MEDAx and beyond...creating pathways for future innovators

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pitch finalists from MEDAx $5K pitch competitionHow do we foster a future of innovators eager to create social impact and build peace? This question shapes how the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement (CPA) positions itself as a resource for nurturing early-stage entrepreneurs in the University of Waterloo’s innovation ecosystem and beyond.

Each year, the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), a non-profit organization focused on using business and entrepreneurship as a tool to alleviate poverty, hosts a convention to engage its supporters. This year’s convention, held in Indianapolis, included a stream of activities that brought together young professionals and students to connect with innovators and entrepreneurs. Billed as MEDAx, this conference-within-the-conference culminated in a $5K pitch competition for emerging social entrepreneurs. MEDA received applications from across the United States and Canada for the pitch competition and selected four finalists who, notably, all hailed from Waterloo Region.

This year, two of the four finalists were connected to the CPA—a team of six students from Conrad Grebel University College (Grebel), along with SheLeads founder and Epp Peace Incubator participant, Cassie Myers. Throughout the process, the CPA acted as a valued resource for both.

CPA Director Paul Heidebrecht helped select this year’s Grebel team, and offered guidance and coaching as they developed both the social mission and business aspects of their idea. “Paul was a constant resource for us if we needed him, and was a great support to have in helping us find connections and narrow down the problem to focus on.” shared Leah Wouda, a member of this year’s group.

"Paul was a constant resource for us if we needed him, and was a great support to have in helping us find connections and narrow down the problem to focus on."

The Grebel team pitched an idea for a product called SheCycle, a reusable sanitary pad for women in Uganda that is made from local resources, is environmentally sustainable, safe for women to use, and prevents infections. Distributed with educational resources and sold in markets, the pad would help improve women’s health through a market-based solution.  

Paul was also able to offer advice to Myers on how to present her venture in a way that would connect well with an audience of MEDA staff, partners, and supporters. At the convention, the SheLeads founder had the opportunity to build connections with MEDA development workers driven to improve livelihoods for women. As a business that provides assessment software for organizations looking to measure their impact with women, engaging the philanthropic space with organizations like MEDA is important for SheLeads.

The CPA is encouraged by a growing movement of young people looking to use social innovation as a tool for peacebuilding. Through its relationships in Waterloo’s innovation ecosystem, non-profit organizations, and the government, the CPA can effectively leverage its network of support to encourage cross-collaboration with these social innovators in order to advance peace in local communities, countries, and the world.

Interested in learning more about the CPA’s work with social innovation? Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date.

Know a student who is interested in advancing peace through social innovation? Encourage them to sign up for Paul Heidebrecht’s Peacebuilding and Social Innovation course running Winter 2019.