Meet Social Spark: A non-profit organization that empowers today’s youth to tackle societal problems
Social Spark is a youth-driven non-profit organization that empowers youth, at the university level, to tackle pressing societal problems. How do we accomplish that? We provide one-on-one mentorship, funding, education, and exclusive networking opportunities to young people to train them to become our next generation of promising social entrepreneurs and leaders. At Social Spark, we believe that young people have the potential to not only be leaders of the future, but also change-makers of the present if empowered through appropriate training and guidance. Social Spark grew from our co-founders’ experiences with youth leadership, social change efforts and entrepreneurship. We believe that businesses have responsibilities extending beyond shareholders to include the communities they operate in, and recognize that our generation wants more than a stable job. Social entrepreneurs work towards a social objective measured by a positive return in society as opposed to business entrepreneurs whose primary objective is to increase the amount of profit generated. At Social Spark, we believe in taking part in jobs that provide a meaning for us and can positively impact the world.
When I was growing up, I was drawn to the problem of poverty and the uneven distribution of wealth in our world. Even today, while young people in developed countries can go to school, pursue their dreams, and come back to a nice home at the end of the day, other young people in developing countries don’t have the same privilege. Many live their days fighting for basic necessities such as water and a safe shelter to live in, and don’t have the opportunities that we have to pursue their dreams. What drew me to Social Spark is the power they bestow in youth to create a new and a better world. Muhammad Yunus, the father of social business, explained in his book Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs that “poverty is created by deficiencies in the institution we have built,” and once creative minds come up with the design for a successful social business prototype, it can be replicated endlessly to serve a vast number of people. At Social Spark, youth can obtain the toolkits and knowledge that they need in order to build successful social businesses to tackle the world’s most pressing social and economic problems.
We deliver three programs at Social Spark to engage students at all levels of interest and involvement in social innovation. Since the founding of Social Spark, we have hosted monthly Speaker Series at our University of Toronto (U of T) hub with speakers including Vicki Saunders, Special Advisor, Innovation at Ryerson University and Assaf Weisz from Venture Deli to explore whether an organization can be profitable and socially responsible at the same time. The winners of our interactive Case Challenge had the opportunity to work with Good Foot Delivery, a Toronto-based social business, to implement their business solutions. Our Social Venture Challenge (SVC) teams are currently in the process of making social business plans to provide accountable healthcare for citizens, help non-governmental organizations fundraise, sell Tanzanian-made sweaters to boost Tanzania’s economy, and lower grocery expenses for low-income families. These three programs that we offer also run at U of T’s sister hubs at the University of Western Ontario, and Ryerson University.
In order to successfully build and run these three programs, our social partners have been a tremendous help in providing us with the knowledge, skill set, and funding needed to sustain them. Mentorships and guidance from advisors at MaRS, especially in the initial months have helped Social Spark grow to what it is today. “MaRS offers an unparalleled network and resources both with the city of Toronto and beyond, and we look forward to continue building our relationship,” said Saksham Uppal, an advisor for Social Spark. In 2013, we are looking at hosting another series of events at the University of Western Ontario and U of T, including speaker series, case challenges and a SVC final pitch. Social Spark looks forward to expanding its reach through collaborations and partnerships with like-minded organizations.
If you are passionate about making the world a better place and are looking for the right people to learn from and to team up with, join Social Spark! Muhammad Yunus believes “social business gives everybody the opportunity to participate in the kind of world we all want to see, and citizens can have a completely new space in which to mobilize their creativity and talent for solving the problems of today’s society.” Unleash your creativity and get involved in a new kind of business – social business to serve people around the world. For more information, visit our website at www.thesocialspark.org.