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Youth Now finalists presenting during the 2017 NLCC. Photo courtesy of OCF.

New Leaf Community Challenge kickstarts sustainable change—11.22.2018

By Apartment613 on November 16, 2018

Post by Eric Davison

The Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF) has launched this year’s iteration of their community building New Leaf Challenge. The Dragon’s Den style event features three local initiatives in a pitch competition for $125,000 in additional funding.

Danielle Côté, Public Engagement Director for the OCF explains in a sit-down interview how the New Leaf Challenge differs from the organisation’s traditional charity work.

“Through the New Leaf Challenge, which we launched about four years ago, we wanted to bring the unusual suspects to the table to think creatively about these critical issues in a systemic and sustainable way,” says Côté.

The New Leaf Community Challenge was designed to think more long-term, to think more along the lines of social enterprise.

The Challenge seeks to target specific issues facing the city via direct action programs. The latest round of funding is focused on youth unemployment and targets self-sustaining, long-term programs.

Prince’s Charities Canada and the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation making their pitch as part of the 2017 NLCC. Photo courtesy of OCF.

“Getting a grant every year, without thinking long term and without thinking earned revenue means that charities are always waiting for the next grant, which introduces a lot of uncertainty,” says Côté.

“The New Leaf Community Challenge was designed to think more long-term, to think more along the lines of social enterprise.”

Social enterprises are a recent innovation in charity work and describe organisations that operate as a traditional business, but with a focus on social sustainability rather than pure profit. By establishing real revenue streams, social enterprises can operate independently of donations and fund their own expansion.

The 2018 round features three finalists, all based in the Ottawa Valley and covering initiatives from established and new charities.

The Ottawa Community Housing Foundation in cooperation with Global Vision pitched their Youth+ initiative. The program aims to connect low-income youth to industry internships and roundtables in Ottawa’s fastest growing industries including tourism and technology.

Relay Education’s Green Collar Jobs program provides in-school educational programming to prepare youth for the booming green energy and environmental fields. Volunteer and mentorship opportunities will further prepare youth for a position in a sustainable industry.

Rideau-Rockcliffe’s Community Resource Centre’s Generation NeXt initiative prepares youth for self-employment and entrepreneurship. Working space, mentors, and low-cost loans are provided to youth interested in starting their own businesses.

LiveWorkPlay receiving their cheque after winning the 2016 NLCC. Photo courtesy of OCF.

Côté explains that the initiatives will go head to head in a pitch contest hosted by Algonquin College.

“So the contest is a half day event. We get donors in the room, local business owners, people who are invested in seeing these projects succeed. Each organisation gets to do their pitch, and the jury decides who gets the cheque . . . . We hope that the contest will let think critically about their plans, to think about how they can achieve that sustainability.”

The 2018 New Leaf Community Challenge will be held Thursday, November 22nd, 2018, from 8:45 a.m to 12 p.m in Algonquin College’s Indigenous Learning Commons and feature pitches from all three contestants. The Learning Commons is a wheelchair accessible venue. Admission is free, and an RSVP is required.