Sustainability and Social Innovation at UCalgary

Learn how changemakers in our community are solving society's most pressing challenges

View our progress in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our Institutional Sustainability Strategy. Attendees will connect with resources from across campus in an interactive and informative virtual event. Network with changemakers from across campus and learn how you can leave a lasting impact on our world during your academic career. Discover how you can become a part of this growing community in 2021!

  • Aspiring changemakers: Learn what supports are available to develop your changemaking idea.
  • Students and postdocs: Discover curricular and co-curricular opportunities on campus. Learn how engaging with sustainability and social innovation can transform your academic career and clarify career aspirations.
  • Faculty and staff: Learn how campus organizations can help with research commercialization.

Thank you for joining us!

Hosted by:

The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, the Office of the Vice-President (Research) and Innovate Calgary

Keynote and Intro Remarks

9:00 - 9:20 a.m.

  • Penny Pexman, Associate Vice-President (Research) speaking on the innovation ecosystem at UCalgary
  • Joanne Purdue, Associate Vice-President (Sustainability) speaking on the SDG UCalgary Report

Panel Discussion: Campus Changemakers

9:20 - 10:00 a.m.

Learn how engagement with sustainability and social innovation transformed or kickstarted professional careers with the support of UCalgary.

World Café Breakout Rooms

10:00 - 10:40 a.m.

Hosted by a moderator using guided questions, discuss and share knowledge with your peers in a 40-minute round table.

Introduction Speakers

Penny Pexman

Penny Pexman

Penny Pexman is currently Associate Vice-President (Research) at UCalgary. She serves as Director of the Postdoctoral Program, and leads a number of initiatives including support for knowledge engagement and research funding in the social sciences and humanities. An award-winning mentor and researcher, Penny is an elected Fellow of both the Canadian Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. 

Joanne Purdue

Joanne Perdue

As Associate Vice-President (Sustainability), Joanne is responsible for institutional strategy and change leadership to meet UCalgary's commitment to excellence, innovation and leadership in sustainability. Over her 13 year tenure, the university has attained a global top 30 standing for progress in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, and has been recognized across multiple sustainability ranking frameworks as one of Canada’s leading universities for sustainability performance.


Julia Imanoff

Julia Imanoff

PhD Student, Faculty of Nursing, Eyes High Doctoral Scholar, UCalgary 

Julia is the CEO and co-founder of a nurse-led social enterprise to help families develop meaningful connections to promote healthy childhood development. She has been recognized for excellence in clinical expertise, citizenship, research, teaching, and leadership. A dynamic and inspirational leader, educator, and perinatal nurse specialist, she aims to be the change she wants to see in the world.

Julia St. Amand 

Julia St. Amand 

Student, BA in Business and Kinesiology, 2021

Co-founder, Retinalogik | Intrapreneur, ETCH sourcing 

Julia is an undergraduate student in her last year of Business, Concentration in Operations Management and Kinesiology. She is passionate about the intersection of business, health, and sustainability. Julia is the co-founder of Retinalogik, a social enterprise dedicated to reducing accessibility barriers to vision testing with its technology. She is also an intrapreneur at ETCH sourcing, a Calgary based company that integrates sustainability into the procurement process.

Sam Agostini-Sarabia

Sam Agostini-Sarabia

Student, BA in Urban Studies and Sustainability Studies, 2021

Samuel is a fourth year Urban Studies student enrolled in the Certificate in Sustainability Studies at UCalgary. In his role as Engagement Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, he was tasked with developing sustainability-related engagement initiatives tailored to students and operations of the university. Sam aspires to work in the social purpose sector to employ his skills and knowledge in sustainability, geography and urbanism.

Sarah S. Skett

Sarah S. Skett

Assistant Professor, Sustainability Studies, School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape 

Sarah began teaching at UCalgary in 2010 in the Geography Department while completing her PhD in Human Geography. She joined the Sustainability Studies Program in 2016 as a postdoctoral scholar and instructor. As part of the team that designed UCalgary's Embedded Certificate in Sustainability Studies, the first of its kind in Canada, she partnered with on and off-campus stakeholders to offer experiential learning and applied research opportunities for the program courses.

