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Student Writing Gets Shelter Animals a 2nd Chance

There’s nothing like applying academic skills to a real-life context and doing good at the same time…especially for elementary school students!

Teacher Kensey Jones wanted her Grade 2 class to make an impact with their upcoming persuasive essay assignment. So, she approached Christie Peters, the director of the animal shelter where she volunteers in Richmond, Virginia, with a proposition. Peters agreed, and the persuasive paragraph assignment for Jones’ class became this: Write a paragraph from the perspective of an animal at the shelter that’s not easily adoptable, trying to convince someone to take it home.

Snow, a dog from the shelter, visited the classroom at St. Michael’s Episcopal School so that the students could see an animal from the shelter and learn how the shelter operates. Each child was then assigned an animal and told a little bit about it and its personality.

This is a lovely story because the assignment is about persuasive writing, but teaches so much more. The students:

  • Get an opportunity to use their creative writing and artistic skills, and to see how writing and art can have an impact.
  • Learn about empathy – putting themselves in others’ shoes, for both the animals and potential adoptive animal parents. What would they want included in the essay if they were the animal? What information would they want to know if they were the human considering adopting the animal?
  • Learn that they have the power to bring about positive change in their community, perhaps in ways that they’d never considered. What an empowering message for a young child!

These students did bring about positive change – out of the 24 animals selected to have stories written about them, 23 were adopted!

“As an educator, my my biggest hope and dream is that I want the students to know no matter how young you are, you can put your mind to something and you can make a true difference,” she told


Resource Alert! Starting a Social Enterprise in Canada

More and more, society is realizing the power of social enterprise to create opportunities to be in business while creating stronger communities, and people are on board with it!

However, like all entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs can use various kinds of support as they dive into the world of social enterprise: funding, training and advice, legal help, and space in which to conduct their business activities.

We’ve attempted in this blog post to put together some resources for Canadian social entrepreneurs who are just starting out, to get them started on their journey to starting a social enterprise. We hope you’ll find it useful!

General Resources




Do you know about a resource that’s not listed?

Contact Sarah at info@communityinnovationhub to get it included!

Resource Alert! Firstport, Scotland

Social enterprises often need support to get off the ground – financial support, staff training, and advice from other social entrepreneurs. Some can even benefit from time in an incubator designed to help the staff learn the most effective ways to grow a business as they’re doing so. Firstport is a charitable organization that provides all of these things for start-up social enterprises in Scotland. Check them out at

Firstport opened its doors in 2007. As part of the Scotland Can Do network, Firstport is part of Scotland’s ecosystem of support for people and organizations that want to start a social enterprise. It offers social entrepreneurs a comprehensive selection of support options.


Currently, Firstport offers five forms of funding for social enterprise start-ups:

Pounds for Purpose –> For social entrepreneurs aged 16 – 26 with an idea that will positively impact their community. 500 pounds.

Social Entrepreneurs Fund – Start It –> Start-up funding for a business idea that addresses a social, environmental, and/or community issue. 5000 pounds.

Social Entrepreneurs Fund – Build It –> For individuals who have tried and tested an idea and want to turn it into a full-time job. Up to 25 000 pounds for living costs.

Social Entrepreneurs Fund – Boost It –> A fund to strengthen social enterprises that have been trading for up to three years so that they can keep trading. Up to 50 000 pounds as a repayable grant.

Catalyst Fund –> A fund offering loans to social enterprises looking for a significant amount of social investment that can’t access funding any other way. Repayable loans of at least 50 000.

Social Innovation Competition –> Annual competition offering financial prizes to ground-breaking ideas designed to solve Scotland’s environmental and/or social issues. 3 prizes of 5000 pounds.

You can find more information about Firstport’s funding options here –>

Business Support

Every business can benefit from support to grow into the best that it can be. Firstport offers several forms of business support to Scottish social enterprises:

Incubators –> Firstport can help social entrepreneurs access two social enterprise incubators. LaunchMe serves all of Scotland, and the Social Enterprise Growth Accelerator serves Glasgow-based businesses.

