Dear Participants, How can you change the lives of more than 30 people with less than $5,000?
This is the question we ask every SLASummit, and it’s not an arbitrary one. It is grounded in a personal experience that has become the foundation of our mission and vision. From that experience, we know that you can effect tangible change with limited funds. Your efforts can multiply when you know where to direct your resources. You can enable a community to empower itself rather than relying on traditional development structures.
Thus, it is with great pride that we welcome you to the third edition of SLASummit, in the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, a hub for innovation and social entrepreneurship. You come from different places and diverse fields of study, united by an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to learn and do good. We at SLASummit firmly believe that students like you are the future.
Yet you – or, more accurately, we – should also be the present. We should be able to make a change and have a positive voice in the world. That is exactly what we are trying to foster: young leaders who have the tools and the passion to work with the world’s poor, and who see them as worthy of dignity and cooperation rather than just aid money. Our area of focus is Latin America. Thus, as we introduce to you El Alto, see it as a microcosm for some of the some of the region’s most pressing issues. Consider how people in this community, and throughout Latin America, can use small-scale interventions to create large-scale change.
We trust that bringing together young leaders from different socio-cultural backgrounds can only spark change – not only in a target community but in the larger fields of social enterprise and sustainable development. We hope you are as committed to this endeavour as we are, and know that we are honoured to have you here with us.
Audra Renyi is the Executive Director of World Wide Hearing and the founder of earAccess. In the private sector, she has worked as an investment banker on Wall Street, dealing with private equity firms. On the nonprofit side, Audra has worked with Doctors Without Borders, running the finances and human resources for a refugee hospital in Chad. She has also served as the CFO of One Acre Fund in Rwanda, a nonprofit agricultural organization, acted as Business Consultant for a microfinance organization in Kenya, and worked as Director of Development at Canada World Youth.
She holds a BSc in Economics from the Wharton School, as well as a BA in International Studies, both from the University of Pennsylvania, and has completed a six month executive leadership program at Harvard Business School. She was named Wharton Top 40 under 40 and received the Young International Leader of Quebec award by Montreal's Young Board of Trade. Audra also won the RBC social venture pitch competition, completed a six month Silicon Valley accelerator program, received a Rising Talent award for young female leaders from the International Women's Forum in France, and was named an Emerging Entrepreneur by the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation. In 2012, Audra and the World Wide Hearing team won the Dobson Cup (Nonprofit Track), hosted by McGill.
Niels Billou, PhD, is an expert on design thinking and innovation in variety of contexts: in large corporations and new ventures, in developed and developing markets, and the private and social sectors. He was part of the founding faculty of the Hasso Plattner Institute’s School of Design Thinking, helping establish it as one of the world’s leading D-schools. With his MBA from Western University’s Ivey Business School, Executive Education from Harvard Business School, and a PhD in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from London Business School, Niels is at the forefront of design thinking and innovation across sectors.
Currently, he teaches at HEC Montreal, and works as Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Humanos Institute. Humanos takes know-how from academia, industry, government, and the social sector to co-create innovative, scalable and sustainable solutions to the most pressing problems of our times. In this, too, design thinking is at the forefront of his approach to global challenges.
Hazel Barrantes is our student speaker, showing the ability of people our age to make a difference in the world. With a BA in Political Science from UQAM, and starting her Master’s in the same subject, she became Youth Leadership Advisor for Cuso International. As a Peruvian in Canada, she had previously interned in Latin America, travelling to Guatemala for research and community development work. Yet she sought more practical experience with community-based approaches. This led her to work in a Cameroonian high school, where she strengthened the staff’s capabilities, assisted the bilingual program, started a student-run organic garden, and supported social inclusion in general.
Meagan MacKenzie is a U2 Sustainability, Science, and Society student at McGill University. As President of the Engineers Without Borders McGill University Chapter, she is passionate about unlocking people's potential in developing systemic and sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing social challenges. She is a firm advocate for a participatory, intersectional, and community-centered approach.