Etched on the ballot before me were names of candidates who mustered the courage to run for public office. It was a noble act, I told myself, for a number individuals to have contemplated the notion of being in the service of others; becoming a public servant for the City of St. John’s.
It was the municipal elections last Tuesday, September 26th, and having dropped off my ballot at City Hall before the polls closed, I fulfilled my democratic duty. While the elections were held just days ago, civic engagement was already in full display. This brand of civic engagement, however, didn’t require a ballot filled nor the ballyhoo that comes with politics. The election was just one of the many ways we saw the public sector and innovation together in the weeks prior.
Attempting to solve the problem of food insecurity, the team from Enactus Memorial showcased Project Sucseed at the Bruneau Centre at the University. Project Sucseed is a social enterprise that utilizes hydroponic technology, while employing the skills and talents of local at-risk youth. It is a collaborative endeavor that brings together Memorial’s Enactus team and Canadian charity, Choices for Youth; showing how synergies can arise when people get together and try to instill change. It’s such a novel idea that it won last year’s Enactus World Cup competition, taking the top prize in a competition that featured more than 7000 teams from all over the world. Thereafter, the project has received a lot of attention — which includes securing a partnership with Tim Hortons — that Premier Dwight Ball, showed his public support for last week, just before the team’s departure for this year’s annual competition in London, England. The team placed second in the 2017 Enactus World Cup as well as placing first in the 1 Race 2 End Waste contest and second in the World Water Race; continuing their strong trajectory.
Then came Invest Atlantic, Atlantic Canada’s pre-eminent event that brings together promising start-ups, entrepreneurs and private investors. While the event had its inaugural launch in 2010, it was the first time that it has been hosted by the Genesis Centre, and the first time the conference was held here in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. This was a great opportunity to showcase the many great things happening in the local entrepreneurial landscape and many of the local startups did not disappoint. Envisioning a greener future, startups such as Empowered Homes, PowerHV and Seaformatics made manifest cleantech innovations at the regional event. Whether it be finding ways to harness renewable energy or finding innovative approaches that results in better energy efficiencies, this generation of entrepreneurs are making a positive impact on the environment. So much so that the City of St. John’s — with City Manager Kevin Breen in attendance — was taking a keen interest in how to better engage various stakeholders in fostering aspiring entrepreneurs and creating more start-ups.
Not to be outdone by the festivities that took place during Invest Atlantic, the Genesis Centre held its mainstay pitch event, Pitch & Pick, that same week. Being the culminating event to the Centre’s Evolution program, six start-ups were given the opportunity to showcase their business ideas, while the general audience picked their favorite one. The winning start-up happened to be PatientMe, who was also the winner of Hacking Health, a health themed hackathon that took place earlier this spring. Trying to solve a supply and demand problem for doctors and patients, PatientMe is developing a mobile application that assists people in finding a family doctor. This is an especially fitting solution for a province that is in need of innovative disruption, where 40% of taxpayers’ money is spent on healthcare costs. With Minister Christopher Mitchelmore, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry & Innovation (TCII) for the province in attendance, the event provided a glimpse of how start-ups can play a role in making Newfoundlanders and Labradorians healthier and more fit.
Last week’s events not only presented an opportunity for the people of the province to showcase the abundance of talent that exists here or the plentiful innovations that have arisen, but it also manifests civic engagement and how entrepreneurship can be a catalyst for positive change for people and the environment. After the votes have been tallied, Danny Breen was elected as the next mayor of St. John’s. He credited his win to people’s reception to his message of “optimism and positivity”. It is clear that the city has much of that having witnessed it all last week.
By: Angelo Casanas|Director, Programs & Partnerships