Training and Workshops –> Although no online workshops appear to be scheduled for 2022 at this point, in 2021 Firstport ran online webinars on topics of interest to all business owners: Governance, Finance, Legal, Marketing, Market Research, Planning, Cashflow, SWOT Analysis, Mission and Objectives, and Bookkeeping, among others.

One-to-One, Group Advice –> Firstpoint’s Just Enterprise program sets social enterprise owners up with either a coach or a small group to talk through the issues and questions involved with starting and growing a social enterprise.

What If…North Edinburgh –> The What If…North Edinburgh program is an in-person support for social enterprise owners in the area, providing advice, funding, and access to events.

The Firstpoint site also has an extensive Resource library.

Scottish readers…definitely check Firstport out and pass the website along to a friend who wants to open a social enterprise!

Social Enterprise Profile: The Good Lobby

There are a lot of organizations out there trying to make the world a more just and equitable place. The Good Lobby is one of them.

The Good Lobby started in 2015 as a volunteer-based civic start-up. Today, its paid staff work from offices in Brussels and Milan use the numerous resources that the organization has at its disposal to help make lobbying a powerful means of promoting social change.

One of the The Good Lobby’s main activities is to match grassroots projects to people in a network of powerful lobbyists that includes philanthropists, consultants, and volunteers from law firms and a variety of progressive companies. The organization also offers:

  • Educational opportunities in subjects such as communication, activism, lobbying, and other forms of participatory politics
  • An incubator for promising, citizen-driven projects
  • Campaign support behind projects that meet their criteria
  • A community of people and organizations ready to learn more about how effective lobbying can make a difference in the world
  • A yearly awards program recognizing the efforts of individuals and organizations in nine different categories who have successfully brought about social change

You can read about some of the ways that The Good Lobby has impacted other organizations and larger society here:

Organizations like The Good Lobby are very important. Effective lobbying is a skill – it’s difficult to know, especially when you’re a new social impact organization that may have few connections, what the best way is to make your voice heard and how to meet the people that you need to in order to get your message in front of those who need to hear it most. The skills education, opportunities for meeting people, and opportunities to craft the most effective lobbying strategy possible make The Good Lobby an invaluable resource!

Unfortunately, it looks like their activities are primarily based in Europe at the moment, but I’m sure they’d be a great partner for someone who wanted to try something similar in Canada…could it be you?

Best Regards,

The Community Innovation Staff

Social Enterprise Profile: DeafCan! Coffee

Who doesn’t love coffee? (Well, Staff Member Sarah doesn’t, but we all know about her.) Even Staff Member Sarah keeps coffee in her home, and enthusiastically supports the mission of DeafCan! Coffee.

DeafCan! Coffee runs out of a small coffee shop in the Carribean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Kingston, Jamaica. A group of Deaf teen boys from CCCD, painfully mindful of the stigma and lack of opportunity associated with being Deaf, met with Evelyn Clarke, a Deaf man in a neighbouring community who taught them how to grow and roast coffee. The students started their own business roasting, packaging, and selling coffee at their school, training other students and operating a mobile shop in their community.

DeafCan Coffee’s vision is “a future of empowered Deaf people thriving in their careers and a broader society that recognizes the inherent worth and abilities of all people” with a very clear mission:

We exist to inspire Deaf youth to believe in their talents and abilities, engage their passions and interests and foster creative, positive thought in a healthy community that builds each other up and equips them for life, work and family. We will accomplish this through a sustainable coffee venture known by customers for a great product, talented staff and enjoyable experience.

