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Augustana hosts sixth annual Spirit of the Land conference

Augustana hosts sixth annual Spirit of the Land conference

Marc Soberano to be one of the keynote speakers

 

Social enterprise and regenerative thinking will be explored and discussed at the sixth annual Spirit of the Land conference from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5 at Augustana Campus.

Spirit of the Land aspires to develop a positive culture as a principal foundation to address contemporary challenges in the environmental and economical culture of Alberta. This year’s theme, “Next Generation Thinking: Hopeful Economics for the 21st Century” focuses on social enterprise.

The Medium interviewed keynote speaker Marc Soberano, the founder and director of Building Up, to learn more about his story. Building Up is a non-profit social enterprise based in Toronto  that exists to assist “people with barriers to employment to have an opportunity to fight their communities’ social and environmental issues with economically viable solutions.”

Soberano said that innovative business models are necessary to solve complex societal issues. After learning from Shaun Loney, social entrepreneur and director of development at Aki energy, Soberano was inspired to create Building Up, which is now a leading Toronto non-profit.

Building Up combines social innovation with clean energy to train and employ people facing barriers such as poverty or a criminal record to long term employment.

“We’ve been around for about three years now. We take on different trade projects, primarily energy efficiency retrofit for affordable residential buildings,” said Soberano. “We’ll go in and replace faucets and toilets, for example, with new ones that use less water and therefore saves the building money.”

Rather than hire a group of plumbers, Building Up hires one plumber to supervise a crew of workers who face different barriers to employment. “Maybe they’re just coming out of jail, new to the country, or didn’t finish high school— they face different challenges that restrict them from getting into the trades,” said Soberano.

Building Up is designed to benefit communities and boost energy efficiency. “At this point we’ve saved something like 5 billion litres of water,” said Soberano.

Soberano said it is important to help people who are struggling to have confidence in themselves and provide for their families because “using these different projects gives them access to work and provides them with next steps”.

Looking forward, Soberano said that he’d like to be able to give everyone who wants a job, a job. “Right now we have about 500 people apply every year, and we can only take 50. I’d like to see that change,” said Soberano.

Soberano said that Building Up is not employing people to run a business, but running a business to employ people. “This is a different kind of lens to look through and it changes the decisions we make. We put people first. Profit is not seen as the end goal and they are more of a vehicle to support people,” said Soberano.

Soberano encourages young people to get involved with social enterprises. “Now’s the time to give it a shot. I started this when I was still living with my parents,” said Soberano.

“Social enterprise goes beyond just ‘win win’. Social enterprise is a great vehicle for change.”

Other Spirit of the Land speakers include: Darcy Wood, executive director of Aki Energy; Rob Avis, lead instructor and engineer at Verge Permaculture; and Sylvia McAdam, co-founder of Idle No More.

Find more information or register in the conference at www.spiritoftheland.ca.

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