So what are you going to do about it? Catching up with IMPACT! Alumni

“The easiest thing is to react. The second easiest thing is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.”
– Seth Godin

Stuart at play, IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training, Ottawa 2014

They were already fired up last November - Madeline, Stuart, Katie, and Andrea showed up knowing there was something they wanted to change in their community. For three days of IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training in Ottawa, together with 40 of their peers, they considered how to respond and who could help them. Now they are working on digging deep into the greatest challenge of all: getting something started.

Madeleine wants to get people thinking about where their food comes from. She figured there was no better way than letting them watch their vegetables grow in their very own backyard: she’s started Britannia Backyard Edibles to grow and sell vegetables from urban yards, transforming unproductive land into the food-producing oases.

Though Ottawa is still waist-deep in winter snow, Madeleine's backyard farming project Britannia Backyard Edibles is blooming. Describing her experience at IMPACT! as “super motivational,” Madeleine credits the training with helping her develop a formal business plan, and connecting her with great mentors. Meeting up with Jonathan Wade of Social Delta, a veteran consultant on social entrepreneurship and a partner of the IMPACT! Training, has helped her with cash flow projections and business planning. She started a successful Kickstarter campaign and she's now finishing up a formal business plan to obtain a grant funding.

An urban planner by day, Stuart sees potential in under-used spaces in the city. He imagines creative art projects and environmental installations finding homes in vacant gaps around Ottawa. His aim for his project ‘Gap Filler Ottawa’, inspired by Gap Filler NZ,  is to bring nature to city dwellers and get people more engaged in their city.

Space for awesome: Stuart pointing out the potential in downtown Ottawa
Stuart found that his idea was pushed from a daydream to an actual project through the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training. He’s now connected with coaching support from Jonathan as well as with a mentor who is a former industrial design professor from Carleton. He’s also reached out to the Orphaned Spaces project in Vancouver, and is interviewing a number of other interested contacts. Stuart is learning that the best way to launch his venture may be to find an existing group in Ottawa to host his project rather than launch it as a brand new company.

Katie wants to remind urban dwellers that we’re all connected to the health of the environment. Her idea is to get people growing their own food and make gardening accessible to those who aren't homeowners. So, she is now developing plans for a garden box business to offer attractive, low-maintenance balcony boxes in which people can grow herbs and vegetables on their balcony.

Katie was so inspired by the social enterprise concepts discussed at the IMPACT! Training that she wanted to incorporate as many socially responsible schemes as possible. By surrounding herself with bright people who share her passion for environmental sustainability, Katie wants to form a business that doesn't compromise on her ethical ideals.

Andrea wants to see more politically engaged youth. During Ottawa's last municipal election, Andrea asked some of her friends why they didn't cast a ballot: she found that people weren't voting because they either didn't have the time to become informed, or they felt that the available choices didn't reflect their opinions. These answers spurred her on: to offer a youth-friendly on-line database of political party information, called Partycipate / Participer.

Prior to IMPACT! Andrea planned on sharing the views of every MP of every riding. Through the IMPACT! program she has connected to a co-founder of Vote Compass and the folks behind a civil engagement NGO in New Brunswick, and now she has narrowed her scope to focus on a summary of the main agenda of every political party. She and her friends have now constructed the bare bones of the website and are currently doing further research and development.

What's next for these inspiring changemakers?

Stuart wants to start with one installation: inspired by his contact with Orphaned Spaces in Vancouver, he aims to select a neighbourhood, map out the vacant spaces, and come up with an installation that suits the community. Katie is making a prototype of her project and hoping to bring together a group of people to join in her venture. Andrea wants to get the Partycipate website up and running, then start marketing the site before the 2015 federal election. She is currently conducting a survey polling young Canadians on what issues are important to them, and hopes to get funding to expand the content of the website. And Madeleine wants to jump in and get growing, “If I can make ten families happy with vegetables, then that will be a goal achieved!”

Written by Gloria Kan and Katrina Siks

IMPACT! is an initiative of The Co-operators and The Natural Step Canada, in collaboration with many partners across Canada. Learn more about the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training, watch this inspiring video, and get involved today!