widely recognized a key driver of solutions to such complex issues. For more information please contact the centre at csi@queensu.ca.

Next head of COU a Queen's grad, fellow

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has appointed David Lindsay as its next president and CEO.

David Lindsay will become the president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities on Jan. 1, 2016

In a release, the COU said that Mr. Lindsay, currently president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), will take up the position as of Jan. 1, 2016.

A graduate of Queen’s University (Com’81), Mr. Lindsay is also a fellow at the School of Policy Studies.

To his new role Mr. Lindsay brings a wealth of public policy experience and a proven track record in the leadership of public sector organizations, the release says.

Before joining the FPAC, Mr. Lindsay held deputy minister positions in the Government of Ontario in Energy and Infrastructure, Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Natural Resources, and Tourism and Culture. Earlier in his career he served as president and CEO of Colleges Ontario and was the founding president of the Ontario SuperBuild Corporation responsible for infrastructure planning for the Ontario government from 1999 to 2003. He also was president and CEO of the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board from 1997 to 1999, and from 1995 to 1997 he served as principal secretary and chief of staff to the premier of Ontario.

“As an alumnus and a fellow of the School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University congratulates David Lindsay on his appointment as the next president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities,” says Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “We are certain that he will provide excellent leadership and guidance at a time when the province’s universities face both exciting opportunities and significant challenges.”

Mr. Lindsay will replace Bonnie Patterson, president and CEO of the COU for the past six years.

Working to beat breast cancer

Four Queen’s researchers receive funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) is providing over $1 million in funding to four Queen’s University researchers who are investigating different aspects of breast cancer including testing, metastasis and the immune system.

Tomas Babak (Biology) has received $446,575 over three years. Dr. Babak is working on uncovering the causes of breast cancer that act by disrupting gene regulation and using this information to develop a diagnostic test. This will help guide a therapeutic course of action.

Tomas Baldassarre and Binbing Ling have earned fellowships through the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Peter Greer (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) has received $450,000 over three years. Dr. Greer’s research explores interactions between cancer cells and the immune system. He is working to coax the immune system back into action and stimulate cancer immunity against invading cancer cells using oncolytic viruses.

Two trainees in Andrew Craig’s lab (Cancer Biology & Genetics) also received fellowship awards after their research projects were selected as two of the top research projects in Ontario. Tomas Baldassarre received a doctoral fellowship worth $35,000 and Binbing (Erica) Ling earned a post-doctoral fellowship valued at $45,000.

“It’s not easy to earn these fellowships as we are competing against students from across Ontario,” says Mr. Baldassarre. “This funding takes the financial burden off of us and allows us to concentrate on our research.”

Mr. Baldassarre is focusing on the driving forces behind breast cancer metastasis and to develop better therapies against this deadly stage of the disease. His research has identified a protein called endophilin that promotes breast cancer metastasis, and he will attempt to target this pathway to provide better treatment options.

Dr. Ling is working to develop antibodies that block the key components that drive breast cancer progression and metastasis leading to the development of more effective and selective therapies to treat the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

“I’ve been researching breast cancer since 2007 after I had a friend go through it,” says Dr. Ling. “This award recognizes my work and allows me to focus on moving my research forward.”

Supervisor Andrew Craig is understandably proud of his trainees and the opportunities the funding provides.

“Portions of the students’ stipend can now be redirected towards research now that Erica and Tomas have earned these fellowships. We can leverage the new funds into more vibrant research projects,” says Dr. Craig. “Winning these awards is an incredible honour. It shows our overarching research program is moving in the right direction to stop breast cancer in its tracks.”

For information about the CBCF visit the website.

Strengthening the research culture

[Research Mentors Yolande Chan]
Yolande Chan, Associate Vice-Principal (Research), the Queen’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) leader, says she has seen increased engagement for faculty through the Research Mentors program. (University Communications)

The Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio is aiming to increase research engagement, collaboration and funding for faculty conducting their research in the social sciences, humanities and the creative arts through a research mentorship pilot initiative.

While the newly created Research Mentors program definitely has a mentoring aspect, it actually provides much more. The 16 Research Mentors act as leaders in peer review processes for grant applications to improve funding success. They also help to identify potential nominees for awards and research celebrations, like the recent PechaKucha Research Showcase.

