It’s much more than $1000
There are just so many reasons why we put our own money to support initiatives in Ottawa.
Yes, there is the mission of accelerating great ideas that provide positive environmental, social, and/or economic outcomes which sounds just so great. But there is something else that motivates me. Most of our grantees are dreamers and change makers that take a huge risk on trying to make their idea happen. Many people that we give grants to have expressed gratitude for not the money itself – because a $1000 can only get you so far – but for the acknowledgement and the pat on the back.
There is a saying that I like keep in mind: “It’s not an idea until you make it happen.” Without making it happen, your idea is completely worthless. You can have thousands of great ideas in your head, but it’s all meaningless until you do something about it.
Making an idea happen a.k.a. being an entrepreneur (whether social or not) is hard by itself. It’s time spent thinking whether your idea is good enough, whether it will garner any support, whether you are good enough to make it happen. It’s a life of passion and dedication, but also a life filled with doubt.
What motivates me to be a part of JustChange is that we are able to encourage our grantees to keep on going with the little money that we can offer them and to let them know that they are not wasting their time making it happen. And I only hope that they know that getting a grant means that 12 people that are a part of JustChange believe in what they’re doing, and that they are doing something right.
JustChange looks forward to announcing its sixth $1000 grant winner in the next coming weeks.
So far, JustChange has given out four grants, with our fifth being announced in a few weeks. That’s five thousand dollars that’s come out of eleven individual pockets.
But what I have learned throughout this little adventure is that the money, while a critical piece of the puzzle, is not the only piece. Access to our networks, for example, has been helpful for several of our grantees. Our Justdrinks events are a perfect venue for people to hash out their next grant application, so if you have an interesting idea for an application, come out to the next event and talk it through with the like-minded people you find there. After all, it all starts with being able to communicate your idea and your project to others.
The Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED for short) is where social entrepreneurs construct their blueprints. Jonathon Wade and Brenda Richardson are veterans in the social enterprise and nonprofit space, and help take projects to the next phase of development and operation. In fact, CISED and JustChange fit so naturally together, that a partnership between the two seems veritably inevitable.
From here on out, CISED has offered to provide all JustChange grant winners with a free one-hour session, where they will receive expert advice on mapping out their blueprint for social change.
So now, a grantee receives one thousand dollars, three months at the Hub Ottawa, and advice from the city’s top social enterprise experts. And of course, you can’t forget the JustDrinks that’s held in your honor too.
But you don’t need a JustChange grant to meet our partners; this fall, they are hosting an IMPACT academy for anyone who wishes to convert a good idea for social change into meaningful action as a social enterprise or social movement. It’s features include 20 hours of expert instruction spread out over 12 weeks, curated peer learning sessions, access to the HUB Ottawa space, personalized coaching from CISED, and direct links to other community supports. It’s a limited enrollment program (24 spots) and starts on October 2nd, so think hard over this week about signing up.
BibzGame: Successes and Failures
JustChange grant winner and Bibz Co-Founder David Rust-Smith shares his social entrepreneurial story on his recent project for Youth Employment.
In the last three months Nick (Breen, Bibz Co-Founder) and I had a whirlwind of learning with Bibz. We started the summer with our plan to pilot our youth employment program that would teach girls in grades 11 and 12 how to make videogames and websites, and employ them using these skills at birthday parties.
Bibz Youth Employment, a grant winner of JustChange, and amazing social enterprise in Ottawa
I would like to quickly share one success and one failure with you, so you can have an honest look at the work we did.
Success: 5 girls had an awesome summer and learned to program games.
We had 7 girls participate in our program and had 5 of them stay with the program through to graduation. The girls came from a variety of tech backgrounds, with some of them having taken programming courses in grade 10 and others who had never had to install software on their own. By the end of it they had all made their own websites, and programmed their own videogames Check out the girls’ games HERE
We polled them at the end of the program and found each had a great experience and valued different parts of the program. Some of the girls liked working parties, others preferred experimenting with videogames, and while others loved making websites. All of the girls now have new tech skills and are more confident in tackling new tech challenges. We hope they have been inspired to further their tech education and start making a serious dent in the tech gender divide. Some of the girls have asked if their friends can join Bibz, which is always a good sign 😉
Failure: Indoor tech parties in the summer are not an easy sell.
The business side of our social venture relied on a single revenue stream (I bet you can see where this is going), we were entertaining kids birthday parties. Kids would do art, and we would make it into a videogame at the party. We did 5 birthday parties last winter, and they sold and marketed themselves, it was a winter friendly activity.
In the summer, parents and kids are nowhere near as interested in indoor parties. Nick and I put up 60+ posters on Bank Street, we bought Google adwords, we bought ad space on the top of parenting and party websites in town, and we only managed to get 5 parties for the summer. The birthday entertainment industry is also very much word of mouth, which makes growth slow. I can honestly say we did as much as possible to market our services, but summer demand just wasn’t there.
