Changemakers Tell Stories of Empathy and Impact

Jonathan Lewis speaking on the power of empathy for social entrepreneurs.

Jonathan Lewis speaking on the power of empathy for social entrepreneurs.

When Denise Taschereau, SFU alumna and CEO of Fareware, sits down with new customers she makes sure to talk about the “costs of change.” She has discovered the value of introducing the change management concept to her clients early, as she knows from experience what they might feel as they begin to work with a new promotional goods supplier.
This counter-intuitive sales tactic came to light during her talk on the power of empathy as part of the Second Annual SFU Changemaker Showcase. Co-hosted last night by Ashoka Canada and RADIUS at Lost + Found Café, over 100 changemakers and social entrepreneurs came together for an inspirational night of speakers, lightning pitches and networking with likeminded souls.
Another speaker, CEO Alice Park of real time ride sharing application go2gether, a recent alumna of SFU Beedie and multiple courses run by RADIUS Director Shawn Smith, kicked off the event by sharing her journey to become a social entrepreneur. Along the way, she moved from personal frustration to an impossible to ignore drive for social change, and particularly to working to address the environmental crisis. Once Alice decided that traffic congestion was a powerful leverage point, she employed her powers of empathy to do thousands of hours of customer research to help her understand people’s motivations. She knew that she had to position her company’s services from their perspective, not hers, so instead of discussing the carbon cutting benefits of carpooling she focused on how a daily carpool can help to cover the driver’s gas and insurance costs.
After hearing from Alice and Denise, the crowd enjoyed a series of passionate and speedy Lightening Pitches from impact entrepreneurs with new ideas, and then Jonathan C. Lewis took the microphone as the keynote speaker. Jonathan has a impressive record of starting diverse and resilient organizations to address injustice and create economic opportunities for the world’s poor.
Jonathan spoke of his work on Café Impact video series where he interviewed 22 mid-career social impact entrepreneurs and community change makers. Surprisingly, he discovered a single set of three lessons from this diverse group of leaders: “Witness injustice, be empathetic, and embrace listenership.” In his humble and sincere manner, Jonathan spoke about how every individual interviewed had had first hand experiences with injustices. They opened their hearts and felt how others feel, and continued the practice through making a  habit of listening as they built their teams and organizations.
For the audience of social impact change makers, the SFU Changemaker Showcase held much to learn, but there was also reason to celebrate. RADIUS had been launched at last years’ SFU Changemaker Showcase and thus reached an important milestone this year: its first birthday. After hearing an update from Ventures Program Director, Donovan Woollard, about the many activities of RADIUS over the last year, the audience broke into an impromptu version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to RADIUS.

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