The Research Mentors are mid-career to senior faculty in the social sciences, humanities and the creative arts with a high level of experience and knowledge of the grant application processes. The role is voluntary, and each Research Mentor has the freedom to approach the position differently – but they are all encouraged to start peer review processes in their cognate groups, and to develop awards committees.

“The early results have been positive,” says Yolande Chan, Associate Vice-Principal (Research), the Queen’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) leader, and an E. Marie Shantz Professor of Management Information Systems in the Queen’s School of Business. “Some mentors are very much on fire and they themselves have been renewed as a result of being part of this program and are now acting in catalytic ways, assisting others.”

The effects of the Research Mentors can also be seen in the turnout for events such as a recent information session on SSHRC Insight Grant applications where many more people registered than in the recent past. “We are already seeing greater SSHRC engagement,” she says. “The program is designed to strengthen the research culture by creating excitement and a buzz. The Research Mentors are actively promoting, giving visibility to, and celebrating their colleagues’ success.”

Further information can be found at the Research Mentors webpage. Questions about the program may be directed to Dr. Yolande Chan, Associate Vice-Principal (Research).

A plan tailored for success

Talon Lloyd
Talon Lloyd (Comm’15) recently won the Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Queen’s School of Business, for his business Lloyd and Company Bespoke Tailoring. (Supplied photo)

As Talon Lloyd (Comm’15) explains it, his company – Lloyd and Company Bespoke Tailoring – is a meeting of an old world business with 21st century technology.

In a time when so many young entrepreneurs are focused on apps, Mr. Lloyd has taken a different tack, introducing bespoke tailoring – where garments are custom-made – to the needs of today’s consumer – a quality product without a lengthy wait.

Like apps, however, the key to the startup is the use of the Internet along with understanding the needs and wants of the market, in particular young professionals in the financial district of Toronto.

The premise is simple. He has taken a specialized industry and put it in the hands of the consumer. Forget the traditional visit to the tailor in his shop.

“What I am doing is utilizing technology so that it optimizes this business for today’s consumer,” he says. “The way we run online appointments, the way that we use our mobile POS (point of sale) system that allows me to go into offices and collect payments locally, the way that we can take measurements through our online system where we actually teach somebody how to measure themselves and then they can submit their own measurements.”

With a supplier in Hong Kong, where expert tailoring is still available and affordable, Mr. Lloyd is able to provide a high-quality product quicker and cheaper compared to the traditional model.

This meshing of old and new recently earned him the $5,000 top prize at the annual Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Queen’s School of Business.

With Lloyd and Company Bespoke Tailoring successfully up and running for two years now, Mr. Lloyd’s business plan for the competition was based on improving the delivery system and more suited to the customer. The money will now be put to adding QR codes to the product so the customer can track exactly where their orders are, from the measurements up to delivery.

“The approach that I took in my presentation was how do we optimize the customer relationship, specifically looking at after somebody places their order, how can I not only track that order from manufacturing to delivery, but how can a customer maintain an understanding of where their order is,” he says. “Right now we send everything off to our supplier and then it arrives in a box a few weeks later. Then, when I have it in my hand, I can reach out to the customer and say I have your product. In the meantime I don’t know whether the product is in the air or if it is in the cutting stage, the sewing stage.”

Today’s customers, he explains, aren’t willing to merely sit back and wait for their orders to show up. They want to know exactly where it is and what is going on. The other benefit to the QR code system is that he will also be able to keep track of the orders and deal with any delay-causing issues as they arise, such as a fabric being out of stock.

The other key is the minimal overhead required for his concept. Owning or renting a store in downtown Toronto means a massive initial investment, while a “pop-up” shop that sets up temporarily at a hotel lacks the image his clientele are looking for.

So Mr. Lloyd is using a shared-office model, where another company that owns the entire floor of a building at Bay and Wellington streets in Toronto’s financial district, segments out offices to smaller businesses, such as Lloyd and Company.

There’s also a shared reception, providing the professionalism he wants and his customers demand.

As for the future Mr. Lloyd has big plans, including expanding to other financial centres around the world and taking on more of a management role.

