TREE inspires student leaders from across Canada

Friday, October 6, 2017

Room of high students looking at a slideWhen looking for a location that would inspire innovation and encourage high school students to see themselves as future leaders, the Canadian Student Leadership Conference saw Waterloo as an ideal choice. One thousand high school students throughout Canada descended on the Waterloo Region in late September to grow in their understanding of innovation.

Responding to the call for workshop leaders, Epp Peace Incubator member Katie Gingerich led a workshop that explored peace innovation and applied outside-the-box thinking to social justice issues. Her experience as a social entrepreneur with The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), and supporting high school students through Kindred Credit Union’s Peace Innovators Scholarship & Mentoring Program, made Katie a natural fit to help students develop their leadership skills

Katie engaged 100 students through four sessions of a workshop called Peace Innovators and Big Ideas for Social Change. Interactive, thought-provoking activities catalyzed learning around how to design and facilitate projects that meet the needs of peers while elevating voices that are not always heard. A common tool used in the social innovation space, empathy mapping, was introduced to help students understand their peers’ thoughts and feelings around their upcoming school year. Empathy maps help to debunk the assumptions made at the beginning of a project that might cloud the root issue, causing the project to go off-course. At the end of the workshop, students pooled their findings into a larger empathy map expressing group trends, and explored how to bring this tool back with them to elevate the impact of their own leadership work.

Over the past year, TREE has been building peace in Waterloo Region, equipping students to understand themselves as global citizens while offering strategies to approach conflict in healthier ways. As student leaders from the Canadian Student Leadership Conference return home, the seeds that were planted through Katie’s peace innovation workshop will now have the chance to take root in communities across Canada.