Highlights of KWCF 2018 Townhall

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“We’re adapting to change by engaging people and organizations in our community in new and exciting ways.” This quote from Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation’s President & CEO, Elizabeth Heald, was evident throughout the organization’s annual Townhall Meeting on May 16, 2018. She started the night off with some notable updates about the work the foundation has been doing over the past year.

Highlights included a new granting process with more streamlined applications, engaging with younger donors, meeting with fundholders, aligning community work with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and a new partnership with the City of Kitchener which provides funds to the Neighbourhood Matching Grant Program. The latter program funds resident-lead, city-supported projects that unite neighbourhoods, and has been incredibly successful throughout Kitchener so far.

Elizabeth also shared updates regarding the work KWCF has been doing with Wellbeing Waterloo Region. This community-led initiative has officially announced three main areas of focus: affordable housing, healthy children and youth, and social inclusion.

“While our work is focused on the three priorities outlined through our work with Wellbeing Waterloo Region, we are keeping the national and global Sustainable Development Goals in our sights,” Elizabeth explained.

After these updates, Elizabeth introduced the event’s first guest speaker: Lynn Macaulay, from Homelessness Housing Umbrella Group (HHUG). Lynn’s passionate presentation focused on ending chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region.

“We pride ourselves on being a community of innovators, early adopters, and barnraisers, and so we have set a very aggressive target in our community,” she told attendees. “We want to end chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region by July 1, 2020. That is 776 days from today [May 16 2018].”

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Lynn called on all organizations, businesses, and community members in attendance to become “Housing Heroes”, and pledge to work together to combat chronic homelessness in our communities.

“We need to change our collective mindset. For the past 20 years we have come to accept that homelessness is a thing that just is, but beginning today . . . I am asking you to no longer believe this,” she continued.

She emphasized that a single organization such as HHUG cannot tackle a problem like chronic homelessness on its own. Instead, we all need to come together as a community to help those in need, and provide affordable housing options and additional supports.

Andreas Souvaliotis, serial social entrepreneur, spoke about his passion for helping individuals across our country. How does he do this? With cellphones.

Nearly seven years ago he founded the world’s first eco rewards program. Andreas developed an app that rewarded people with Air Miles for making good, green decisions such as purchasing healthy groceries, or switching from paper to e-bills.

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The app was eventually purchased by a larger company, but that’s when he partnered with the Government of Canada to reward people for living responsibly by living healthy, active lifestyles.

He essentially harnessed Canadian’s love of collecting and using points (loyalty programs), their continual use and reliance on cell phones, and nudge theory (or behavioural economics) into a new idea: Carrot Rewards.

Carrot Rewards is the most popular wellness app in Canada, with over one million downloads. It tracks your steps per day through your phone or Fitbit, and gives you reward points for achieving daily goals.

Andreas did emphasize, though, that while the app has become extremely popular “it’s not about how many people have Carrot, it’s about what Carrot does to us.” The app encourages people to make healthy decisions, and in doing so, their livelihoods are improved.

And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what the KWCF is doing as well: empowering people in our community to live their best lives, and “do more good, forever, together”.

You can find more photos from our Townhall on our Instagram.