Changemaker Awareness Month brings social entrepreneurship talks to the Schlegel Centre

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Photo by Yitian Cai

As an AshokaU Changemaker Campus, Wilfrid Laurier University took part in the annual kick-off of “Changemaker Awareness Month,” where students are asked, inspired and challenged to engage their community and get involved in doing small or large acts to improve on problems they feel passionate about.

Ashoka, founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton, has become one of the leading organizations for social entrepreneurship, operating in over 90 countries globally and with over 3,500 Ashoka Fellows.

The Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation hosted a number of “changemaking” events throughout the month of January, including workshops about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, how businesses can improve their communities and how students and alumni are changemaking in their communities.

“A lot of the events during the month were about just putting your hand up and getting involved and started on something,” said Sam Haas, programming and student engagement coordinator for the Schlegel Centre.

The month also finished off with a special event: getting to hear from and speak to two current Ashoka Fellows. Mike Morrice, a Laurier alum, earned a double degree in business & computer electronics in 2008, and founded both Green Economy Canada and Sustainable Waterloo Region.

“The point of that event was to inspire students to see how far they can really go and both speakers made it clear that what they’re doing is not the upper limit of what possibility is,” Haas said.

The Schlegel Centre and Ashoka Fellow partnership will be hosting a number of events from Jan. 30 to Mar. 20, such as workshops with Fellows, community entrepreneurs and social innovators, as well as their primary student engagement event the “Changemaker Innovation Challenge,” which will be running throughout the semester.

Steve Leafloor has his Masters in social work and over 30 years of experience in the field. He is also the founder of BluePrint for Life, an organization that combines social work and dance therapy for Indigenous and Inuit communities. Leafloor and Morrice have both been Ashoka fellows since 2012.

Morrice got his start in social entrepreneurship at Laurier — and it was the work he did during his time at the university that helped him on his path to an Ashoka Fellowship.

“The program that was instrumental in getting him appointed an Ashoka Fellow was an initiative that he actually started here at Laurier — and which actually grew into being Sustainable Waterloo Region,” Haas said.

The other critical thing that the Schlegel Centre wanted to highlight during this time was the amount of changemaking that is already taking place on the campus.

“There’s a reason that we are the most engaged campus — and there are benefits that we get from that as a school and as a student body here … We have students that work on really amazing things, so we wanted to also celebrate all the changemaking that is happening at Laurier already,” Haas said.

The Schlegel Centre and Ashoka Fellow partnership will be hosting a number of events from Jan. 30 to Mar. 20, such as workshops with Fellows, community entrepreneurs and social innovators, as well as their primary student engagement event the “Changemaker Innovation Challenge,” which will be running throughout the semester.

“[It] is an opportunity for students to dive into problems and look at them from a system perspective, which is something not a lot of people have experience with. But essentially, what we’re asking students to do is look at a problem area and think about all the different parts that are involved in a certain problem,” Haas said.

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