 Dr. Aleem Bharwani

Dr. Aleem Bharwani, MD (Moderator)

Aleem is a clinical associate professor and director for Public Policy and Strategic Partnerships at both UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) Indigenous, Local, and Global Health Office and O’Brien Institute for Public Health (OIPH). He is an active community citizen who sits on local and national civil society and corporate boards. He currently chairs UCalgary’s Pluralism Initiative Research, Social Innovation, and Engagement Committee and also sits on UCalgary’s Social Innovation Taskforce. 

World Café

10 - 10:40 a.m 

Hosted by a moderator using guided questions, discuss and share knowledge with your peers during a 40-minute round table.

Exploring the Human Impact of Social Innovation Research

Hosted by: W21C  

Social innovation research, by definition, focuses on searching for practices that assist human needs in a better way than what already exists (social transformation). How do we ensure that we are creating something that fills a needed gap for the individuals and communities we serve when conducting social innovation research?  

Together, we can explore what is the human impact of conducting social innovation research within a university environment.

  • How do you tailor your research to impact the right people, in the right places, at the right time? 
  • How can social innovation research be implemented into practice by the community? 
  • How can rapid social innovation research be used to examine societal issues like COVID-19? 

Zoom link

Sustainability – Building Back Better

Hosted by: Office of Sustainability 

In the face of increasingly complex environmental, social and economic challenges, we need to commit to entrepreneurial thinking and creative solutions for a sustainable future. As we adapt to the COVID pandemic and look to our future, we can build back better together.  

As a group, we will explore what a better future looks like and opportunities for bold action to make change. 

  • What are the opportunities on our campus and in our community to build back better? 
  • How can we inspire bold action on sustainability in our community? 

Zoom link

Developing UCalgary Social Innovators

Hosted by: Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking 

Social Innovators are of great importance as many societal and environmental challenges exist today. Let’s gather to discuss how together we can empower those who are committed to leaving a positive, lasting impact on our world.  

Together, we will explore how can we empower UCalgary members to become social innovators. 

  • How can our university play a bigger role in addressing societal problems? 
  • What does an aspiring social innovator need to learn to participate? 
  • What barriers to entry exists, and how can we address them?  

Zoom link

Exploring the Impact of Social Enterprises

Hosted by Enactus Calgary & Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre

Many people believe that businesses have a negative effect on social change rather than being a solution to our societal and environmental challenges. Join us to discuss how the power of business and innovation can have a positive impact on the world. 

Together, we will explore how can we use entrepreneurial thinking to enact positive social change.

  • What are some examples of businesses currently playing a role in addressing societal problems? 
  • How can business be used as a force for good? 
  • What is preventing companies from adopting more social entrepreneurial practices? 

Zoom link

Scaling Impact through Social Finance

Hosted by: Innovate Calgary 

Creating lasting social change requires a financially sustainable model to deliver impact. As the social innovation ecosystem evolves and matures, social finance will play an increasingly important role in scaling impact. 

Together, we will explore how social finance can add much-needed financial sustainability to social innovations and allow them to broaden their impact. 

  • What is social finance and how can you utilize social finance instruments to advance your impact mission? 

  • Thinking beyond grant making to build financial sustainability. 

  • What do impact investors look for? 

Zoom link

View more innovation resources

Campus Changemakers

Learn about the available sustainability and social innovation supports and ask questions in a World Café setting, hosted by some of these resources:

The Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre was established through the generous support of Wayne and Eleanor Chiu’s family foundation, the Trico Charitable Foundation. This new centre will build social enterprise education, support curriculum development and fuel teaching excellence. As there is growing recognition of the possibilities offered by social enterprises, Haskayne graduate students will have the unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a growing movement to do well by doing good. 

We believe we can educate the next generation of social entrepreneurs, research what makes social enterprises successful and that the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre can play a role in helping Calgary become a hub for social entrepreneurship. 

