Application Number: 16
INITIATIVE: What is the title of your initiative?
Northern Innovation Hub
RATIONALE: Why was this initiative developed? Briefly describe your vision for this initiative: what changes would you like to see in your community, in the college/university, and for the student experience?
After visiting the community of Iqaluit and speaking with local leaders we were made aware of two stark needs; space both commercially and residentially, and the dumping of sea containers. Recent estimates have speculated that out of an approximately 88,000 houses in First Nations communities, more than half of them are presently in need of major repair or replacement (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2001). In addition, and most importantly, according to the February 2011 report, 20,000 to 35,000 new units would need to be built to meet current [housing] demand (the Assembly of First Nations puts the figure closer to 85,000). The Northern Innovation Hub is a central meeting point for the city of Iqaluit, Nunavut that aims to fit this exact need and two others. Encompassing local civic organizations, social enterprises, collaborative space, and social housing our three-story complex will provide a central space for all things socially-minded within the city. We see the Northern Innovation Hub as the catalyst for further change in Iqaluit where the city is in desperate need for a space to facilitate a sustainable pathway for their rapid urbanization. Our complex will comprise of three levels, the first two will be a mix of office space for local NGOs and ventures as well as co-working space available to anyone in need. The third floor will be social housing, as the need for emergency shelters in Nunavut is over 3x times the national average. Tenants will be able to subsidize their rent and living costs by aiding in the maintenance of the building and working with 3 of the business tenants already confirmed, acting as transitional employment, which our team will facilitate the training for through capacity building workshops.
GOVERNANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS: Who will oversee and manage the initiative? How does it connect with other local, regional, or national projects or networks?
SeaCans Development ltd. in partnership with Enactus uOttawa will oversee and manage the Northern Innovation Hub. The municipal and territorial government has been brought in on all developments and discussions in designing the makeup of the space, ensuring that the social needs of Iqaluit (e.g. homelessness, job creation, space for new enterprises and innovation) are met. In order to maintain consistent community relations with those already established and prominent within the community, we have partnered and worked with multiple organizations including: city of Iqaluit economic development, representative of Kakivak Association, representative of Carrefour Nunavut, representative of Inspire Nunavut, representative of the University of Ottawa Entrepreneurship Hub, and when established a representative of Startup Iqaluit.
OVERVIEW OF ACTIVITIES: Briefly describe the activities of the initiative: when did it start, what organizations and departments are participating? Give a few examples of what participants will be doing.
Our journey with the Northern Innovation Hub first started when we travelled to Iqaluit in February of 2015 to deliver entrepreneurship workshops to the youth of the city. It was through talking with members of the community that we realized the lack of affordable space both commercially and residentially. Also, we couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of sea containers lining the streets that had been left abandoned by corporations, generally those involved in mining, after their shipment had come through. Upon returning to Ottawa, Sea Cans Ltd. was created along with the initial stages of the Northern Innovation Hub. Now, we visit the community 2-3 times a year and keep in constant communication with our partners and contacts in the north. On the first floor of this complex will be leasable space for local ventures to set up shop, with 3 social enterprises already confirmed, along with local branches of NGOs and social services. On floor two, there will be office space and collaborative space available for short and long-term rent. We saw a particular need for this as many companies spend less than 6 months in Iqaluit to conduct their business before returning to Southern Canada and therefore don’t have permanent space. Not only is this a revenue generating portion to sustain the complex but also encourages businesses and their representatives to stay longer within the community, building more sustainable relationships. Also, after having spoken to budding entrepreneurs in the area they expressed the need for work space that could be booked for a few hours or days at a time, so we’ve built multiple co-working spaces into our design. Finally, on the third floor will be social housing. As mentioned above, the need for emergency shelter is over 3x the national average in Nunavut, and sleeping on the streets in the Arctic is not an option. Homeless individuals end up couchsurfing and unable to find the stability they need to transition back into the labour force and everyday life. We will be providing some relief to this need through an entire floor of transitional housing with the support of the social services housed below. Further, our partners at Enactus uOttawa will be delivering capacity building workshops in areas such as financial literacy, personal finances, soft skills, healthy lifestyles and other topics key to reintegration of the labour force and supporting self-sufficiency.
STRATEGIC LEARNING: What will success look like both in the short-term and the long-term? How are you assessing results? What will you do with this information, and with whom are you sharing lessons?
