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Speakers from Montreal community projects engage students as part of Innovation Week

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An open class lecture discussing collaboration for convergent innovation in public health was held in management course MGCR 360, Social Context of Business, last Friday as part of McGill’s Innovation Week. Professor Nii Addy, who teaches the course, invited speakers Claude Lavoie, projects manager from Jeunes en Santé Notre Dame du Grace; Raphaëlle Rinfret-Pilon, manager of concertation and development for Corporation de développement communautaire (CDC) Centre-Sud, and Alexie Giguere-Groulx, coordinator for community mobilization and engagement for Carrefour Alimentaire Centre-Sud. The event was intended to present and facilitate discussion on projects in Montreal, with the goal of encouraging student participation through creating innovative solutions for public health issues throughout the community.

This event was one amongst many in the McGill Innovation Week, an initiative launched by Quartier de l’innovation (QI) last year in collaboration with the leadership of the McGill QI Team, as well as VP Communications and External Relations Olivier Marcil.

Addy said that collaborations such as those between MGCR 360, the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE), and other organizations have the potential to promote multi-disciplinary research between faculty members, as well as increase involvement of students from diverse disciplines working on such projects, which will enhance learning overall.

“For example, the research work that was highlighted in the class on Friday involves developing an information system to support community leaders from diverse sectors as they make decisions to promote healthy living among youth,” Addy said. “One can imagine the amount of learning that would occur in teams that have greater involvement of students from multiple disciplines, working on issues that face communities in Montreal.”

Giguere-Groulx described the aim of Carrefour Alimentaire Centre-Sud, which is to use innovative techniques to create access to healthy food and create a support system for the development of various local and ecological food system.
“Our mission would be to encourage access to developing communities […] especially to those socially and economically impoverished,” Giguere-Groulx said. “We’re developing a network that will […] offer access to healthy food, because in Centre-Sud it is a basic problem […] We are also working on […] a program that [aims] to improve skills, and we’re also supporting the development of the individual and intellectual empowerment.”

Giguere-Groulx described the importance of educating students on the accessibility of potential projects in the community.

“I think there’s a big gap between theory and reality […] engaging specific projects [and making it] a reality is interesting for students,” Giguere-Groulx said. “I believe that it is [about understanding] the basic concept [of potential solutions to tackle local problems], and [how] we can put them in action.”

Rinfret-Pilon commented on the need for students to search for community projects that they can contribute to in order to create collaborations that would improve the quality of life within the Montreal community.

“As students, what you can do is [find out] what is happening in your neighbourhoods,” she said. “It’s getting involved, getting interested in what’s happening, and how you as a simple citizen can go and give some time or understand the problems […] and bring new ideas.”

“Innovation Week facilitates networking between students from multiple faculties, researchers and practitioners, and is especially useful to students, as such networking allows them to discover innovation efforts in the Montreal community and beyond,” Addy said. “Innovation Week also provides opportunities for students to build on their leadership skills, as they facilitate discussions.”

Students present at the event commented on the potential that Innovation Week brings to inspire creativity of students, as well as the benefits of bringing speakers from local projects to the McGill community.

“I think Innovation Week is really helpful for students in the context [of this class] because we had a topic on innovation and creativity [as well as] a topic […] on how education kills creativity and innovation,” said Antoine Simon, U3 Management. “It’s true that the education system shapes us to think in one specific way [….] Innovation Week gives us the opportunity to think outside the scope of education in terms of innovation and creativity.”

Larissa Nseyep, U4 Management, expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’re so inside the McGill bubble that we don’t know what’s going on in Montreal,” Nseyep said. “We are an international [community] so […] it’s nice to come and see what’s out there [in local Montreal] and how we can help. [This event] is a good way for [students] to express themselves and share their ideas […] as well as ask questions [regarding how to get involved].”

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