Zoya Jiwa is one of our 2016 Student Social Innovation Activators, and a RADIUS Fellow alumna. RADIUS launched the Social Innovation Activators program this year to bring together three emerging SFU changemakers who will help understand, shape, and activate a stronger social innovation community, engaging all faculties on all SFU campuses. Here Zoya shares her reflections.
Over the past four months, I have had the delight of participating in the Social Innovation Activators program. In essence, we are a group of three students who are researching, mapping, and curating resources to support SFU students in engaging with social innovation opportunities during their university studies.
Our first project was organizing the Social Innovation Speaker series, which introduced students and the external community to the concepts of social innovation and social entrepreneurship. We organized three separate events, each with a unique focus. For the first two events, we invited local influencers to share their past experiences and current projects to demonstrate tangible examples of social enterprise and creative innovation in various sectors. Finally, our third event, focused on school and community engagement opportunities at SFU, brought the perspectives of three student changemakers who expressed the positive role of entrepreneurial, experiential, and community-based courses in their academic journey. Witnessing our first project unravel was rewarding and motivating for all of us.
When I was accepted into the Social Innovation Activators program, I was excited, but not entirely sure of what to expect. While a couple of key projects of the program were revealed, such as coordinating the speaker series and investigating gaps in social innovation on campus, I learned that the frameworks used to meet the goals of each assignment were flexible and at our discretion.
This has been a common theme during my short time in the social innovation sphere. Although uncertainty and ambiguity are often viewed as sources of frustration, I am slowly learning to see the value that comes from exploring collective questions and divergent ideas instead of focusing on immediate, refined answers. This practice has reflected the process of our work: it’s sometimes confusing, usually unique, and never dull. After all, our initial project, along with our future projects, are about experimenting with different approaches to identify the strongest, most sustainable ways to support our school and community. Certain strategies may thrive. Others may flop. So far, we have seen a bit of both. However, after each project, no matter its result, we come back to the same question: “What did we learn?” Then, we carry those lessons and experiences with us as we move to our next assignment.
Truthfully, I am still figuring out the best way to articulate exactly what we do as Social Innovation Activators, mostly because the answer changes and evolves. However, I do know what this program has meant to me so far. It has reminded me of the importance of teamwork, communication, dedication; the importance of having a sense of humour and taking certain situations lightly; the importance of communication and asking for help. It has also opened my eyes to the exciting steps being taken on university and community levels to move forward mindfully in pursuing social innovation and sustainability. I look forward to continuing this journey while being a member of an enthusiastic team!