Irrigation and innovation: Grebel students win pitch competition

Thursday, November 23, 2017

MEDA team with Paul HeidebrechtAt the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, we know that innovation is more than creating a program or technology that solves one problem. It includes nurturing an ecosystem which collectively catalyzes change, both on the ground and within systems. One part of this ecosystem which we have the opportunity to engage with on a frequent basis is Conrad Grebel University College’s academic and residence programs. We have watched as students with a diversity of interests come together in new ways to explore the realm of pitches, startups, and entrepreneurship.

This month, a group of Grebel students traveled to Vancouver to attend the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) convention where they pitched an idea to address food insecurity in Tanzania.  With their idea to provide affordable irrigation systems for Tanzanian farmers, this team of five students from multiple programs won MEDA’s first ever pitch competition on creating business solutions to poverty.

From conservations with business owners to attending workshops about MEDA projects throughout the world, the students deepened their appreciation for the integration of peace and sustainable business throughout their time in Vancouver.

“The MEDA convention was such an incredible experience to learn, meet others who are passionate about development work, and get excited about the awesome work MEDA is doing around the world,” said Grace Wright upon arriving home from the conference. Grace, a second year political science student, was on the team along with Jared Baribeau, Daniel Schuurman, Jon Shantz, and Hannah Hill.

Paul Heidebrecht, Director of the Kindred Credit Union for Peace Advancement (CPA), accompanied the students to Vancouver and coached them in the process of creating their innovative idea. In the six weeks leading up to the conference, the team learned about using tools from the field of social innovation to advance peace. “These students were great ambassadors for Grebel,” noted Heidebrecht. “Not only did they put in a significant amount of time and effort into preparing for the pitch competition, they really got the most out of the sessions and opportunities to network with MEDA staff and supporters.”

The team is using their prize money to give back to their community, sponsoring other Grebel students’ costs of attending MEDA’s local chapter breakfasts. The team looks forward to developing more creative ways to connect their peers to MEDA throughout the year.

MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Association) collaborates with people around the world to create businesses and projects in places of poverty. It helps people be entrepreneurs through access to markets and through equity.

If you would like to learn more about the Centre for Peace Advancement, the Nov/Dec edition of the MEDA’s bi-monthly magazine, has a five page spread on the CPA and its participants. Read about the peace entrepreneurship that the Epp Peace Incubator is supporting, and learn about Demine Robotics’ journey to use technology to rid the world of landmines.