Innovation that matters

March 14, 2018
in Community
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Over the last decade, we’ve seen a shift in our interpretation of the word “innovation.”

Now more than ever, innovation is used solely in reference to technology. When we hear the word, we assume that another millennial billionaire has created the next “big thing”—a new app that rates the latest craft beers, or a life-changing tech gadget that you can’t live another moment without. Even popular TV shows like Dragon’s Den, that match investors with entrepreneurs, treat innovation as a numbers game, where revenue and sales always come first.

This past weekend I was able to see innovation in a new light.

I was at the South Island Prosperity Project’s Innovation Challenge where I humbly served as a member of the judging panel. This unique event aimed to develop solutions for Greater Victoria’s real-world challenges by creating smart solutions and opportunities for economic growth. Ten finalists were chosen from 69 submissions for this free public competition. From those ten, three winners were selected by a combination of a live audience vote and the judging panel, who assessed and questioned the presenters about the strategy, sustainability, practicality and accessibility of their community-focused project.

The make-up of the finalists was vast and varied and ranged from a retired woodworker who had built a mobile homeless shelter, to a young farmer who designed an inventive solution to address food waste from farms. Although we saw wonderful diversity between the presenters and projects, there was a unified vision we all shared—to build a better future for our fellow neighbours. The ten ideas that were brought forward represented innovation in its purest form and I was blown away by the passion, knowledge and selflessness of the presenters.

At First West Credit Union, we try and have a similar approach to innovation. We ask ourselves what challenge a particular solution is going to address for our members and employees. Even our model, innovative in its own right, is what empowers us to connect to impactful local initiatives, programs and events, such as the Innovation Challenge, at a deeper level. This is what made me proud to be there, representing Canada’s fifth largest Credit Union and yet, holding a strong connection to an important local initiative through Island Savings. Being able to connect with these local innovators and support their success really aligns with First West’s Values.

In the end there were three winners chosen, each awarded $15,000 to help advance their project. Get to know each of them here. Congratulations goes out to these three winners, however, all of the finalists deserve to be recognized for dedicating their time and talent to supporting meaningful innovation.

Reflecting on the day, it was inspiring to see innovation used as a way to spur social change. I made the comment to one of the innovators, “Everyone in this theatre applauds you for your passion and energy to lift up your community in new ways.” When we start to look at innovation from a different perspective, beyond ‘cool tech’, we all have the potential to draw from powerful inspiration.