Deaf Can Website

Deaf Can! Coffee does everything using sign language, from training staff and training them to train other staff to taking and filling orders (from everyone, not just people who can use sign language) to talking to people about Deaf Can! Coffee and what it does. The goal is to empower Deaf youth, to counteract for both them and for society the message currently out there that disabled people in general and Deaf people in particular aren’t able to do anything, and in doing so make people reconsider the narrative that Deaf people need to be “cured” or “fixed” (again, a common narrative about disabled people in general). One of Deaf Can! Coffee co-founders explains:

The services that Deaf Can! Coffee offers to the community include:

  • A wide range of beverages out of their small shop at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf.
  • Catered coffee service for special events
  • An expo mini-shop

Bringing Deaf Can! Coffee to any sort of corporate event to provide coffee service services is an excellent way for a business to show its commitment to corporate social responsibility.

The most important thing about Deaf Can! Coffee is that the staff love being involved and are fully supportive of its mission. Several speak about it in videos on, but this one was especially striking:

Look for more of these profiles in the near future!

Best Regards,

The Community Innovation Hub Staff

Resource Alert! Resource Alert!

We had some interesting news land in our inbox for organizations interested in hiring summer students, courtesy a website from the University of Waterloo.

The Student Work Placement Program

The Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) is federal Canadian program designed to give post-secondary students taking a course of study that includes co-op placements paid experience in their field of study. The SWPP has historically provided:

  • Wage subsidies to employers (registered Canadian businesses and organizations) to create quality employment placements for students in programs with a co-op placement component – up to $5000 for each student hired through the program, and up to $7,000 for each first-year student hired, or student from an under-represented group –> women in STEM, persons with disabilities, newcomers, Indigenous students, and visible minorities.
  • Assistance for colleges, universities, polytechnics and CEGEPs to find students to fill these placements.

The SWPP provides post-secondary students with employment opportunities, and businesses with employees with specialized knowledge and expertise – a win for everyone! And it’s just gotten even better.

Changes to the SWPP

Because of COVID-19, the Canadian government has changed eligibility for the SSWP to make it more beneficial and easier to access for both applicants and employers. Until March 31, 2022, the SSWP will:

  • Subsidize up to 75% of a hired student’s wages (up to $7500)
  • Subsidize wages for a shortened work term (8 – 16 wks).
  • Expand project eligibility to include work-from-home positions.
  • Add post-secondary institutions to the list of eligible employers.
  • Remove the “net new” restriction from student eligibility so that all co-op students are eligible for funding.

Check out the University of Waterloo website on the changes for more information on the SWPP and the recent changes

Remember, these changes are only in effect until March 31. Students can apply for the list of employers currently accepting applications for placements here, and employers can apply for the wage subsidy here.

Exciting Things Happening at the Community Innovation Hub!

So, it’s been a while since we published…but we’re going to be more consistent, because the next couple of months are full of excitement and we want you involved in it!

We have been working hard at the Community Innovation Hub to improve upon the resources that we offer to communities of faith and secular organizations that are interested in using social innovation and social enterprise to give back to community. On the website, we have:

  • On the website, reorganized the over 100 podcast interviews that Peter Miller has done with social innovators into categories.
  • Added a database of over 150 ideas that communities of faith, secular organizations, small groups and even individuals looking to engage with and give back to community can put in place. Please add your own ideas!

Find both the podcasts and the database on the Get Informed! page of the website.

Sarah is also in the process of revamping our kits to make them more streamlined and accessible. The bulky Starter Kit that members received when they they joined is now five smaller kits, stripped down to the basics so that they’re easy-to-understand and implement:

  • Social Innovation: A Starter Kit
  • Social Innovation: An Assessment Kit
  • Social Innovation: A Planning Kit
  • Social Innovation: An Implementation Kit
  • Social Innovation: An Evaluation Kit

An “Ideas Kit” is in the works. All kits are now available, free of charge, to anyone interested in using social innovation to give back to to community. Email Sarah at for more details.