“Ultimately, I’m a business student. I would like to see this operated and use what I’ve learned at school to advance the business end as opposed to being the salesperson,” he says. “You can only be in one place at a time as a salesperson. But the way that we’ve started this business it can be leveraged and scaled. I can’t be in every financial centre selling at the same time so ideally I would like to remain as involved as I can on the sales side but I’ d like to be in a position where this business can run on its own without me involved day-to-day.”

‘Paying it forward’ with mental health support fund

Richi Tam (Com’13) knows firsthand how it feels to be sinking in the uncharted depths of mental illness, and to resurface on a relatively safe and stable shore.

[Richi Tam]
Richi Tam, right, with Com'13 classmate Justin Burke. Mr. Tam helped create the Commerce Legacy Fund for Student Health and Wellness, which provides support for mental health initiatives to benefit Commerce students.

Thanks to Mr. Tam’s own tenacity – and the support of his Queen’s School of Business classmates, faculty and staff members – he has turned what might have been a life-ending experience into a testament to the strength and healing power of community.

In 2011 Mr. Tam began what he hoped would be a great adventure, after completing a stressful second year in Queen’s Commerce. But his international exchange experience at Singapore Management University soon turned dark, and his earlier struggles with mental illness came to a head in the form of auditory hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.

Fortunately Mr. Tam’s academic advisor at Queen’s School of Business was able to arrange for his immediate return to Kingston and “helped me sort things out,” he recalls. “That was a huge boost, when I needed it most.” After taking the rest of the year to get better, Mr. Tam was ready to return to study – but with a different group of students from his Com’12 classmates. His biggest fear was that he would be treated like an outsider and might find it hard to make new friends.

As it turned out, the exact opposite occurred.

“The Class of ’13 made me realize I was surrounded by people who really cared – not just students, but faculty and admin, too – who were all very supportive, wanting to make sure I was okay,” he says.

In May 2013 Mr. Tam graduated in the top 10 per cent of his class and volunteered to be the group’s giving coordinator. He and classmate Kate Moraca created the Commerce Legacy Fund for Student Health and Wellness, which provides support for mental health initiatives to benefit Commerce students.

Through the Dean’s Matching Fund, a new initiative made possible by donations from several anonymous benefactors, gifts from young Queen’s School of Business alumni who graduated in 2004 or later are matched two-to-one. That fund will add $2,000 to Mr. Tam’s initial $1,000 pledge – one of the first such matches since the fund was established. Mr. Tam’s employer, KPMG Kingston, is contributing another $1,000 through its own matching program.

Now a staff accountant at KPMG, Mr. Tam is working toward his CA/CPA designation and is excited about his career opportunities ahead. Reflecting on the rollercoaster of the past several years, he says: “There was a lot of pain, but I think I’ve come a long way and am in a much better place now. It’s true that Commerce is a competitive program, but at the end of the day students are very supportive, too. I’m so grateful for the awesome people in my class.”

Mr. Tam’s journey back to good health has been a team effort, he emphasizes. With the help of his psychiatrist and a strong support system, he is managing his recovery – and will continue to do so.

Class giving campaigns are a powerful way to give back collectively to Queen’s. Annual class gifts support much-needed student bursaries and scholarships, library acquisitions, leading-edge technology and other programs and projects that are most meaningful to each graduating class.

 

Ready for the next stage

[SharpScholar Jawwad Sidiqqi]
 Upon graduation, Jawwad Siddiqui (Com’15), is looking forward to putting his full efforts behind his start-up SharpScholar along with partners Amin Nikdel (Sc’14) and Tejas Mehta, a graduate of the University of Toronto. Below are screengrabs of the app for teachers, top, and for students. (University Communications)

An app, developed by a pair of Queen’s University students, is helping connect students and professors to improve the learning experience in real-time.

Two years ago, Jawwad Siddiqui (Com’15) and Amin Nikdel (Sc’14), came up with the idea of using mobile technology to increase interaction between students and teachers through feedback on what parts of the lesson were working for whom, and which ones weren’t. And all of this is done in real-time.

The duo brought on board another student from the University of Toronto, Tejas Mehta, to help with growing SharpScholar, which is now being used in seven universities across North America, including Queen’s.