A newly formed unit in the Research Services Office at the University of Calgary, the Knowledge Engagement team is driven by their mission to support collaborative research efforts to create impact and benefit for the community at large.  

Whether you're a UCalgary researcher or from a community organization, the KE team can provide partnership matchmaking and research collaboration support to help connect you with the right expertise and experience for your research project. 

The W21C Research and Innovation Centre is based in the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health in the Cumming School of Medicine and the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services. W21C conducts research to improve health services and systems to Make Care Better. W21C’s interdisciplinary research team works with academic faculty, the public sector, and industry to provide evidence, feedback, and validation services, supporting partners locally, nationally, and internationally. 

The Sustainable Resource Centre creates opportunities for meaningful engagement and hands-on experience in sustainability. Connect with others seeking to solve social and environmental challenges in our community - we’re here to help support and grow communities of practice in sustainability.  During COVID, we are providing all of our programming and support virtually. Connect with us to find out more about sustainability related opportunities for students, faculty and staff.

Enactus Calgary is the University of Calgary chapter of Enactus, a global non-profit composed of 72,000 students across the world who are using the power of entrepreneurial action to enact positive change. By using business knowledge and an educational approach in developing projects, Enactus Calgary’s programs foster entrepreneurial development, economic and environmental sustainability, and youth empowerment through financial literacy education in Calgary and surrounding communities. 

Created with a generous gift from the Hunter Family Foundation in 2017, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is UCalgary’s central community hub that transforms lives and economies through fostering entrepreneurial thinking in students, faculty and the community. Our mission is to create and support game-changing innovators and accelerate their ideas from conception to impact. 

Innovate Calgary is the innovation transfer and business incubator centre for the University of Calgary. As part of the Office of the Vice-President (Research) portfolio, and as a member of the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, they work closely with researchers, faculty, and students to help bridge the gap between discovery and creating economic and societal impact. They do this by going beyond traditional technology transfer services to include focused startup support programs and services for research-intensive companies.   

For over 30 years, Innovate Calgary has supported UCalgary’s innovation-driven community. They work alongside the university to create new initiatives to transition discovery to the market. 

Their knowledge transfer and commercialization services include, but are not limited to: 

  • Intellectual Property Management 
  • Licensing or Company Formation 
  • Technology/Innovation Marketing 
  • Supporting Research Partnerships 
  • Startup Programs and Services 

The College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation provides leadership in implementing UCalgary’s vision in advancing experiential learning and undergraduate research for all students across campus. The CDCI develops and supports opportunities for undergraduate research experiences through sustainable and evidence-based programs and initiatives, such as the non-curricular Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE), which offers summer research studentships, a new for-credit course called Research on Global Challenges, and course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs). The CDCI also establishes partnerships with academic and non-academic units to help amplify opportunities in undergraduate research. 

The Calgary Social Value Fund is Alberta's first student led impact investment fund that supports local Calgary-based social purpose organizations. We are a group of interdisciplinary students providing our peers an opportunity to have real world experience managing an impact investment fund. We firmly believe the practice of impact investing extends beyond a business opportunity, it is a vehicle to support social impact and the improvement of our local communities. 

Carnegie Community Engagement Classification – Canadian Pilot Cohort (CPC) The Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification and has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in US higher education for the past 13 years. It is based on voluntary participation by institutions. The CPC was convened in 2019 to explore the Classification and consider how it might support community engagement in the Canadian context. UCalgary is one of 16 post-secondary institutions in Canada participating in this pilot, with ‘mock’ applications submitted to the Carnegie Foundation by December 15, 2020. Feedback on submissions and the pilot process will inform the co-creation of a Canadian framework for community engagement (to be developed in 2021/22). We will work together to co-create the framework, along with other national partners and diverse communities.

The Campus as a Learning Lab (CLL) initiative supports experiential learning and applied research projects that enable students, faculty and staff to advance sustainability on UCalgary campuses and beyond. The concept of using our campuses as massive labs for sustainability research is an exciting one.