SFU International Awards $10,000 at new DevLab Conference

Participants from the winning project make their pitch at the DevLab Conference

Simon Fraser University International recently awarded $10,000 at a conference where groups of people competed for proposed project funding. The conference was designed as a “DevLab,” short for “Development Lab” – a space where innovation derives from experimentation, and default practices are challenged to create novel approaches to Canada’s international development projects.

During the span of the conference, groups were formed and strangers came together around ideas geared toward development, social innovation, and new technology. Throughout the conference the presentations and panel talks supported the seeding of new ideas to the participants to strengthen their pitches. Topics included big data and information technology, engaging the private sector, and funding and pitch tips.

The winning project pitch centered asking the question: “How do Indigenous communities value and measure progress in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework?”  The question rose from the group’s experience with Indigenous people’s responses to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including expressing a different value system than the framework around what indicators for poverty and health look like. These differences include valuing access to cultural needs such as traditional food, elder knowledge, and spiritual places and objects.

The project proposal includes engaging with storytelling to see how communities view the topics within the SDGs. The goal is to support existing local initiatives, potentially from high school classrooms to Indigenous organizations already doing storytelling and data collection work. The information produced would be collected with the intent of enabling Indigenous advocacy with an SDG lens.

There was a surprise at the end of the conference – another group was being awarded $10,000 by one of the conference presenters. This group’s pitch was on the creation of “eco-hubs” to support food security and sustainability in a community supported way.  The conference was an intense and new experience for many, with new connections made, ideas grown, and new action supported. With any luck, SFU International will do it again next year!