A team consisting of two Okanagan College professors and one student researcher are among only five teams across the country to be awarded prestigious research grants from the Trico Charitable Foundation.
Dr. Kyleen Myrah and Kerry Rempel of the Okanagan College School of Business, along with Cassandra McColman, a third-year business student, recently received a Trico Social EnterPrize award for case study research.
The biennial awards go to Canadian organizations demonstrating best practices, impact and innovation in social enterprise.
“In short, a social enterprise is an organization endeavouring to solve a social problem through a business approach,” explains Rempel, who has consulted for social enterprises and non-profit clients in B.C. and Alberta. She designed an innovative Non-profit Management course at Okanagan College, which pairs students with local non-profit staff and volunteers in the classroom.
The Okanagan College researchers partnered with Mission Possible, a Vancouver-based non-profit that helps people challenged by homeless and poverty find meaningful work. The hope is that the detailed case study of Mission Possible’s social enterprise model will aid other organizations looking to do the same.
“We are thrilled to be working with Mission Possible and really grateful for the support from the Trico Charitable Foundation,” says Myrah. “For Kerry and I, our teaching and passion lie in social enterprise, so the fit could not be better. It provides us with a real-world example to share with students.”
The social entrepreneurship course Myrah teaches has led to over 200 community based student projects since 2007 and incorporates real cases, such as this one, into the curriculum.
“There aren’t a lot of role models out there for organizations looking to enact change,” notes Rempel. “This research is exciting in that hopefully it will provide a road map for others.”
Another benefit of the research lies in its capacity to inspire students, as Rempel explains.
“It has been one of the most uplifting experiences because it has re-affirmed that what we teach in the classroom is real. Hopefully what we learn will inspire students and show other organizations in Canada and around the world that social enterprises can be sustainable and effective in driving change.”
The case will be published and shared extensively by the Trico Charitable Foundation in the coming months.
For Myrah, the award marks the second time being recognized by the Foundation. In 2014, her case study was among four Social EnterPrize studies supported by the Foundation. Myrah was lead researcher on a project with local business consultant Elvia Picco; the pair wrote about the YWCA Metro Vancouver Social Enterprise Hotel. That case study can be found online here.
Both Myrah and Rempel are quick to point out the importance of having a student perspective on the Mission Possible project. That perspective comes from Cassandra McColman, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree student and research assistant in the social enterprise arena. McColman recently joined Myrah and Rempel in touring Mission Possible’s Vancouver office.
“Having the opportunity to bring our research to life while visiting Mission Possible's staff and clients allowed me to experience firsthand how impactful this organization is in their community,” says McColman. “Working with them and getting to be a part of that impact has been incredibly rewarding.”
Click here for more information about the Trico Charitable Foundation’s Social EnterPrize.