The Misplaced Pride of Non-Profit Leaders

It’s been a busy month as I’ve been making my rounds attending and speaking at events for and about the non-profit/charitable sector. I love connecting with some of the sharpest, most passionate, and driven people who are genuinely trying to make the world a better place in their own way. It’s always invigorating and inspiring.

But it can also get frustrating. Almost every time, I’m struck by a misplaced pride in the way non-profit leaders operate and speak about their organizations. Most non-profit leaders have been conditioned to tout the fact that their non-profit or charity is mostly or entirely volunteer-based, that they have no physical office, that they have next to zero overhead costs.

And it drives me nuts because what kinds of standards are we setting for the people who have dedicated their lives for the betterment of others?

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The iCreate Project: Girls Creating STEM-Based Innovations for Community Impact

What do you get when you have a group of young girls with a nascent curiosity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) gather in Ryerson’s Launch Zone and matched up with successful female professionals in those fields? The iCreate Project!

In the past few months, I've had the unique opportunity of being on the planning committee of this pilot project aimed at creating a space where STEM, entrepreneurship, and community engagement seamlessly intersected to empower girls of diverse ethnic backgrounds to pursue education and careers in these innovative fields.

Bright and early on August 15th, the iCreate Project brought young girls from Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods for a day full of experiential learning and mentorship. The girls took part in a series of workshops that challenged them to think of innovative solutions to community problems, build prototypes of their own inventions, and even design and launch their own rockets!

Photo by: Jelena Lazarevic, Master of Professional Communication 2015

Photo by: Jelena Lazarevic, Master of Professional Communication 2015

Intersectionality in STEM Inclusion

The fact that women are significantly underrepresented in STEM is widely acknowledged and accepted. But the intersectionality of the problem – that is, the added layer of ethnic diversity – has largely gone unrecognized in discussions around STEM inclusion. By recruiting from schools and communities in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods with its high proportions of immigrant and visible minority residents, the iCreate Project actively tackled this issue head on.

Highlighting Community Impact

We opened the day with our Innovation Workshop that challenged the girls to consider this: “What is one problem in your neighbourhood that you want to fix?” From vandalism in playgrounds to bullying at school, from gun violence to the lack of public spaces, the girls brought serious issues to the fore.

Research of university offerings have shown that programs in STEM that focus on societal impact and not just on technical pursuits have drawn a higher proportion of women. With this model in mind, we developed the day’s curriculum to intentionally present STEM through a unique lens that highlights its potential for solving community problems.

Read more about the day on Ryerson's Centre for Urban Energy blog. 

Photo by: Jelena Lazarevic, Master of Professional Communication 2015

Photo by: Jelena Lazarevic, Master of Professional Communication 2015

Why I Chose to Work in the Voluntourism Industry

Four years ago, I attended a go abroad-type exhibition that prompted me to write a critical piece on the voluntourism industry and the discomfort I had with it.

21-year old me wrote, “What I saw today, essentially, were a bunch of organizations literally selling an experience with the sales pitch of “doing good” and a lot of young people just eating it all up...There was this sort of glamour, romance, and novelty being attributed to working abroad in some rural community in the developing world. One young woman even asked if she could do two 2-week projects back to back — one in South America and the other in Asia. And I couldn’t help but ask myself, what fruits could that possibly bear? Both for herself and for the communities that she would be working with?

Ironically enough, less than a year after I wrote that piece, I began working with Operation Groundswell (OG), an organization ostensibly classified under that very industry.

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Investing in Toronto's Social Innovation

...and you should too! 

I'm very proud to have invested in the Centre for Social Innovation's latest milestone - the purchase and development of a new home for a motley crew of non-profits, for-profits, entrepreneurs, artists, and activists working to bring ideas of impact to fruition. The Murray Building at 192 Spadina Ave. will help to accelerate CSI's mission of catalyzing social innovation within the city and globally. 


For those of you who aren't familiar, CSI is a social enterprise that serves as a coworking space and resource/idea exchange hub for the people who are actively shaping our world for the better. As someone who has connected and worked with the many amazing entrepreneurs and activists work in their multiple spaces, I'm incredibly excited to be putting my money where I know it will have the greatest social impact. The new building will be their biggest location yet and I'm excited to be part of a movement that leans into the power of people and community. 

If you're looking to invest, I highly encourage you to consider CSI's Community Bond. You can find all the information you need at Happy investing!