The mission of St. Paul’s University College is to research and teach knowledge, skills, and values needed to address complex local and global development issues.
St. Paul’s GreenHouse – A Social Impact Incubator
GreenHouse’s mandate is to help youth build impactful ideas and ventures. GreenHouse makes a unique and impactful contribution to Waterloo Region’s innovation ecosystem by delivering tailored supports for social entrepreneurs, which results in businesses that have a blended impact and revenue model.
It all begins with University of Waterloo students: Those who want to develop practical solutions to social and environmental problems but don’t know how to start, and those who have an idea of how to address a specific problem, but aren’t sure how to develop, test, and scale it.
Students live with other program peers and attend weekly workshops that apply core business thinking and design thinking to social and environmental issues. The workshops help students define problem areas and potential value propositions, prototype and test their ideas, build networks of advisors, submit funding proposals, and ‘pitch’ to collaborators and potential funders. Throughout the process, students develop employability and an entrepreneurial skill set, including both technical and soft skills from creating work plans to conducting market research, to building project teams and much more. They also develop leadership skills and the ability to engage big ideas and put them into action, not to mention that they get to be a part of a community and build their network of connections to support them along the way.
GreenHouses’s immersion model is vital to its success: Students live in residence and collaborate with each other on their own schedule in a dedicated ‘Discovery Lab’ space. In the short time since GreenHouse first opened its doors in the Fall of 2013, it has launched more than 30 social ventures that have generated over $500,000 in revenue and donations. These ventures have progressed through to the discovery and validation stages, and many continue to operate in either Waterloo Region or Toronto. These ventures are being supported by other partners in the Waterloo-GTA innovation corridor, including Velocity, Communitech, the Accelerator Centre, MaRS and the School for Social Entrepreneurs.
Support for GreenHouse’s Social Impact Fund has the potential to have a significant impact on our current and future students. A donation of $5,000 to the Social Impact Fund would provide 2-4 students with the opportunity to further their ventures, while a capital donation of $2,500 will furnish accommodations for one student.
Volunteers with experience in a variety of areas are also welcomed, and have significant impact on our students’ ability to grow and learn. Just two hours of your time providing a workshop in an area like design thinking, research techniques, building a team, marketing, sales, corporate forms, and many other areas, could provide meaningful insight and learning for all of our GreenHouse students. One-on-one direct mentoring with a student is also a great way to contribute to student development and facilitate their success. Your time, given in the form of in-person meetings, phone calls, or e-communication, can be the catalyst for a student overcoming a specific hurdle, accessing a new network, and ultimately finding success with their venture.
Please consider the variety of ways that a gift of time, talent or funds can impact these leaders of tomorrow.
In order for students to move their prospective ventures from idea validation through to venture launch, they seek funding to support everything from prototyping and testing their products and services, to conducting research in the field, to print costs, to legal fees, and to patenting a product. Each term, students compete for funds through the Social Impact Fund – pitching their concept, as well as their immediate needs – in the forms of both a project proposal and a boardroom pitch to judges. The Social Impact Fund is provided through the support of donors, and would not be possible otherwise.
Students are able to compete for up to $1,000 for research, convening, and feasibility study projects, and $2,500 for developing, launching, and testing projects per term; however, the need is significantly greater. With increased support to our social venture funding, we will be able to provide short-term, immediate-need funds to students who require small amounts to move a project forward in the short term, as well as larger funding for students who have needs on a bigger scale (such as licensing or manufacturing).
Finally, launch funds will also be available for students who are ready to take their venture to the next level. This high-level funding could be made available for one student or venture annually, who would then be able to dedicate themselves full-time to the launch of their venture of tomorrow.