A key step in the development of the program, Mr. Siddiqui says, was identifying professors as the “core value proposition.” This changed everything.

Still, they had to connect with their target audience and they quickly realized it wouldn’t be easy. Professors often receive calls and offers for new programs to help in the classroom, so the team knew they had to design the app for the teachers first.

Simplicity was key.

“Once we took the modern approach to helping teachers, then they realized ‘Wow, this is so easy. I can do it in three steps and I’m done.’ In other words, taking a design approach to helping teachers’ lives,” he says. “We realized there’s a big opportunity to help these professors who were kind of not being served.”

The response to date has been very positive.

“It began with a very grassroots approach. We work with different teachers, from math to physics to computer science to business and we’ve just had tremendous success focusing on teachers,” Mr. Siddiqui says. “Teachers feel truly empowered when you value their time and initiative too.”

However, as is often the case when introducing a new, unproven product, created by a group of university students no less, getting their foot in the door would prove to be a big first step. They were entering the education realm and dealing with professional educators after all.

“It has been a very uphill battle in terms of building credibility, not just from a research perspective, because we did do research to back our software, but from a purely human relationships perspective, ‘Hey, these students they are not just out there to get our money or build their business,’” he explains. “Professors are just so tired of so many people emailing or cold calling them about this software or that software. So the personal journey of connecting with people, not necessarily for sales but for the betterment of society, in other words their teaching of students, has been a great experience to know how you really bring about change if you want to.”

The first professors they connected with were at Queen’s and U of T, who saw the potential in the technology. He says they “partnered” with these innovative educators for their mutual benefit. Once they had the validation, they could move forward and expand.

“That was essentially how we grew. Once we got it into the hands of the educators who were always testing new things, they were like ‘Oh wow this really works. This is unique and this is phenomenal,’” Mr. Siddiqui says. “They helped us build it. We gave them the ownership of it because, to be honest, we are not practicing professors, we can only hear and observe them.”

Expand they have, to where SharpScholar is already being used at seven universities.

With Mr. Siddiqui graduating this year, the team will be completely focused on getting the app into more classrooms.

It’s something that he is looking forward to.

“Fortunately we have an amazing team and an amazing group of people together, amazing community support from Queen’s professors and even professors worldwide, that it almost feels like an honour to graduate and work in it instead of more of a labour experience,” he says. “So in that regard it is absolutely fascinating but we do know we are stepping into a very risky landscape because currently we are in the stage of raising capital. And that would essentially give us the runway to get this going.”

Already, the journey has been a fruitful one for the team, one that Mr. Siddiqui describes as “liberating.” It has been a juggling act, of course, trying to balance studies with starting up a new company. Mr. Siddiqui says that he has found that balance, with personal development, school and his company “all falling together.”

For more information on SharpScholar visit sharpscholar.com.

 

Reconciliation through education

The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair was appointed chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2009. Over the past five years, the commissioners have spoken with survivors, families, communities and other people affected by Indian Residential Schools.

Justice Sinclair visited Queen’s on March 27 to give the inaugural lecture in the Tom Courchene Distinguished Speakers Series. Before the talk, he sat down with Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr to discuss his views on the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and the reconciliation process.

[Murray Sinclair
The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair believes post-secondary institutions have an obligation to encourage academic discourse and research about Indigenous issues. 

Mark Kerr: How has your understanding of the Indian Residential School legacy changed and evolved after visiting hundreds of communities and listening to thousands of people tell their stories?

Justice Murray Sinclair: When I started this work, I knew the magnitude of the problem we were going to be dealing with. The experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has shown me the significance and the impact of not just the residential schools but the role of education more generally on Indigenous people.

The number of Indigenous people who went through residential schools is not much more than 30 per cent of the total Indigenous population in Canada. Yet most Aboriginal people in Canada suffer from feelings of inferiority, feelings of anger and frustration at the way the education system that they experienced has portrayed them. We have to talk about the ways public schools are implicated in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as well.

The experience of Aboriginal people in schools involves so much physical and sexual abuse. And that abuse has had significant impact on their lives when you consider it occurred to them at a vulnerable time when they were children and that it continued for such a long time. Even if they weren’t physically abused, they lived in constant fear that they might be abused.

MK: Why is it important that Canadians learn about the history of residential schools?

