Transforming Young Social Innovators into Young Social Entrepreneurs

Transforming Young Social Innovators into Young Social Entrepreneurs

Youth are the most innovative people around (it’s a neuroscience thing – can’t argue with that!)

There are no shortages of economic, social and environmental issues that urgently need innovative solutions, so why not take advantage of the pool of youth in Ottawa ready to go with great ideas?

Many organizations would agree with us and are already offering entrepreneurial development for youth to put their innovations into action, however, most of these opportunities are either positioned at too high a level or are mostly on a voluntary basis for which many youth simply cannot afford. 

This is where Youth Ottawa’s Summer Employment Program (with a twist!) comes in. Check the Page for more info!

Most of the time, organizations hire youth to work for the organization.  For the first time this summer, we hired youth to do work for themselves. 11 youth will take their pre-existing social innovation ideas and develop social enterprises for long-term success. The idea is that the youth are able to gain tangible skills but also take their great ideas and sustainably transition them from a purely social innovation framework to a more sustainable social enterprise framework.

Meet the 12 youth we will be working with us this summer (2019) and their already-established,
youth-led social innovation initiatives:

Abdul Muse

Initiative: WOKE studios

Woke Studios is a social enteprise that ensures that young musicians who are open minded, have limited understanding of business and are in their early revenue stages, are able to make a successful living out of music.
“My goals for this summer are to absorb as much business knowledge and clarity as possible and to use that knowledge to finalize a steady foundation for woke studios.”

Lesley Mayhew

Initiative: “YOUth are community.”

‘YOUth are Community’ is a social enterprise that focuses on youth engagement by providing a directory of resources and organizations that exist in a user-friendly way for youth in Ottawa. 
“I am hoping to gain insights on how best to create and establish a working resource that is both engaging and helpful for young people who are looking to either start or bring their activism to the next level.”

Samiha Hossain

Initiative: Camps for Children

Camps for Children designs, facilitates and curates specialized educational and recreational programs for children from low-income families.
“My goals for the Workplace Summer Program are to build a sustainability plan for Camps for Children, strengthen my business skills and identify collaboration opportunities with other organizations, I’m excited to be surrounded by creative artists and social innovators.”

Brenda McWilson

Initiative: Empower’em

Empower’em is a grassroots group providing educational programming for women of color and Canadian newcomer women in the city of Ottawa. 
“I hope to gain entrepreneurial skills including business strategy goal setting and implementation to grow Empower’em as a social enterprise. I look forward to collaborating with other passionately driven youth in Ottawa who are ready to challenge the status quo.”

Namitha Rathinappillai

Urban Legends was founded in 2009 and is a non-profit poetry collective that hosts both poetry competitions and open mics in Ottawa. 
“What I hope to get out of the workplace summer program are transferable business skills to make the most informed decisions to best grow Urban Legends.”

Liz Clarke

Initiative: FreedX

Freedx is a women-led creative agency using the power of collaborative artistry to establish women’s careers in the creative industry by providing consultations and project management services to the community. 
“By the end of the program, I hope to have completed a business and marketing plan. I would like to seek out avenues for grants and funding and network with community sponsors and investors.”

Majd, Layla & Adeola

Initiative: Cuts for Kids

The Cuts For Kids Foundation is a youth-led non-profit that provides free haircuts, access to local services and programs to deserving youth in Ottawa.
“This summer, we hope to implement a sustainable plan for the future of Cuts for Kids as a social enterprise. Through engagement and exposure, we hope to design and implement one impactful activity to address some of the challenges we encounter.”

Reine, Connor & Chris

Hot Shoe Productions is a social enterprise that hires youth to film and edit powerful videos for clients. They combine the talent of young people with professional technology to bring messages to life.
“Personally, I’m looking to continue to develop my own professional and technical skills in managing this Social Enterprise and our youth staff, and to gain more confidence as I gain more experience, showing myself every day that I can do this.

Glebe Collegiate’s Murale on LGBTQ2S+ History

three painted murals

Glebe Collegiate's Murale on LGBTQ2S+ History

“We created this mural to bring awareness to the struggles the LGBTQ2S+ community has faced throughout history. These events are as important as any historical event and deserve to be well known. People need to know that there is still oppression in this community and we hope this mural will inspire students to stop the discrimination.”

– Glebe student creators

Group of young people standing in front of their murals
Students at Glebe Collegiate in the Grade 11 Gender Studies class worked for eight months to create a mural depicting key moments in the history of LGBTQ2S+ people. Photo: Jori Armishaw

In February 2018, Anneke Jansen van Doorn’s Grade 11 Gender Studies class at Glebe Collegiate Institute began Youth Ottawa’s Civic Engagement Programming. In this program, high school students choose an issue of civic importance to address in an eight-week action plan in collaboration with a trained facilitator and a community partner. The students at Glebe reflected on what they and their peers often felt at school – that LGBTQ students are still discriminated against despite the perception of growing acceptance. They met with the school’s Rainbow Alliance Club and decided that a mural in the main stairway would encourage an inclusive and caring space for students for years to come.