Changemakers Virtual Conference Centre

Our partner in social innovation at the United Church of Canada, the EDGE Network for Ministry Development, has been running a Changemakers Virtual Conference Centre on the WHOVA platform since September 14. UCC’s ecumenical partners have been using the platform to run engaging and dynamic online events, and will continue to do so until November 15th. Since Sarah has been helping EDGE coordinate and run these events, and since one of the events has been on ongoing series on how to run Community Innovation Challenge, we feel the Community Innovation Hub has got a stake in this celebration of learning and community and would really encourage you to look at what’s coming up and see if anything interests you.

The series on how to run a Community Innovation Challenge in particular is something that we at the Community Innovation would really recommend. Sessions from October 15 to November 14 include:

  • Leadership Empowerment Design Jam – October 18, 1-2pm ET
  • Authentic Engagement for Shared Vision – October 19, 1-2pm ET
  • Evaluation and Impact Management – October 26, 1-2pm ET
  • Making it Happen – November 2, 1-2 pm ET
  • Sustainability – November 9, 1-2 pm ET

All of these sessions are accessible to you by registering once at the Eventbrite link for the series. To view the earlier sessions that you missed, visit the Social Innovation Challenge YouTube Channel.

The Changemakers Virtual Conference Centre is also available to host online community innovation challenges using the Whova platform. Please contact Sarah at for more information.

Love and Justice Gathering

We also have another UCC online event going on using the Changemakers Virtual Conference Centre, from November 3-7. The 2021 Love and Justice Gathering is a celebration of the important work that the United Church of Canada has done and continues to do to make a more just and loving world. This year’s theme is Engage.

With three different tracks (Listen, Discern, and Action/Put into Practice) and daily themes of engaging deep spirituality, daring justice, courageous community, bold discipleship, and hope, the Love and Justice Gathering offers a space designed to inform, inspire, challenge, educate and provide opportunities for networking and connections.

Love and Justice Gathering Attendees can look forward to opportunities to:

  • Worship daily with teams from different United Church of Canada regions and preachers from all over the world
  • Learn from workshop sessions that educate, enlighten, and speak to the soul
  • Listen to plenary sessions made up keynote addresses (including some from youth and young people) on topical issues, and then engage in learning through conversation and discussion.
  • Reflect on the future and share personal vision with others.

We invite all partners to create an Exhibitor’s booth and upload a video or recorded power point presentation to upload to the Whova platform to let people know what they do. Email Sarah at for more information!

Be a part of this unique opportunity to create knowledge for action by inspiring collective leadership for different ministries. If you are seeking a connectional space for communities of faith, local and global partners who are involved in the justice seeking work, the Love and Justice Gathering is for you!

Register here

More Information and Resources

Information about these activities, EDGEy Conversations, Cohorts, and Idea Days, and upcoming activities put on by other ecumenical partners, gets posted to the EDGE Calendar. On September 13th, the Community Innovation Hub took over EDGEy Conversations with Sarah’s interview of CIH member Charles MacDonald! Keep checking out the calendar to see what’s going on!

We are so excited to be a part of UCC’s work in so many exciting ways! We hope that you’ll join the community of love and learning that we’re building.

In Community,

The Community Innovation Hub Staff

Survey Shows Resilience of Ontario Nonprofits During Pandemic

The results of a survey done by the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) and Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) show that Ontario nonprofits have faced challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with an ability to adapt, and a commitment to service continuation through the lockdowns and as the province rebuilds. The resilience of Ontario’s nonprofit sector during the year since the pandemic started is especially remarkable considering four trends also identified in that time period:

  • Two-thirds of nonprofits experienced an increased demand for services, while one-half of nonprofits lost revenue for pandemic-related reasons.
  • A minority of nonprofits received emergency support from either the federal or provincial government. Small organizations and those without paid staff were hit especially hard.
  • Experiences vary by region.
  • Nonprofits lost a massive amount of volunteers because of the pandemic.

