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Ain’t No Party Like a Social Entrepreneur Party

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  • September 29, 2012
  • 6:00 am
Ain’t No Party Like a Social Entrepreneur Party

MANSONS LANDING, B.C. – One hundred and forty entrepreneurs building businesses as diverse as holistic health-care centers and wooden iPhone cases journeyed to Hollyhock off the rugged coast of British Columbia recently to attend the 17th annual Social Venture Institute (SVI).

The conference unites values-based business leaders for four days of learning, skill-building and sharing experiences, aiming to instill a renewed sense of dedication and purpose for their work.

“I believe we’re in need of a very massive grassroots uprising of people who choose to take back the tools of business and finance towards social goods,” event organizer and Social Venture Network (SVN) member Joel Solomon told participants during SVI’s opening night.

“There is no rule book that I know of about how to do that. It’s not well taught in business schools or other places, so this is our modest contribution — to make a place where these things can be considered and where we might improve our own practices, skills and help each other.”

From Sept. 12-16, diverse opportunities arose for learning and collaboration to happen, from the  interactive case studies where a business shares a challenge or opportunity, to inspiring True Confessions where successful leaders share the highs and lows of growing a mission-based business.

Shared meals and social activities sparked impromptu conversations and connections that have been known to lead to lasting friendships, and even business partnerships.

Such was the case for Michael Ziff, an eight-year SVI veteran and co-founder of sustainable children’s clothing and products store Hip Baby. It was during a hot tub soak that Ziff met fellow SVI participant Philippe Lucas, who suggested they open a second Hip Baby in Victoria, B.C. The store opened in April, 2010.

This year’s conference engaged 80 new participants, with women comprising nearly 60 percent of the attendees.

“I felt like (business) was a creative response, and you were building the vision of what you wanted to create in the world rather than fighting against the vision you didn’t like,” says Carrie Ferrence, a first-time participant and co-founder of Stockbox Grocers. The Seattle-based small-format grocery store provides fresh produce and grocery staples to communities without access to healthy food.

A number of financial and business consultants were also on-hand to mentor entrepreneurs including Orchard Advisors, Junxion Strategy and institute B. Andy Broderick, vice-president of community investment with long-time SVI sponsor Vancity, was one of the more than 20 mentors available for one-on-one sessions.

“I’ve been totally impressed by the quality of the people here, and how much opportunity there is for Vancity to deepen its involvement in this sector and build its business around this kind of work,” says Broderick.

Having mentors and a trusted group of advisors to turn to is serving 29-year-old Ilana Labow well.

She began attending SVI three years ago, when her organization Fresh Roots, which designs innovative neighborhood farms, was still in its infancy. This year, during an open session inviting entrepreneurs to share what they’re working on, Labow announced that Fresh Roots has forged an exclusive partnership with the Vancouver School Board to develop quarter-acre farms on their land to teach children math and science, and host community events. It’s the first of what could be many opportunities to build gardens on institutions across the province.

“I’m in awe in of how smartly and well-woven SVI is . . . . They weave together business with friendship with growth of different kinds of relationships that really empowers people to stand strong on their feet and understand what are the resources they need to grow themselves and their social ventures,” says Labow.

“And I think we are so lucky to have it based out of Hollyhock, because Hollyhock has really set itself up to divinely host transformational experiences, and it has surely changed my life.”


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Photo Credit: Sara Dent

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4:57PM PST on Nov 9, 2012

Last chance to stop Harper selling off a Canadian oil company and effectively Canada herself to foreign corporations to pollute and abuse Canada and Canadians as they please for 31 years!

Dear friend,

Prime Minister Harper gets back to Canada this weekend after a trip to India. Top of his agenda is likely to be deciding what to do next about the Canada-China FIPA, the investment deal that would give multinational corporations unprecedented powers to stop the Canadian government from protecting our environment and natural resources, and allow foreign corporations to sue Canadian governments for huge amounts of money if our government did anything to limit their profits (like, you know, try to protect the environment).