Once we realized this, we started looking for other revenue streams. We did one summer camp event, but the margins were too small. Now we have pivoted to offering custom videogames as gifts. For $10-$20 you can get a Custom Biographical Videogame about a friend, boyfriend, or grandma, and the girls will make it and host it online for a year. This has proved to be more successful and we’ve already sold 6 custom videogames in the last 3 weeks.
So that is just a small glimpse to the last 3 months of getting messy, making mistakes, and learning.
Spreading just a bit of LOVE
Local photographer Dwayne Brown recently started the loveOttawa project. The objective of the project is simple – highlight and celebrate the dynamic people and places of Ottawa. JustChange was excited and honoured to have the opportunity to be photographed in front of the project’s white canvas. The canvas has been the backdrop of many amazing photos; capturing the smiles of several Ottawa locals – including that of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.
When scouting a location to pose for loveOttawa, it was easy to suggest the uOttawa campus (near the new Faculty of Social Sciences building). Not only is the University of Ottawa a symbol of the city’s French and English culture and the educational centre for many of Ottawa’s creative and dynamic minds, but it is also the home of JustChange. It certainly highlights one of Ottawa’s dynamic places. If it wasn’t for the love uOttawa has given us, it may have been a bit more difficult to kick start our organization and to begin supporting the innovative ideas of some local individuals and groups, like Sisters Achieving Excellence, EcoEquitable and BibzGames. We are thrilled that the location of the photo shoot captures the place where the board members of JustChange get to meet and decide who the next $1000 grant winner will be.
Another powerful component of the loveOttawa project is to share what you love about Ottawa.
What does JustChange love about Ottawa?
Ottawa is much more than a city of government buildings and historic monuments. This city genuinely has heart. The citizens of Ottawa have some great ideas and have this incredible passion for wanting to do social good. One of the reasons why JustChange was founded was because of that. We wanted to put our money where our mouths are and invest in Ottawa’s future and to make Ottawa a better place to live. Since we launched last year we have had over 50 applications – each unique but with an eagerness to improve Ottawa in a social, environmental or economic way. That is what we love about Ottawa – we love the motivation and drive this city has and its potential in being one of Canada’s leading social innovative cities!
I encourage you to visit the loveOttawa project, check out the beautiful faces of Ottawa, read what others love about #OttCity, share this project and if you have the opportunity to pose in front of the white canvas – take it! loveOttawa’s Dwayne Brown (@dwaynebrown_) and his assistant Maija Hirsimaki (@MaijiPhoto) are just spreading a little bit of love – and we all know that goes a long way!
I bought my first book today. I feel proud of myself for the first time in my life. – SAE Participant
As the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sisters Achieving Excellence, that was one of the most powerful things the women we work with has ever said to me. When you work in non-profit, you know the work you do everyday helps people. But in moments like that, you realize the true change you can help to foster in communities.
I started SAE when I was 25 years old, when I started to notice that as a young woman, I was being told that there were a lot of things that I needed. Magazines, television, movies, they were telling me that I needed to have perfect skin. I needed a hot boyfriend; I needed to have long hair. I needed the perfect black dress, 150 pairs of jeans and I needed to know my shade of red lipstick.
Then I started to think- there are over 600 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. 1 in 3 women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime, but only 10% will ever report it to the police. Indigenous women are vastly over-represented in the criminal justice system, yet under-represented as leaders. The majority of women in the system, almost 90%, have experienced abuse or exploitation. 80% of these women need literacy training.
We, as women, do not need skinny jeans or red lipstick. To me, the solution is clear. Increase resources for women, and we decrease the need for criminality. We need programs that educate us, mentor us, and empower us. At Sisters Achieving Excellence, we work with at-risk young women to give them literacy skills, job skills, and most importantly, leadership skills. These skills move us forward as students, as women and as a community.
The women we support are often overlooked. Literacy is often overlooked as a necessary skill, because it is assumed that once you go through the school system, you are literate. That is why our grant from JustChange was so special. It was our first full year in operation, and with the money from JustChange, we were able to support our volunteers and train them to work with a group of young women who often do not receive the one on one support we provide. Our attendance rate of over 90% clearly supports the idea that when our volunteers receive this important training, they are better able to build connections and relationships with our participants and keep them engaged.
We also received an amazing opportunity to work at HUB Ottawa, which provided us with a location to do our volunteer training. It was so amazing to see our volunteers come into such a creative space and become inspired to do the amazing work they do with us. The energy at the HUB literally changes people- as I provided the training, I could see the volunteers sit up straighter, become more engaged, and feel energized to go out and really create a revolution!
But the more I think about how the grant we received has affected the women we work with, the more the name takes on a different meaning for me.
I’ve spent some time considering the name “JustChange.” I love the idea that it really is that simple- if you want to see change in this world, just generate it as you go. So easy! But the more I think about how the grant we received has affected the women we work with, the more the name takes on a different meaning for me. One woman this year told us that her favourite thing about attending SAE programs was that she was able to come to us and be equal to everyone. What a profound comment; the women who we support do not often feel equal to anyone. Our program finally provided her with a rare feeling of equality- a just change for a woman who deserves that daily.
Bailey Reid, Founder & CEO
Sisters Achieving Excellence