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SHIFT! $10 million for social innovation

Two proud grads and their family joined forces on a visionary gift
February 18, 2020
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The Saputos and Concordia President Lino Saputo, Mirella Saputo, Amelia Saputo, Concordia President Graham Carr and Lino A. Saputo Jr.

Lino A. Saputo Jr., BA 89, and his wife, Amelia Saputo, BA 90, are proud Concordia grads. As CEGEP students, they chose to attend the university together.

“A lot of our classes were together and we spent a lot of time on campus together,” says Lino. Adds Amelia: “We have fond memories and a special attachment to Concordia.”

That attachment grew on November 1, 2019, when the couple announced that the Amelia & Lino Saputo Jr. Foundation would join forces with the Mirella & Lino Saputo Foundation, operated by Lino’s parents, to make a visionary gift of $10 million to create a first-of-itskind, multi-stakeholder collaboration centre at Concordia.

The new SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will allow Concordia and its partners to drive and support community- based social transformation projects in Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

Among the largest in the university’s history, the gift supports the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen. Now, which Lino A. Saputo co-chairs with Andrew Molson.

SHIFT Members of SHIFT on the day of the $10-million announcement.

“SHIFT means so much to us,” says Saputo. “This project allows us to give back, long-term, so that Concordia students, researchers and external partners can work together to find answers to major problems.” 

The SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will unite academic knowledge, community-held expertise and entrepreneurial students. This community will come together to develop sustainable and transformative solutions to complex societal challenges such as environmental degradation, political polarization, wealth inequality and a rapidly changing labour market. 

The centre will enable individuals to take bold, creative and effective steps to build a stronger, healthier society. What makes SHIFT different is how it will address the symptoms and the root causes of inequity, injustice and unsustainability. 

“Our family takes great pride in supporting this transformative project, since advancing social innovation is a family priority,” says Mirella Saputo, president of the Mirella & Lino Saputo Foundation. “Partnering with Concordia for the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will give the next generation of students, academics and community groups the support required to solve some of our society’s biggest challenges.” 

As chair of the board and chief executive officer of Montreal-based Saputo Inc. (TSE:SAP), Lino A. Saputo says the gift is a pragmatic investment for his family. 

“The SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will support tomorrow’s social entrepreneurs to solve critical issues — from the ground up. Marrying academia and entrepreneurship with grassroots social innovation at Concordia will go a long way to improving society.” 

“Our foundation supports several causes, including hospitals and health, yet a big part of our philanthropic focus is on education,” adds Amelia Saputo, who is president of the Amelia & Lino Saputo Jr. Foundation. “We are proud that our gift will advance the next generation of Concordia students to develop, explore, achieve and contribute to the betterment of society.” 

The SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will grant resources and accompaniment to projects that link Concordians with community members and groups. Project teams will benefit from hands-on support for grant-writing, project-management, evaluation and strategic guidance.

“The SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will allow Concordia to build on its long-standing reputation as a trusted, community-engaged and socially progressive university,” says Graham Carr, Concordia’s president. “The centre, its staff and our students will support under-represented and overstretched front-line organizations and communities.” 

Thanks to this donation, the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will soon operate from a welcoming, physical space. Its community of students, faculty, staff and external members or groups will train, network, skill-share and collaborate on existing and emerging social transformation initiatives. The SHIFT team hit the ground running by hosting a weeklong, public event — Weaving Our Worldviews: Social Transformation and Indigenous Practices — at Concordia’s 4th SPACE in November 2019.

SHIFT will allow Concordia to build on its long-standing reputation as a trusted, community-engaged and socially progressive university. The centre, its staff and our students will support underrepresented and overstretched front-line organizations and communities.

The gathering featured SHIFT’s first innovator-in-residence, Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse, from the Michel First Nation, who uses film, radio and other media to tell stories and break down social barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. 

SHIFT staff and partners plan to offer such next-gen learning-by-doing experiences. This engagement will connect Concordia students, researchers and staff with community partners so they can have multiple perspectives when tackling social issues and offer solutions that are more likely to succeed. 

Creation of the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will also advance Concordia’s nine strategic directions. 

“The Saputo family’s gift will allow our students to engage in real world, community-based projects that address major societal challenges,” says Nadia Bhuiyan, vice-provost of Partnerships and Experiential Learning. “The SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will enable students to develop valuable skills and knowledge that will serve them in their lives beyond university — and help them make meaningful contributions to society.” 

Ultimately — as Paul Chesser, vice-president of Advancement, points out — the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation will amplify Concordia’s knowledge, expertise and resources among the broader Montreal community. 

“The Saputo family is supporting a forward-looking initiative that is unique. SHIFT will constantly evolve as community partners and academics rethink approaches to solve some of the biggest problems of our time.”



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