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Ceed Wins Community Partner Award

Founded by the provincial government more than 20 years ago, CEED won this year’s RBC Community Partner Award for its involvement with more than 2,000 youth each year.

“We work with the entire ecosystem,” said CEED’s President and CEO Laurie Cameron.

“We’re trying to get our reach as far as possible into the education system.”

The group recently piloted a workshop in Truro for children in Grades 4 to 6. At the end of the day, the students formed teams and started their own ‘businesses’. Local business people judged their ideas and presentations in a mini dragons’ den.

The program is now running at a Dartmouth school.

“The little ones don’t know the words ‘no’. or ‘I can’t’,” Cameron said. “They’re so incredibly creative. The energy is vibrant, the ideas dynamic, everyone’s jazzing together.

“As students move through the system, their thinking becomes channeled, they’re not as quick to embrace the art of the possible.”

With the aim of reaching young adults, CEED works with high schools, colleges and universities. The group collaborates with Brilliant Labs, the New Brunswick-based non-profit that brings technology to students through project-based learning.

Alex Gillis and the Wisdom of Youth

Cameron said that in higher grades, students concentrate on getting the marks they need for universities and colleges.

“They’re focused on academics as opposed to the fun side of life…Creative exercises give them permission to think differently.

“Entrepreneurship is about attitudes and competencies. We want to support the development of leaders, problem-solving, risk-taking.”

She said that at a high school education day hosted by the province last October, CEED introduced youth to the business model canvas, a visual chart that helps users understand and develop new and existing business models.

“Each team was given two words and then had to brainstorm a business concept around the words. They had to fill in the business canvas and pitch. They did very well.

“Youth today are confident and collaborative. They’re not easily intimidated. They’re not necessarily looking at the bucks and the bottom line. They care about health and the environment, about society, about the wellness of everyone.”

Cameron said that CEED advocates for entrepreneurship as a career option, and provides funding and advice for people who want to start their own business.

The group’s recent RBC award was presented at the Action Entrepreneurship Canadian Summit in Toronto in May.

The colourful event provided welcome validation for CEED’s work, said Cameron, who has been with the group since November 2014.

She feels the province and region need to reduce red tape and barriers to business. Barriers are lessening, she said, but progress is slow.

“Inter-provincial regulations need to be looked at,” she said. “Someone recently told me they can export out of Canada more easily than to neighbouring provinces.

“In Atlantic Canada, we’ve got to let kids unleash their talents and support them…I’d hate to see that youthful enthusiasm stymied, because of regulatory barriers.”

She believes that successful entrepreneurs have passion for what they do and also know how to take calculated risks.

“Some people think entrepreneurs are risk-takers at large, but successful entrepreneurs know the pros and cons of what they do. They do their homework.  And they often have good support networks.

“A lot of excellent mentoring goes on in this community. … At CEED, we tap into the mentoring network of the youth group Futurpreneur. Peer mentoring is also valuable, a lot of that happens at universities and other educational institutions.”

She finds the current growth of entrepreneurship in the region exciting.

“The landscape is changing. In a few years, it will be even better if we enable youth to unleash their talent.”