One Young City conference promotes social enterprise in Ottawa

An event being held as part of the One Young World conference in Ottawa on Friday is putting the spotlight on the Capital’s social enterprise sector.

One Young City, an initiative by Kind Village, is bringing together socially-minded people from the city’s business communities for a series of breakout panels. Eighty international delegates and 40 local youth will engage with panelists on the concept of social enterprise with the hope of making an impact in the city and around the world.

Kind Village provides businesses with the tools and services to build stronger communities. Conference director and Kind Village founder Tanya Woods says social good is a cause that businesses both in Ottawa and across the country need to tune in to.

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“Canada, as a country, is behind on social enterprise,” Ms. Woods told OBJ in an interview.

With funding sources from government and charities running dry, Ms. Woods says now is the time for businesses to take up the mantle of social good in their own communities.

“Engaging the business community right now is critical. It’s recognized globally as a need,” she says.

Her aim with the One Young City conference is to take impact-minded youth from the city and across the world and show them the best of Ottawa’s social enterprise. She sees it as an opportunity to put the city’s difference-makers on display, making meaningful connections, and raise the bar for other businesses in the city who haven’t made social impact a priority.

“We have a whole lot of awesome in this city. We really do. But we’re terrible at letting everybody else know about it,” she says. “Let’s introduce the delegates to us, to our city.”

One of the panelists One Young City has recruited is Jen Beauchesne of Beau’s Brewery. The Vankleek Hill-based brewery has been community-minded nearly since its inception, including a recently-launched campaign to fund a brewery in Rwanda.

Ms. Beauchesne says that being a social enterprise champion for the conference comes with the cause.

“I think it’s important for businesses that do incorporate social impact into their business models to kind-of be as loud and proud about it as they possibly can,” she told OBJ in an interview.

Despite the positive community engagement from Beau’s and Ottawa businesses such as Bridgehead Coffee, Ms. Beauchesne says she thinks there’s room for improvement in the city’s social enterprise sector.

“I think we’re still at the point where people are discovering that this is a viable business model,” she says.

To businesses that are hesitant to adopt social practices, Ms. Beauchesne argues that such initiatives can have wide-reaching effects. Doing social good can help to attract talent and customers that register with social enterprise.

“You do the right things for the right reasons and you’ll see your consumer base respond to that,” she says. Summarizing Beau’s philosophy on the matter, she adds, “Beer tastes better when you feel good drinking it.”

The best advice she has for youth looking to incorporate social impact into their business ideas ties well into the conference’s themes: make connections. For example, Beau’s Rwandan brewery project wouldn’t have been possible if B.C.-based Newland Systems Inc. hadn’t come on board to donate a brewhouse to the cause.

“With partners on board and people who are similarly-minded, you really increase your ability to do the things that you want to do,” Ms. Beauchesne says.

Ms. Woods says she feels that Ottawa has a fair number of businesses and neighbourhoods that do social enterprise well, but the potential is there to become a trendsetter for the rest of the country.

“If we have a goal, to be that city, leading in that space, I believe we can do it,” she says.

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