Given these factors, it’s impressive that the the nonprofit sector not only continued to meet peoples’ needs during the pandemic, but also stayed cohesive enough that the ONN and AFO could, from the 3000 responses to their survey, generate 5 recommended actions that the Ontario Government take to ensure that they continue to operate as effectively as possible:

  • Offer a new round of Small Business and Nonprofit Grants, improving communication so that all eligible businesses realize that they can apply.
  • Apply an equity lens to recovery efforts to that volunteer-run nonprofits, nonprofits that serve marginalized groups, and other nonprofits that got low levels of emergency funding or that weren’t eligible for emergency funding during the pandemic receive some support during the recovery period.
  • Support a sustainable and equitable recovery by investing in the low-carbon, women-majority care economy.
  • Invest in the workforce development and digital infrastructure that supports nonprofit service delivery.
  • Extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

You can find out more about the survey and the recommendations to the Ontario Government in the report that the ONN/AOF just released about their findings: Share with someone you know!

Thank you to Ontario’s nonprofit owners, administrators, and employees for taking such good care of us!

The Diana Awards

The 2021 Diana Awards were held virtually on June 28th, honouring the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales and her belief that young people have the power to change the world. 400 young people from around the world were nominated this year for their efforts to selflessly create and maintain positive change. contributions on a global basis.

Peter Miller talked to three of this year’s Diana Award recipients on the Giveback Podcast.

Avery Parkinson

Avery and her younger sister Rowan run a youth charity, The Maple Wishes Foundation, that serves as a platform for 11 amazing projects. Avery is in high school and Rowan is in middle school. These young women have a vision to create community and empower others!

Learn more about Avery, Rowan, and The Maple Wishes Foundation by:

Neha Shukla

Pensylvania resident Neha Shukla Neha created the SixFeetApart device to help people effectively social distance, runs workshops about innovation for young people, and plans to write a book – and she’s just in high school!

You can find out more about Nehu by:

Katelyn Wang

Katelyn Wang is studies pathobiology and global health at the University of Toronto. She is also the Executive Director of L.I.G.H.T. (Lead, Inspire, Grow, Hope, Transform) , a youth-led design jam incubator for community projects. Katelyn would like to expand the L.I.G.H.T. model to other Ontario communities, then throughout Canada, then globally. Find out more about Katelyn and the L.I.G.H.T. team (made up mostly of high school youth leaders) by:

It’s wonderful to talk to young people with such big hearts for strengthening their communities, and that organizations like The Diana Award are out there to support them in their work. Congratulations to all the Diana Award nominees and winners – keep up the great work!

You can learn more about the Diana Award by visiting the website at

You can also watch this year’s Diana Award Ceremony at

Bridging the Gap Through Dancing

Late in 2020, Peter Miller interviewed Sarah Robichaud for our Giveback Economy Podcast. Sarah is a dancer, choreographer, writer, tv star and founder of an organization called Dancing with Parkinson’s.

Dancing with Parkinson’s (DWP) gives seniors with Parkinson’s disease a fun, safe environment in which they can connect with others through dance. The experience reduces isolation in seniors by letting them be a part of an artistic community, and gives them a chance to both get some exercise and to enjoy the dancing experience. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Sarah has shifted to offering sessions virtually, 7 days a week.

She has also spearheaded two Bridging Generations Through Dance Projects, where seniors involved with DWP and youth from the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre used dance and the choreographic process to connect with and learn from each other. Michael Krauss Productions caught moments from the latest Bridging Generations through Dance Project on film and created a short documentary out of the footage, available for viewing on the Michael Krauss website and on the DWP website.

Sarah was recently declared a Community Hero by the MLSE/LG #LifesGood initiative. See what she did when she found out!

To learn more about Sarah Robichaud and her work, listen to her full conversation with Peter Miller on the Giveback Economy Podcast. And check out the Dancing with Parkinson’s program! It is free of charge and runs 7 days a week –> 

Thank you, Sarah Robichaud, for your commitment to making your community a better place!