Over a period of several months, the students talked with their peers and community-based LGBTQ2S+ artists Thane Robyn and RJ Jones to determine five moments in North American LGBTQ2S+ history to highlight in the mural. They desired the mural to include all voices, especially those who have been marginalized and whose history hasn’t made the history books. One of the most notable aspects of the process is the students’ relationship with Glebe principal Steven Massey. Although there were roadblocks, including fears that fire code would be violated for placing the mural panels in a staircase, they “never felt at any point that the project would be shut down”, one student said. That trust in a principal is rare. The unwavering support and willingness of Mr. Massey to learn and adapt throughout the process earned him this trust from his students and made him a key ally and collaborator.

Young people painting murals

For two weeks after school in May 2018, students worked with professional muralist and community-based artist Claudia Salguero to envision the five moments and transfer these visions onto aluminum panels. The group “became a family over those two weeks,” dancing to music and eating pizza as they painted historic moments, noted one student.

The final mural moments include: an homage to Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the trans women of colour leaders of the Stonewall movement; a representation of the two-spirit Indigenous identity; a celebration of the legalization of gay marriage in Canada; the Black Lives Matter Toronto sit-in in Toronto Pride 2016; and the passing of Bill C-16 that added gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After eight months hanging in the front office, the mural was finally hung in the school’s main staircase. Students were thrilled that an entire stairway was not only painted black to highlight the images of their creation, but was shut down to the student body, which certainly created a buzz.

LGBTQ+ Mural paintings

The reveal could not have come at a better time, as the students from the original Grade 11 Gender Studies class will be graduating next month. On May 29th, students, parents, teachers, friends and ODCSB School Board Trustee Lyra Evans (Canada’s first transgender school board trustee!) gathered on the second-floor landing to celebrate the unveiling and eat rainbow cake.

A member of the Rainbow Alliance Club and one of the mural creators, Harry Loop, told the crowd: 

“Art can be fantastic for the head, heart, and body…this mural was not just self-care, but care for others. We do the best we can to ensure the security and well-being of others in this building and out. I hope these murals help create that safe space for students, openly queer or not, to feel proud and safe in their school.”

LGBT Murals on the wall
The mural hangs on a dramatic black background on a Glebe Collegiate staircase. Photo: Hot Shoe Productions

Successfully Engaging Youth in Municipal Government: OYEC 2018 IMPACT REPORT

Successfully Engaging Youth in Municipal Government: OYEC 2018 IMPACT REPORT

Increasing Touchpoints Between Youth and the Municipal Government

Since 2015 Youth Ottawa and the City of Ottawa have partnered to involve youth in municipal government by creating the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee. OYEC consists of a group of 20 youth who bring youth voice to City Hall.

To name a few of this year’s projects, the committee has increased consultations with City departments, launched the 2019 Mayor for a Day contest, developed Councillors in Civics classes lesson plans, and is organizing a Sexual Health Education Summit for fall 2019.

Connecting Youth and Municipal Decision Makers

  • Three OYEC initiatives were developed and launched in 2018 to encourage broader youth engagement with the municipal government: youth consultations, Mayor for a Day, and Councillors in Civics Classes.
  • Mayor for a day was launched in February 2018 in partnership with Mayor Jim Watson’s Office to build excitement around the municipal government.
  • The initiative Councillors in Civics was developed by two high school OYEC members in partnership with Council Liaison Councillor Mathieu Fleury and his staff.

Youth Outreach

  • Forty youth applied for 10 open spots with the applications being spread via Youth Ottawa’s extensive community partner network and through Youth Ottawa and the City of Ottawa’s social media channel.
  • During 2018 consultations, the Youth Consultations Subcommittee spoke with approximately 100 youth in Ottawa to determine their 2018-2019 priorities.

Engagement between Youth and City Staff

City staff and community partners visited OYEC meetings throughout 2018 to inform members of their work or to seek advisement from a body of young people

Visits included:

1. Crime Prevention Ottawa & the Sexual Assault Network.
2. Councillor Tobi Nussbaum regarding his ward’s youth strategy.
3. Ottawa Next: Beyond 2036.
4. Clara Freire from Community and Social Services to discuss the City’s planning cycle.
5. OC Transpo regarding LRT Phase 2.
6. Ottawa Public Health.
7. The Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre.

The full report outlines our impact on OYEC’s projects and how we have been able to increase touch points between young people and the municipal government.