Written by: Assaf Weisz
We are excited to announce the launch of the RECODE project in partnership with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. We believe RECODE will become an important milestone in the social innovation & finance movement, and in the evolving higher education landscape.
Close to two years ago, we were invited by the McConnell Foundation to consider how social entrepreneurship and innovation might converge with higher education to advance both fields. The rationale underpinning this exploration was strong. We discovered that 51% of Canadians attended a university or college, a higher portion of the population than any other G8 nation. If social entrepreneurship, innovation and finance are to become parts of the national DNA, then the post-secondary system provides an important podium for exposing more than half of the population to these key concepts and opportunities within them. We also found that there were several champions from faculties, administrations and student bodies already leading the charge, and saw an opportunity to provide them a critical boost while opening the door to new advocates.
Yet just as the field of social innovation is changing, so too is higher education. Post-secondary institutions represent some of the densest clusters of intellectual capital and progressive thought in society, but also serve as critical gateways for recent generations entering the job market. That latter role has become more challenging to fulfil in light of stagnated hiring and the creep of technology displacing once dependable jobs for new graduates. Those pressures, complemented by vanishing barriers to entrepreneurship (lower technology costs, shorter prototyping times, etc.), have channelled public interest towards entrepreneurship as a more mainstream pathway. The pressure of climate change and other increasingly complex social problems have inspired many to filter their ambitions through the lens of meaningful contributions.
As such, RECODE emerges not as a singular solution to a singular problem, but as an opportunity space created by the convergence of large trends. Taking a systems view, rather than seeking singular buildings or programs to sprout social entrepreneurship at each school, we intend to look at the entire ecosystem created on campuses by new and existing initiatives, and their aggregate effect on the national post-secondary system.
If we are successful, student social entrepreneurs will see their campus as their best source for resources, mentorship and opportunities to grow. Over the long term, we hope this initiative contributes to a groundswell of new social ventures and innovations, impact investors, educational pathways and partnerships with community organizations – the key ingredients in recoding society and commerce. That is an outcome worth working for.