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is running a public consultation process on the environmental impacts of FIPA with a deadline of this Sunday. After the setback we dealt it last week, the Harper government is hoping to be able to point to this public consultation as proof the process has been transparent -- and argue that no one is worried about environmental impacts of FIPA. But we can foil him by flooding the process with comments tens from thousands of Canadians in the next 48 hours.

I just submitted an email to the Canada Trade Agreements Secretariat. Will you join me?


8:36AM PST on Nov 4, 2012

Thank you for the Information!

5:45AM PDT on Nov 3, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

7:30PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012

Right On to Social Venture Institute

4:00PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012


2:19PM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

I would LOVE to attend something like this!

8:51PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012


Incredibly, if BC tries to regulate or block Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, Sinopec, another Chinese state-owned oil company with investments in Canada’s natural resource infrastructure, could sue the BC government for damages, and we may never even hear about it the case or its results.5,6

Other countries like India, South Africa and Australia are moving away from this kind of trade deal. Last year Australia rejected investor-state arbitration due to concerns that it would “constrain the ability of Australian governments to make laws on social, environmental and economic matters”.7,8

Why is Canada moving backwards?

8:51PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012


Any Canadian law or government decision – even ones that protect Canadian jobs, our environment, our economy and our families – could be fought in secret tribunals outside of our legal system. Arbitrators unaccountable to the Canadian public would have the power to award billions in damages to foreign corporations if we do anything that hurts corporate profits, like improve environmental standards or slow down the export of cheap, unprocessed resources.1,5,6

Time is running out. We have two weeks before FIPA is set to pass into law, and the Nexen takeover could be approved at any time. Canadians, including many Conservative MPs, oppose the Nexen takeover, and Prime Minister Harper has just asked for a 30 day extension to regroup. We need a massive public outcry now.
Additional Information

The ability for corporations to sue foreign governments in private courts, called “investor-state arbitration,” is a controversial practice built into many trade deals like NAFTA that has cost Canada millions and over-ruled democratic decisions, but none impose the level of secrecy in the Canada-China FIPA.

8:48PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012


The Canada-China FIPA is set for automatic approval on October 31st unless we get the word out now that the Harper Conservatives are trying bypass Parliament and sneak this deal by Canadians. That’s why we partnered with on this campaign – if enough of us raise our voices now, we can create a massive public outcry to stop this devastating deal in its tracks.

Send a message to Prime Minister Harper and your MP: Canada is not for sale, stop the Canada-China FIPA and the Nexen takeover. When 30,000 sign, we will deliver your messages to Ottawa.

Alongside this deal, the Harper government is trying to speed through the sale of Nexen, a major Canadian oil and gas company, to the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), one of China’s massive state-owned oil companies.4 The $15 billion-dollar Nexen takeover will open the floodgates to a wave of foreign buyouts of Canada's natural resources.

If FIPA passes, a Chinese company can take over Canadian resources and then sue Canadian governments – provincial or federal – in secret, if the government does anything that threatens the company’s profits.

Canadian law or government decision – even ones that protect Canadian jobs, our environment, our economy and our families – could be fought in secret tribunals outside of our legal system. Arbitrators unaccountable to the Canadian public would have the power

8:46PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

PLEASE sign - we have to stop HARPER literally selling our democracy NOW!

Among other things - ... Incredibly, if BC tries to regulate or block Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, Sinopec, another Chinese state-owned oil company with investments in Canada’s natural resource infrastructure, could sue the BC government for damages, and we may never even hear about it the case or its results. ...

In two weeks, Prime Minister Harper could pass the most secretive and sweeping trade deal of a generation.

This deal would pave the way for a massive natural resource buyout and allow foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government in secret tribunals, restricting Canadians from making democratic decisions about our economy, environment and energy.1

Most Canadians have never heard of FIPA, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement, because Prime Minister Harper is trying to sneak it through without a single vote or debate in Parliament.2,3

Canadians have a right to determine our future, but this agreement will undermine our democratic rights and lock us into an inescapable path of foreign-ownership and resource extraction until at least 2040.

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