When Impact Hub Ottawa and our partners at the City of Ottawa were first discussing the idea of an “award” for social innovation, we knew it had to be meaningfully different than the many programs that already exist to recognize companies and businesses as well as dedicated volunteers and community-builders. There were three areas we felt strongly about emphasizing through our program:

  • We know that true innovation is a team effort. This award is meant to recognize and celebrate collaboration and the power of the collective, not individual people.
  • We believe that positive impact can be created through different means. Some people choose to do good through an informal group of neighbours or colleagues, while others may do so through a more formal entity like an incorporated non-profit or for-profit enterprise. We wanted to celebrate their innovation and impact regardless of what is essentially a legal structure.
  • We want to do more than just fete the winners at a gala event. We want the award to act as a catalyst to elevate their profile, expand their network, and enhance their capacity to do good better.

Five weeks after we launched the Ottawa Social Impact Awards during the One Young World Summit in late October, we ended with 45 nominations and 7,121 votes – an incredible response from Ottawans who believed in the vision and wanted to thank, recognize, celebrate, and support their favourite organization, social enterprise, or community initiative who are making our city a better place.

The 10 nominees with the most votes made the shortlist, which we then sent to our panel of judges:

  • Catherine McKenney, Councillor for Somerset Ward (where Impact Hub calls home!)
  • George Brown, former President of the Ottawa Community Loan Fund and current Board member of the Centre for Social Enterprise Development (CSED)
  • Martina Buchal, One Young World Coordinating Ambassador for North America

You can imagine it was not an easy task to choose from 10 phenomenal organizations and initiatives, but in the chosen winners of the inaugural Awards are:

The Social Enterprise Category

Suraitea

Surai Tea

A social enterprise providing Syrian refugees a first employment experience in Canada in tea packing, business development and sales.

The Community-based Initiative Category

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Helping with Furniture

A volunteer-run charity that collects and distributes furniture, household items, and bikes to those who are restarting their lives because of situations of hardship.

Read more about Surai Tea and Helping With Furniture on Apt613

The two organizations were represented by Nathalie Maione (co-founder and President of HWF) and Kevin Smiley (founder of Surai Tea), who received their Awards at CSED’s Unleashed social enterprise conference at the Museum of Nature. Mayor Jim Watson made the announcement to a full house, and was joined by Councillors McKenney and Tobi Nussbaum (Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward) as well as Katie Miller (Impact Hub’s Managing Director) for the awards ceremony.

In addition to attending Unleashed with a colleague (courtesy of CSED), the winners are now the newest members of Impact Hub Ottawa as well as Kind Village. Each were interviewed for a profile article by Apt613, and have been invited to a special workshop by the Institute for Change Leaders. We are deeply grateful to all of these partners for their support, and to Claudia van den Heuvel from Brilia Creative Agency who designed the Awards’ visual brand identity.

We hope Ottawans will continue to support the winners and all the other nominees by learning about their amazing work, sharing their stories, and getting involved to help them increase their impact. We are all better off for it!

James Chan