Summit pushes social change

The Inspired Change Summit was held for the first time last Wednesday at Laurier. (Photo by Heather Davidson)
The Inspired Change Summit was held for the first time last Wednesday at Laurier. (Photo by Heather Davidson)

On Nov.  20, Wilfrid Laurier University hosted the university’s first Inspired Change Summit. The event was held for people who were passionate about creating a positive change in their communities, focusing in particular on social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to social problems.

“The purpose of the event was to both broaden people’s perspective of community-university enterprise relationships and opportunities, at the same time showcasing the activities that we are already doing at Laurier,” explained Deb MacLatchy, vice-president: academic and provost.

The day consisted of a keynote, two panels and presentations by community-university enterprises, along with students from the Laurier LaunchPad program who presented the entrepreneurship projects they have been undertaking.

The events were designed so that people could come to a few different things, if people had classes or other commitments.

Those in attendance included faculty members, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, community members and alumni.

The morning opened with words from Max Blouw, Laurier’s president and vice-chancellor.

“This conference today, I think, is a particularly important event that will help the university and our partners in the community throughout Ontario to really think about change, social entrepreneurship and how we best engage as a public institution with a mandate for education research,” he said.

The opening keynote address was “How to Teach Social Entrepreneurship: From Purpose to Leadership,” presented by Jonathan Isham from Middlebury College.
Isham, a professor of economics, director of environmental studies and the faculty director for the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, discussed how teaching social entrepreneurship to students can help the university to achieve their long-standing goals.

He urged that change has never been more urgent.

John Fraser, director of strategic academic initiatives at Laurier, hoped that people would gain “a sense of how the university can engage and what the communities’ needs are” from attending the conference.

Reflecting on the day, Fraser saw it as a success, as all of the goals of the conference were met and the audience was interacting and thinking about how they could make change.

“The final panel turned into conversation about next steps,” he continued. “People were asked to talk one-on-one to think of Laurier’s next steps and then they were invited up to the mic to share.”

For Fraser, the highlight of the day was the break-out sessions that were held in the afternoon, which gave people the opportunity to examine a demonstration of social entrepreneurship led by substantive social innovation.

“The feedback we have had has been exceptional,” MacLatchy said of the event.

Although this is the first year Laurier has hosted the Inspired Change Summit, the university hopes to see some follow-up steps. Fraser described the conference as the beginning of the conversation.

“I think it will evolve,” he stated.

In the future, Laurier hopes to host more conferences to help make social change in the community.

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