Convergence – Do So Much Conference

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • Image Courtesy of SVC (https://www.uoguelph.ca/svc/)

    Image Courtesy of SVC (https://www.uoguelph.ca/svc/)

Written by Alice Lin

On Saturday, January 18, the Student Volunteer Connections at Guelph put together a one day event and hosted a conference called ‘Do So Much’ in the University Centre. The event was open to all students and community members free of charge to encourage people to get involved and engaged in positive action.

This year, the theme was “Convergence: Merging Streams for Social Good” and featured three main streams in activism, innovative communities, and social entrepreneurship. The event was attended by a variety of students and community members with different backgrounds ranging from business, science, to nutrition. There are so many ways to get involved no matter what background you have. Indeed, it is about where your passion lies that ultimately determines where you put your time towards.

In one of the social entrepreneurship sessions led by Nora Livingstone, CEO and Co-Founder of Animal Experience International (AEI) a group that recruits and sends volunteers abroad to different countries to work with animals, Livingstone shared her love for animals—especially scabby dogs—and the misconception that corporations are ‘bad’. “AEI is a corporation, we are not an organization,” Livingstone said, “but we are a certified B-Corporation, B for benefit, which means we consider both the social as well as environmental aspect of our operations in addition to the bottom line”.

Livingstone described herself as someone who ‘lack interest in sleep’ and is a ‘volunteer junkie’. Her session aimed at breaking down the stigma surrounding corporations and utilizing business as a force of positive change within the community around the Globe. Volunteer tourism can have a negative impact, so AEI does not just send them to any animal sanctuary. “We do site visits with our placement partners who are looking for volunteers,” explained Livingstone, “we do more than just send volunteers abroad, and we make sure that placements can provide our clients, a.k.a. volunteers, a valuable and impactful experience on their own lives as well as those live of our placement partners around the world in the most responsible manner.”

The session was intriguing and showed how doing good and volunteer work is not something that is exclusive to the non-profit organization sector. It reflected this year’s theme in showing participants different ways people collaborate for social good. In another session, Harold DeVries who is the Program Lead/Small Business Advisor at the Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre, shared tips on becoming a better communicator. Aimed at helping develop networking skills, this session was jam-packed with people and DeVries did not disappoint. An engaging and enthusiastic storyteller, DeVries shared that to be a better communicator, we have to connect. “To get your message across, start with the ‘why’” said DeVries. The intent of this session is to improve communication skills. “...In life, your success is determined, by your ability to communicate with those around you” he said. If you have a product or service that can benefit the lives of many customers, stake-holders or community members, how successful can you be if you cannot convey your message effectively? “There are four items that an effective communicator does. In their message, they can convey what they want people to know, think, say, feel and do,” said DeVries “we like to communicate with people just like us.”

In summary, Do So Much 2014 was a great experience for delegates. In this day and age, there are an abundance of opportunities available and ways to get involved that differ from traditional methods. The Do So Much conference showed that the community and students, no matter what background or discipline, collaborating together can grow a stronger and, most importantly, innovative group to drive social as well as positive change around the world.

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