Overall we will be assessing our results through comprehensive qualitative methods with the help of our community members. There are some metrics fairly easy to collect such as revenue generated, number of new businesses created, and people living/transitioning out of our housing- however that doesn’t encompass the full picture of success. The beauty of our established connections and having everything under one roof allows us to gather data through surveys and interviews of those who reside and work in the building. We plan to conduct this process twice a year, with the ability to increase the frequency as needed. Results will be shared with the relevant partners. For instance, any rates or interviews on the progress of those in our social housing will be shared with the appropriate services or support networks while any research we apply in terms of renewable energies in northern climates will be disseminated to the academic community at large through our partnership with the University of Ottawa. Short Term Within the immediate we are looking to do three main things: get as many people as possible off of the streets and into a transitional environment create a space for innovation and collaboration provide a space for the multiple non-governmental organizations already working in the Iqaluit community Long Term The Norther Innovation Hub has the potential to create a central meeting point within the Iqaluit community. As Iqaluit urbanizes and adapts to a more modern lifestyle it is important to have the infrastructure in place to make such a drastic transition as smooth as possible economically, socially, and environmentally. One of our current project in development involves the use of aquaponic systems to grow fresh foods, something that is a current desperate need as groceries are currently 17x more expensive due to shipment from Southern Canada; effectively changing the market space within Nunavut.
Would you consider your initiative to be a social enterprise?
Does the proposed initiative have potential to be applied elsewhere in Canada? If yes, please explain.
Absolutely. The beauty of developing an initiative in Iqaluit is that it is one of the harshest climates in the world. Meaning that if our complex can be built and sustained in Nunavut, it can be built almost anywhere. Sea containers are resilient, and can last up to 40 years, and when retrofitted properly even longer. Even when repairs or replacements are needed, the modular nature allows for the isolation of these renovations. Further, our building process applies new technology within the realm of renewable and sustainable energy which can progress national research initiatives. Canada has many small communities that are by sea-ports and therefor also victim to sea container dumping. In Nunavut alone there are 25 communities and townships that would also benefit from an innovation hub made of sea containers. In addition, the technology being developed in terms of localized agriculture, and skills development framework for greater capacity within marginalized sectors of the population can be easily adapted to any region within the country.
1. APPROACH: Which departments are involved in this initiative? How will they work with community organizations, social enterprise, local government and within post-secondary institutions (i.e. with professors, administration and students)?
The University of Ottawa’s main involvement within the creation of the Norther Innovation Hub is through Enactus uOttawa, a team of multidisciplinary students who create and manage social enterprises. Their membership comprises of students from the faculty of business, engineering, and social sciences. With a small group dedicated specifically to this endeavour, they have established relationships with the government municipally, territorially and federally. Enactus students will be conducting all skill-building workshops and training for the tenants of the social housing as well as providing mentorship for multiple social enterprises already committed to space within the complex. There is also the academic side, where postgraduate students are conducting their thesis’ and research off of this endeavour, encouraging cutting edge methods and technology to be used.
2. INFLUENCING POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS: Will research or teaching within the post secondary institution you are a part of or working with be changed as a result of this initiative? How will the administration staff, faculty, and students be involved and recognized for their accomplishments within the college/ university?
Within the immediate term we are progressing the research of renewable energy applications within Northern and Arctic environments. By recruiting Masters and PhD students onto our team, they are able to provide expertise in the area while developing their own research. This is directly contributing to progressive academic rhetoric surrounding the sustainable development of Canadian Northern communities and in turn, their economies and livelihoods. Taking on the perspective of the initiative at the macro-level we envision the Northern Innovation Hub as the go-to center for arctic research given the environment, proximity and ease of travel from Southern Canada, and the availability of work space which we will have created. We recognize our students and faculty’s contributions in the following ways: - via PR releases - procurement of further funding specific to their portion of the complex or research within it - letters of recommendation - validation from top industry leaders - tangible experience in their given discipline
IMPACT: What will you be able to accomplish now that you could not before the collaboration? In what way will your organization work differently as a result of this initiative?
Before our collaboration with SeaCans Ltd. and the Northern Innovation Hub we would be without space to run our social enterprise and programming. We recycle materials into new furniture while working with at-risk youth to teach them skills within the woodworking and design trades. Space in Iqaluit is a prized commodity that we didn’t have the capital to compete for, however now, thanks to the Northern Innovation Hub, we can scale our program knowing we have a steady space to operate within. As a result, we will be able to work with more youth, develop more products, and generate greater levels of revenue. We will now be able to have a permanent storefront and workspace for our youth programming under one roof which will allow our team to better allocate our resources and time to serve the participants and potential customers as we will be able to operate the two branches in tandem. This space will also help us establish roots within the community, instead of having to work within makeshift areas.
Mr. Corey Ellis
Phone Number: 613-298-5821
Ms Shevaun Ensor-Harrison
Phone Number: 6138833212
Ms Alida Burke
Mr Stephen Daze
Other relevant information/comments