Alberta Inclusive Innovation Initiative pivots during the pandemic

Workshop series offers updated entrepreneurial skills to diverse groups


Happy mother smiling and working from home using a laptop while her young daughter sits next to her doing homework.

The latest series of Alberta Inclusive Innovation Initiative (AI3) workshops begin March 3 and run weekly through March 31.


A series of workshops designed for diverse groups in Alberta — including newcomers to Canada, Indigenous Peoples, women and youth — has been updated to reflect the unique challenges of launching and running a business during a global pandemic.

The Alberta Inclusive Innovation Initiative (AI3) is offered by Mount Royal University and the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, with support from HSBC Bank Canada. Running from March 3 to 31, the weekly workshops cover topics such as sales skills, Microsoft Excel, financial accounting and marketing.

“These workshops are more important than ever, as potential and newly established entrepreneurs navigate an economy affected by COVID-19. Building on our success in providing online learning, we’ve pivoted the AI3 series to deliver effective, accessible online learning, no matter where participants are,” says Dimitra Fotopoulos, director, Faculty of Continuing Education at Mount Royal. “We’ve significantly updated the content in the workshops with practical learning that participants can apply to their situation. Adding skills and information relating to topics such as e-commerce means the workshops are relevant to today’s entrepreneurs.”

As a social media expert, instructor Karen Richards brings her real-life experience to the workshops. She notes that the pandemic has not only changed how we work, but how we perceive and interact with the world around us. To reflect those seismic shifts, she substantially revised the content in her Marketing and Sales session to provide strategies for dealing with the “call-out culture” taking place online.

“Brands and businesses need to rethink online content and how it is perceived by their audiences to anticipate potential negative reactions and to plan for how they will deal with it,” Richards says, citing “unprecedented levels of negative brand mentions and reviews.”

“This is an opportunity for businesses to rethink their online presence and how they interact with their audiences. More attention on retaining current customers instead of selling products is a good marketing and sales strategy.”

In 2019, Mount Royal increased the capacity for the AI3 workshops after overwhelming response. About 20 per cent of the participants had already launched their businesses and were looking for support in growing or improving their ventures.

“Canada has an ever-growing demand for skills despite rising unemployment and under-employment, particularly for diverse groups such as newcomers, women and Indigenous people,” says Wendy Cukier, academic director and founder of the Diversity Institute. “The skills that can be developed through entrepreneurship are not only necessary to help people start new businesses, they are in demand and transferable to other forms of employment.”

Alberta’s entrepreneurial spirit will serve the community well as Calgary navigates the new economy, Fotopoulos adds. The AI3 series provides another way for Mount Royal to provide up-to-date, relevant programming that meets the needs of all parts of the community, which is a priority for the University.

“We’re also proud to be part of an initiative that might open the door to lifelong learning and professional development. We meet people where they are, whether that’s at the start of their business or further down the road.”

To register for the Alberta Inclusive Innovation Initiative call 403.440.3833 and reference CRN 30752.

Feb. 23, 2021 — Ruth Myles

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