Indigenous social enterprise wins top prize at AC Youth Innovation Summit

On March 28, twelve young Canadians gathered at the third annual Active Citizens Youth Innovation Summit on Parliament Hill, where they showcased social action projects and ideas for addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their communities.

“These young leaders makes me feel proud and gives me confidence that our shared future is in good hands.”

The top prize, the Youth Innovation Award, plus $4000 in funding, was awarded to Indigenous social innovator, Zaffia Laplante, for her cleantech startup Hempergy. The startup is a social enterprise located in Waterloo, Ontario seeking to create natural insulation materials from hemp for rural and urban Indigenous communities in Canada.

The top prize was awarded to the most comprehensive presentation, based upon clarity of communication, entrepreneurial caliber, and potential for social and environmental impact.

Laplante, a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario, is in her final year of Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, and is passionate about capacity building with Indigenous peoples. As an Indigenous woman and student entrepreneur, Zaffia is interested in understanding how Indigenous land-based knowledge and the use of biotechnology can be used to mitigate the effects of climate change across Canada’s Indigenous communities.

In addition to the top prize, The Great Promise Award was presented to the social innovator who showed great promise and leadership potential, as well as development and growth since the first day of Active Citizens Training. This award, and $1000 in funding, was awarded to Ottawa-based Keshana King, whose project, The Actionpreneur Project (TAP), creates and facilitates entrepreneurship and innovation camps for Black youth in Ottawa.

King is a Business Management and Entrepreneurship student at Algonquin College with a long history of leadership; she recently graduated from the Mindtrust Leadership Development Program in March 2019. As a tutor, mentor, and poet she is passionate about inspiring young people in the community.

Hosted by the British Council in Canada, the United Nations Association in Canada, and the British High Commission, the Summit provided an opportunity for networking and partnership development in addition to a platform for young social entrepreneurs to compete for recognition and startup funds. The audience included over 100 distinguished guests including high-level government representatives from Canada and the UK.

“The exchange of knowledge and ideas, and the nurturing of peer relations are of utmost importance for our youth to be more innovative and bold in their approach to entrepreneurship,” said Mariya Afzal, Country Director of British Council Canada. “Social enterprises are accelerating in both the UK and in Canada and through this remarkable project, we are able to provide a platform for young leaders from Canada to share their ideas.”

The British Council developed the Active Citizens program in 2009. So far, in Canada, it has trained more than 370 young leaders in the past three years in partnership with the United Nations Association in Canada.

“Meeting with these young leaders makes me feel proud and gives me confidence that our shared future is in good hands,” Afzal noted.

Active Citizens provides young Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 with the opportunity to learn about and experiment with social innovation through intercultural dialogue and community-led action. Participants gain skills to help them tackle local challenges that align with the UN’s SDGs using the AC toolkit, developed by the British Council. The Active Citizens programme has been implemented in 68 countries worldwide, working with more than 971 partnering organizations, with over 9,305 social action projects launched and more than 242,200 Active Citizens trained.

Caitlin Hotchkiss

Caitlin Hotchkiss

Content coordinator, social media smartypants, wordsmith, Human Workflow™. Exists primarily on coffee, cat pictures, German dance metal, and pro wrestling. I will fight for your right to the Oxford comma.