Pledges for Change aims to set loose talented youth

Sponsored feature: presented by Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University

The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.

Pledges for Change 

Who’s involved in this project? 

Brennan Wong (executive director), Vinh Tran (director of communications and events), Christina Wang (igniteFAIR co-lead), Guilhem Paillet (igniteFAIR co-lead), Katherine Chan (Hacking Good co-lead) and Jaskiran Lamba (Hacking Good co-lead).

What are your goals for this project? 

Pledges for Change is a global, youth-led, non-profit organization with a single goal: to unleash the potential that young people have to take action and positively impact their communities. Each of the organization’s programs focuses on equipping young people with the skills and opportunities they need to create meaningful social change.

With our new project, Hacking Good, we want to engage young people in addressing the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. Hacking Good Toronto, the initiative’s inaugural event, will be running from November 17 to 19 at Cisco Canada’s Innovation Centre. Over the course of the weekend, our participants will be challenged to come up with innovative, tech-based solutions for some of the world’s most prominent social issues.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?

Our challenges include the uncertainty of meeting our participants’ needs, providing the best learning experiences and the satisfaction of our participants’ final products. However, with the support from leaders and mentors within the social and tech sector, we aim to provide the best space where our young participants can co-create, design and develop their ideas into tangible solutions.

Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)? 

Through the ups and downs that we faced as a not-for-profit startup, the Social Ventures Zone has always been in our corner. Since day one of our membership, we were connected with a coach, who has provided us with insight on our questions and challenges, informed from her past experiences in social entrepreneurship.

From having SVZ mentors serve as facilitators during the development of our organization’s strategy, to helping us determine the right marketing channels in order to most effectively engage our target audiences, the SVZ has offered a significant number of opportunities to take risks, learn and grow from our mistakes. Our membership with the SVZ has provided our team with a supportive space to explore what it means to practice social entrepreneurship as a not-for-profit, connect with networks to discuss and gain insight on our vision/mission/values, as well as identify and determine the best direction for our organization.

The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?

Part of our mandate is to encourage young people to create social change in their communities and around the world.

Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?

Transforming our audience feedback from our other projects and programs, we discovered that there was an incredible need for opportunities to combine digital skills with social impact. We hope Hacking Good Toronto can be a platform to engage in applied learning and provide a unique setting to explore different ways of volunteering 

What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?

Since 2013, we have focused on collaborating with nonprofit, corporate and government partners to plan, develop and launch innovative pilot projects that challenge young people to pledge to take meaningful action in support of the causes they care most about.

Over the next few years, we hope to grow our partnerships with local governments in order to launch igniteFAIRs in communities across Canada, thereby further increasing the exposure of non-profit organizations to youth, and engaging more young people with meaningful volunteer opportunities situated around them. Our hope is to create partnerships with tech giants such as Facebook, Google or Twitter. 

Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?

Ending extreme poverty by 2030 is an ambitious yet achievable goal, as long as all of us feel empowered to contribute to the social wellbeing of our communities. Donations are not enough to create sustainable, holistic impact. Our hope is to have hundreds of Hacking Good events take place in cities around the world, with each hackathon providing a platform for thousands of young people to design innovative, tech-based solutions that tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?

Technological trends are crucial to the success of any economy, but at the same time, they have also transformed the workforce. With a large number of jobs at risk due to the impacts of digitization and automation, young people must become increasingly equipped with a broad set of technical skills in order to succeed.

In a world where donor dollars are increasingly scarce as the need for non-profits continues to remain the same, digital tools created by young designers, developers and entrepreneurs will be highly sought after by the non-profit sector where organizations will be looking for innovative ways to increase their efficiency and effectiveness. 

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