40 Indigenous youth pick up entrepreneurial savvy at StartUP Nations
Roughly 40 Indigenous youth from across Quebec gathered at Concordia from November 17 to 19 for the inaugural edition of StartUP Nations.
The collective entrepreneurship conference was initiated by the Table régionale d'économie sociale des Premieres Nations and highlighted the importance of developing the social economy in First Nations communities.
"Concordia is proud to host this pilot partnership project," says Anna Kruzynski, associate professor at the School of Community and Public Affairs (SCPA) and director of the Community Economic Development Program.
"We are committed to continue our work to cultivate long-term relationships with Indigenous communities."
The aim was to build on cultural values inherent in First Nations communities, such as collective and community enterprise, while integrating new entrepreneurial skills. The youth arrived with general ideas on the development of collective initiatives relevant to their community and worked on them throughout the weekend. They then presented them to a panel of “gentle dragons” on the final day.
People, planet and profit
Ka'nahsohon (Kevin Deer), an elder from Kahnawake, welcomed everyone to Tiohtià:ke (Montreal) during the opening ceremony on Friday.
The kick-off event was held at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), with a keynote talk by Kam’ayaam/Chachim’multhnii (Cliff Atleo, Jr.), an instructor in the Department of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. His research focuses on Indigenous governance, community development and political economy.
Atleo’s presentation, “Indigenous Economic Independence in an Era of Neoliberal Capitalism,” suggested that First Nations communities need to consider how to best navigate, adopt or resist mainstream capitalism while working to sustain their unique cultural identities.
He ended by encouraging the youth contingent to orient themselves to their projects in a way that is most relevant to their own community.
The event continued at the SCPA with activities to refine business models and explore sources of funding for social economy projects. Participants were shown a business model template that respects the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit.
Preparing for the gentle dragons
Saturday was spent at Concordia’s District 3 Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Collectif Tapiskwan started off the day with a workshop exploring the creation of cultural representations of Indigenous images. With the help of the D3 design team, these works were reinterpreted to develop imagery for print and web marketing materials.
The afternoon was spent in workshops designed to present more functional aspects of running a social economy enterprise, from marketing to management.
The final day of the conference was all about communications. In preparation for their afternoon pitches in front of the gentle dragons, the participants honed their storytelling skills in the morning, learning to communicate effectively and in a way that could interest potential investors.
As the groups prepared to head back to their communities, lead event organizer Karine Awashish, social economy advisor for the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission, invited the participants to return home proud of their renewed energy and new skills in social economy.
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