Business for Change was the first of three events in the UBC Changemaking Series. Hosted by UBC's Centre for Community Engaged Learning and several student clubs, this series is for those eager to learn about making a positive impact in their communities.
Up next will be an event about changemaking in the arts on January 30 and an involvement fair about changemaking in science and tech industries on February 7.
Disputing the cutthroat image of businessmen I had after watching The Wolf of Wall Street one too many times, Business for Change, held on January 22, was about using business for more than just profit. The event offered the opportunity to listen to members of the community who have effectively implemented social enterprise in their careers, and a chance to discuss how to be a changemaker at any age with fellow students and other changemakers from around Vancouver.
I attended Business for Change to get a better understanding of the business world as an Arts student. I went in terrified that I would have to “network”, but ended up with an increased appreciation of business as a force for good (sorry, Jordan Belfort).
Business isn’t just for business students
As an International Relations major, it was really interesting for me to get out of my comfort zone and peer into a different field at this event, which was put on by the UBC Social Enterprise Club and the Bachelor and Master of Management Student Association.
One of the keynote speakers, Courtney Loftus, actually also studied International Relations at UBC. She originally intended to go into diplomacy, but realized the positive possibilities of business and is now working in sustainability integration at Lululemon. Hearing her story was an interesting look at how I could use my degree as a gateway into a diverse range of careers that could still have a positive impact.
Doing well and doing good
The event also brought up the concept of creating positive change in the world, and being financially successful while doing it. Another keynote speaker, Naitik Mehta, is one of the founders of NextBillion.org, a company that helps people with disabilities find inclusive employers and job opportunities. He decided to register his business as a for-profit organization rather than a not-for-profit, as he thought it would be easier to get it up and running.
During the panel discussion, Naitik stated that doing well financially and doing good in the world are not disparate ideas, and that to do well, you have to do good. Companies and organisations should be held accountable for the impact they have on communities. The success of a company, now and particularly in the future, could depend on how the public views that impact.
Making networking work
As I feared, opportunities for networking abounded, but I actually ended up enjoying talking to other students about the cool ways they were making changes in the organizations they’re involved in.
Some students were working to implement more sustainable resource-management practices while others wanted to focus on creating healthier team environments. It was great to see that there are so many people on campus who are passionate about making this community, and beyond, better.
Inspiring students to be changemakers in business and beyond
For me, the most inspiring moment of the night came from the third keynote speaker, Joe Roberts. Twenty-five years ago, Joe was homeless and living as a drug addict in the Downtown Eastside. With the help of a strong support network, Joe turned his life around and eventually formed the successful company Mindware Design Communications.
Financial success wasn’t enough, however, and Joe decided to become a professional speaker, encouraging people around the world to believe that they could change themselves and the world. He's a great example of someone paying forward their success.
Throughout the panel discussion and networking event, I began to realize that networking is a great way to get involved. The world needs socially-conscious entrepreneurs who can help shape a strong and sustainable economy!
If you’re interested in making a difference, check out the rest of the Changemaking Series, and be sure to register in advance for the Art for Change panel on January 30 and/or the Science and Tech for Change fair on February 7.