RADical Ideas Useful to Society.
That's what RADIUS stands for, the new initiative Shawn Smith co-founded at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Beedie School of Business.
Although just 33, Smith has become an expert in the relatively new field of social entrepreneurship, where an organization's purpose is to solve or improve a social problem through a sustainable business model.
"I came out of doing a finance undergrad at SFU and just knew that I was looking for a way to connect that to work that was close to my values and that I knew would make an impact," Smith said.
The first social enterprise Smith started was Riding to Break the Cycle, a cycling venture that combined long-distance touring, leadership development and raising money for global poverty solutions.
The venture ran successfully for five years, but when he attempted to step back, it fizzled.
"We had a really hard time trying to figure out how to transition beyond the passion and vision of the founders to something that was more professionally managed and scalable," Smith said.
The non-profit organization he co-founded to manage this and other ventures, Global Agents for Change, also provides a combination of grants and investments to startup social ventures in East Africa.
One of their first ventures was Ecofuel Africa, run by Ugandan entrepreneur Sanga Moses, which turns agricultural waste into biochar, a cheaper, cleaner cooking fuel to replace wood.?
"Sanga is amazing. We were his first major funder, granting $40,000 to help test the business model and connecting him to other investors and advisers," Smith said.
Smith and Global Agents for Change have been recognized by the United Nations and several social entrepreneurship organizations.
In launching RADIUS with co-founder David Dunne, Smith and SFU are supporting students and programs, developing innovative approaches to social challenges, and accelerating social enterprises with the strong support of Vancity Credit Union.
"We call ourselves 'a place for radical doers', and while helping students become better innovators we [are] exploring how business can and should be leveraged for social impact. In many ways, the students already get it – we're just the conduit," he said.