January 20, 2015 - 8:25 AM
KELOWNA - For most people, life changes gradually. For Michael Lavigne however, a single day in 2013 marked the start of his new life.
Although a successful businessperson in Manitoba, he found himself depressed to the point his doctor prescribed him medication.
“Here I was, newly married, a good job, making lots of money but I wasn’t happy,” he says.
While on his honeymoon in Southeast Asia, he noticed something that sowed the seed for an idea that he hopes will improve the lives of less fortunate people in the Okanagan and beyond.
“There were all these little kids with nothing more than dirt and sticks but they were happy,” he says. “It seemed like the less they had the happier they were. It changed me.”
On Dec. 20, 2013 he decided to devote his life to helping others.
“Up until that point I always led a life of entitlement and arrogance. I expected people to give to me,” he says. “I thought ‘If I died today would I be happy with my contribution to the world?’ and the answer scared me."
“The truth is I hadn’t really done anything to give back.”
Open for Change is a new kind of social network. Although Lavigne envisions it being similar to other social media networking sites, he plans to make it do more than just link people together in a superficial way.
“Our vision is to find ways to make change easier so more people can get involved and make a difference to the world,” he says.
Open for Change is a membership based organization that invests in pro-social businesses. One third of the profits go towards helping people in need, like the food bank or shelters, one third gets invested into environmentally-conscious businesses like solar companies or community gardens and the final third goes back into Open for Change.
He says although his business model likely means less profit in the short run, eventually the rewards will be immense.
“We want to create a united community that empowers people to make sustainable change,” he says. “We do fundraisers, charity events and things like raffles that get the community involved and help raise awareness.”
There are several tiers of membership that determine how much input you get on future projects.
For a $5 lifetime membership, members get to vote on where profits are spent. For $25 they also get a say on where fees go and for $100 they get to vote on the global strategic vision.
“No matter what level they’re at, our members vote on how the company is run,” he says.
He says although it has taken him a lot of hard work to get the network up and running, he’s encouraged by the initial response. Already they have more than 80 members and on November 9 raised $13,306.25 in cash and donations for the B.C. SPCA.
To learn more or to become a member, visit the Open for Change website or the Facebook page.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015