MS: Because this is their history too. At the same time Aboriginal people were being told in residential schools and public schools that they were inferior, they were heathens, they were savages and their history was irrelevant, that same message was being given to non-Aboriginal people. And so non-Aboriginal people have been raised in an educational environment both in the schools and public to believe in the superiority of European societies, peoples and cultures and that Aboriginal people are inherently inferior because of that.

That story, therefore, implicates all Canadians and we need to ensure that the story of what it means to be Canadian and what Canada is needs to be told in a way that includes everybody.

[The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair]
The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada will work to continue the conversation around reconciliation after the final report is released this June. 

MK: What can universities do to promote and foster reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians?

MS: The key to reconciliation – repairing the damage that has been done to the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people – is education. All educational institutions including post-secondary institutions have an obligation in the course of their teaching about this country and topics such as science and the environment to try and include the Aboriginal understanding of those issues as well to show the validity of Aboriginal thinking. Aboriginal people are so much a part of this country and they are so influential in this country.

Post-secondary institutions also have an obligation to engage in dialogue and academic discussions and to foster research into these issues. The full story has not yet been told and the experience has not yet been portrayed in a way that people believe is valid.

Quick Link
Learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada by visiting its website.

MK: You’ve said that truth is hard but residential school reconciliation is harder. What does reconciliation look like to you and how do we achieve that as Canadians?

MS: Reconciliation is about establishing a respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Before we can have mutual respect, we have to understand the importance of ensuring that Aboriginal people in future generations have self-respect. That’s a difficult thing to do because it involves undoing a lot of things that are founded on the racism of the past.

One thing we have pointed out to people is that this history of oppression, of taking away from Aboriginal people their faith in themselves, their belief in their systems and culture, their ability to speak their language, their understanding of their own history, has resulted in a population of young Indigenous people who are not only angry and frustrated at having those things denied them, they’re also feeling at a loss because they want those things put back into their lives.

They want to know what it means to be Anishnaabe, they want to know what it means to be a Cree, to be a Dene, to be a Dakota. They want to know what those teachings are so that they will be able to stand up proudly and proclaim that to their children and grandchildren.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Policy series celebrates inaugural director's legacy

As the inaugural director of Queen’s School of Policy Studies (SPS), Tom Courchene strived to bring together the academic and professional policy communities through the school’s programs, conferences and lectures.

Queen's School of Policy Studies has developed a speakers series to honour Tom Courchene, the school's inaugural director and a distinguished member of the Canadian public policy community.

SPS has recognized the former director’s enduring legacy by establishing the Tom Courchene Distinguished Speakers Series. The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair, commissioner and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), will give the first lecture in the series this Friday at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

The speaker series is supported by the Margie and Tom Courchene Endowment Fund. It was established in 1999 with an initial gift by the Courchenes. Since that time, generous donations from Dr. Courchene’s colleagues at Queen’s and across the country have supplemented the fund.

“This speaker series will provide our students, and the Queen’s community more broadly, with a bridge between academics and policy-makers,” says Kim Nossal, Director, Queen’s School of Policy Studies. “This series will encourage an on-going discussion on critical issues, in particular Indigenous policy and governance, a policy field Tom has been increasingly engaged with in recent years.”

The Tom Courchene Distinguished Speakers Series
“What do we do about the legacy of Indian Residential Schools?”
The Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair, Commissioner and Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Friday, March 27, 11:45-1:15 pm, Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (390 King St. West) Transportation available More information

Dr. Courchene came to Queen’s in 1988 as the Stauffer-Dunning Chair in Public Policy and the first director of the new School of Policy Studies. From 1991 until his retirement in 2012, he held the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Professorship in Economics and Financial Policy at Queen’s, where he was a member of the Department of Economics, the School of Policy Studies and the Faculty of Law.

Dr. Courchene has written more than 300 articles and authored or edited 60 books. The recipient of many awards and accolades, Dr. Courchene is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada. 

Justice Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge and the second Aboriginal judge in Canada. He has received numerous honours for his work in the field of Aboriginal justice. Justice Sinclair chairs the TRC, which was established in 2007 with a mandate to inform all Canadians about the 150-year history residential schools, and guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.

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.

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