Creating Impact Through Social Business and MyVision

Friday, November 23rd was the day of MyVision McGill’s biggest event, the Social Innovation Summit. Designed to spread awareness about social business and its innovative applications in the real world, the Summit’s theme was “Scaling the Impact”. Attendees had the unique opportunity to  learn about the importance of scalable business models for advancing social innovation, as well as how impact measurement can be leveraged to align an organization’s strategy with its mission. While it was my first time attending a summit event in Montreal, let alone one about social business, I was surprised and intrigued to learn of social intrapreneurship, making environmentally friendly investments, and applying social innovation concepts to everyday activities in major financial institution like Desjardins.

Larry Markowitz, Canadian lawyer and entrepreneur, taught about financing energy project developers, while Julie Savaria, social impact consultant, explained the process of embracing ambiguity in the design thinking process. It was an enlightening experience. As I sat through the conference, listening to keynote speakers discuss how social innovation has changed over the last 20 years, it was clear to me that social business must be relentless in its pursuit for scale – especially in a world of where our top priorities are condensed into a list of profit margins. MyVision McGill’s Social Innovation Summit was able to deliver a lesson on turning a small idea into an impactful business.

As I sat through the conference, listening to keynote speakers discuss how social innovation has changed over the last 20 years, it was clear to me that social business must be relentless in its pursuit for scale…

Supporting purpose-driven business is the goal of MyVision, a McGill student-run social enterprise which educates students about social innovation, provides consulting services to social entrepreneurs, runs a social enterprise to help lower high school dropout rates in Montreal, and connects youth with professionals in the social impact space around the world. To me, there is something truly fascinating about a business that prioritizes social value over profit.

While I cannot compare MyVision to Deloitte or McKinsey, I can say with confidence that these large corporations may have something to learn from the unique way MyVision practices business. MyVision’s McGill chapter club was founded under the mentorship of Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who worked to make MyVision McGill’s home to Montreal’s first student-run social business. Yunus described the expanding social business movement as a dismissal of profit, and a focus exclusively on people and planet when he said “that’s what I call social business: a nondividend company dedicated to solving human problems”.

From advising organizations on creating innovative and socially productive solutions, to addressing the alarmingly high secondary-school dropout rates in Montreal, MyVision McGill works to ensure that all students have the opportunity to practice innovation and make change. The Social Innovation Summit was a fantastic example of a small group of students organizing an event to educate others on leaving a lasting impact through business, and every keynote speaker communicated a different viewpoint on doing this. The event also put the lessons taught by the panel professionals directly into the hands of the students, with a case crack and networking discussion for all of the participants and keynote speakers at the end of the event.

…MyVision McGill works to ensure that all students have the opportunity to practice innovation and make change.

There is often a common misconception that companies must be either purpose-driven or profit-driven, but can never be both. MyVision’s Social Innovation Summit showed me that this is no longer the case, and that purpose can truly fuel profit. At the event, I heard no talk of corporate social responsibility and donations to charities, but instead about businesses tackling real social and environmental problems using innovative business models and strategies. As MyVision’s business model continues to expand with more events like the Summit, it is certain that there is no limit to where the group of McGill students can go with spreading innovation in a socially beneficial manner.

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