Mount Royal students spend their summer creating social enterprises that tackle local problems


The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University partners with the Trico Charitable Foundation to tackle social and environmental problems submitted by Calgary’s network of social innovation leaders.

By Emily Knight

The inaugural Social Entrepreneurship Sprint (Sprint) kicks off on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Created by Mount Royal’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (the Institute) and generously supported by the Trico Charitable Foundation, the Sprint is geared at accelerating high-impact talent to have the tools, networks and confidence to tackle social and environmental challenges.

Modelled in-part after the ATB Internship Sprint that the Institute launched in January 2020, this Sprint leverages the social entrepreneurship expertise housed at the Trico Charitable Foundation and the design thinking expertise of MRU Maker Studio’s Kerry Harmer. The program was co-designed to empower students with the foundational skills required to brainstorm, validate, and launch a social enterprise.

The Problems

Submitted by Calgary’s network of social innovation and community building leaders, a set of five unique local problems were selected as a starting point for the student teams who are participating in the Sprint. The problems the student teams have been matched with are:

Clean Energy 
Despite a growing number of financing and government programs encouraging renewable energy upgrades, there has not been a strong uptick in the use of solar panels in Calgary. How might we get more households and businesses to make the shift to renewable energies?
Ageing Population 
Canada has an ever-increasing ageing population. Historically, seniors have been disproportionately vulnerable to neglect, illness, loneliness and fraud. How might we reimagine how we care for seniors to avoid and mitigate these issues?
Next Generation of Leaders
Community organizations or start-ups have struggled to recruit new Board members with the desired skillsets to help ensure both good governance and organizational success. How might we incentivize and prepare millennial and gen z’s to see the value in, and be ready to take on Board roles?
Meaningful Representation
Stock pictures, icons and illustrations are dominated by images of white folks making it difficult for small businesses/nonprofits using stock content to accurately represent our population. This problem is especially prominent in 'business' images where images of white men are prominent. How might content creators be empowered and remunerated to represent BIPOC / how can businesses represent diversity in their content in a meaningful way (avoid "green/black" washing)?
Accessible and affordable childcare is essential for families and working parents. Removal of subsidized government funding and reduced capacity due to the pandemic have limited the accessibility of an already very costly childcare system. How might an inclusive solution to childcare support families safely?

The Mentors

Each student team has been matched with a Problem Mentor who has experience working in the specific problem space. These generous volunteers are providing insights, resources, connections and other valuable tidbits that will help the team through the Sprint process.

Ron Jaicarran, President of Imagine Cities - Clean Energy
Navjot Virk, Research and Innovation Practice Manager at the Brenda Strafford Foundation - Ageing Population
David Mitchell, Former President of CCVO - Next Generation of Leaders
Marquis Murray, Founder of Media Crate & Co-Founder of Ditto - Meaningful Representation 
Heather Pollard, Lab Coordinator at MRU’s Child Development Lab and Lisa-Mae Hodges, Board Member of AECEA - Childcare

The Students

The Institute was pleased to receive applications from students from across Mount Royal’s campus. The final 20 students selected to participate are incredibly talented and diverse individuals, coming from all four faculties of study at Mount Royal. The diversity of the students participating, resulting in Multidisciplinary teams, is one of the aspects that makes the Institute’s sprint process so impactful.
At the end of the Social Entrepreneurship Sprint in one month, these students will have actionable social enterprise solutions to five of our city’s current challenges. Between now and September 8 when they will share their final presentations, the student teams will embark on an intense and creative process, equipping them with tangible tools, increased networks and newfound expertise to actually launch those solutions into the world.

To learn more about the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the other extracurricular programs offered to Mount Royal students, visit

Learn more about the Trico Charitable Foundation and their work on social entrepreneurship:

Learn more about the Mount Royal Library’s Maker Studio: