Greenhouse is a campus-linked social innovation community at St. Paul’s University College affiliated with the University of Waterloo. It is focused on tackling emerging social and environmental problems.

They believe that surrounding students with organizations, community members and other students with a passion to solve problems allows them to form innovative ideas and make new forms of sustainable impact.

It  came into existence through the recognition that there was a need for students who wanted to create more of a social change and create an impact.

Students engaging with GreenHouse can receive the following support:

  1. Dedicated space that fosters creativity and collaboration

Weekly programming to help students conceive an idea that tackles a pressing environmental or social problem 

  3. Mentorship from experts in areas such as entrepreneurship, sales, legal, finance and communications.

  4. Peer-to-peer support 
from like-minded, passionate people representing all six faculties. 

  5. Access to potential funds to conceive their idea

There are three programs that exist at Greenhouse:

The Discovery Labs

Discovery Labs is where students, community members and a host organization identify problems and opportunity spaces based on a different theme.  

During the Discovery Lab, students identify opportunities for innovation based on the theme for the lab and Greenhouse teaches them skills in ethical design to address them.

The Innovators in Residence Program

The Innovators in Residence Program is a live-in community and incubator program that supports students wanting to tackle social or environmental problems.

Students who are accepted to the program, live with a group of like-minded innovators interested each of their respective problems. These students work through coaching, mentoring, and programing to tackle their problems through grassroot initiatives, policy changes and social entrepreneurship.

The Workplace Innovation Program

The Workplace Innovation Program is  a program for aspiring innovators to work with organizations exploring and solving complex problems.

Students are assigned an appropriate innovation team based on their interests and skill set. Students work through an iterative innovation cycle to explore different areas.

Anne further elaborated on a previous discovery lab in partnership with St. Paul’s University College Residence Life. The Campus Mental Wellness Discovery Lab focused on finding new improvements and innovations in the campus mental wellness system.

In this particular Lab, Anne mentioned that they had about 150 problem statements that emerged from the lab. Some general themes were social isolation, not knowing where to access available resources.

Following the lab, they now have one student team who met at the lab that want to start this project. The residence team is also going to take on one of the 150 problem statements as well.

We asked Anne if she had any suggestions for other organizations looking to create something similar to Greenhouse. This is what she had to say:

“ I think a lot of  it is understanding what the needs are for students and what the best way to support and enable them to solve problems is… and making things student led….Each of our programs that we have addresses a certain need where sometimes we know students have ideas and we just want to support them in developing them and sometimes it’s more about supporting students trying to find their idea or finding what is best for them.”

To learn more about Greenhouse you can visit their website.


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