I recently spoke with an inaugural member of The Next 36, Canada’s entrepreneurial initiative, who launched a non-profit venture in Social Spark. He says The Next 36 was an eye-opening experience. It has allowed him to think of entrepreneurship in a way that is not just about disruption, innovation, and taking it away from the guy beside you.
“I walked away from the Next 36 program convinced that entrepreneurship is an attitude and one that can be practiced in nearly all walks of life,” said Social Spark co-founder Saksham Uppal. “The desire of the entrepreneurially minded to challenge the status quo and create value for themselves and others is a driving force forward for society. The program also reminded me that above all else the entrepreneurially minded strive to have an impact. This impact is not only quantified through dollars and cents, but also through the improvement in the quality of life of different societal groups.”
Social Spark is a non-profit that aims to create change by cultivating a socially conscious and entrepreneurial spirit in youth. There is no doubt that the millennial generation will face more challenges than ever before unlike their parents in the coming years. As a result, millenials must be prepared to rise to the challenge.
The non-profit is taking a grassroots approach, launching at three different university campuses for their first year. That is at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Western University. They do have the intention of expanding to additional universities in the coming years.
The goal is to develop youth into active social leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Social Spark has partnered with Kanika Gupta’s SoJo, an innovative online learning tool that helps social innovators turn their ideas into action using intuitive technology and user design. This will allow youth that the program educates to tackle problems with an understanding of both traditional concepts of business and innovation with emerging concepts tied to social impact.
Social Spark will further provide youth with opportunities to engage and work with existing players in the social space. Youth will leverage social enterprises, corporate social responsibility groups, non-profits, for-profits, and other charities through Social Spark’s case challenges or internships.
The organization is accepting applications to their Social Venture Challenge program until September 19. Students from all years and disciplines are encouraged to apply if they are up to the challenge. It is a blend of both education and practice in a collaborative team environment.
“The Social Venture Challenge takes some of the brightest young minds in Canada and assists them in the development of a social venture,” said Co-Founder Saksham Uppal. “Participants are provided with over 90 hours of hands-on education and mentorship from experienced practitioners and professors, as well as access to funding and opportunities to pitch to investors.”
Social Spark also had their launch party at the end of August at Hotel Ocho in downtown Toronto. The event featured four young social entrepreneurs who are making a social impact in the world from Venture Deli, YSI Capital Fund, and MyVoice.
Uppal says that some of the key takeaways were that you should follow your passion, start early as the best time to take the leap is today, tell everyone what you are doing, and act on a good idea quickly. Social Spark is also partnered with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Commerce and the Youth Social Capital Innovation Fund.
I wish the program the best of luck in molding and unleashing the next generation of leaders and changemakers to solve some of the world’s toughest problems through socially sustainable ventures.