A Message from the Chairman – Our Story & Update – Part 1

Dear valued members and readers,

The Ontario Economic Development Society is a not-for-profit project that I started in 2012 during my second year at university while volunteering at the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and completing my Bachelor’s in Business Law and Human Rights; minor in Political Science. OntarioEDS was an idea that grew organically out of my experience at the Ottawa Chamber when I sought to extend the valuable hands-on learning opportunity I was receiving to other keen students who were willing to hustle alongside me. I attended university in the era where my fellow millennial undergraduates were inundated with media telling us about a tough job market while facing a catch-22 that was seemingly impossible to overcome: we needed work experience in order to get a job and gain work experience… For me, it seemed that volunteering was the only way to beat the catch-22. I decided to walk the streets of Ottawa after my classes everyday, suited-up with resumes in hand to start knocking on the doors of places who had a mission I could see myself passionately supporting – without pay.

A Short Background…

It is noteworthy that I came from a humble background growing up. Just before my university career started, my mother, a woman who had worked much of her life as a personal support worker, left her job and took a risk to start a health-care company in order to help my sister and I pay for higher education. The business was a success and seeing my mom accomplish so much with so little was inspirational. Witnessing her journey in entrepreneurship let me see first-hand how starting a business can transform lives and communities. It was this life-experience that planted the seed that would eventual bring me to the doors of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce where I would be afforded the opportunity to volunteer under CEO, Erin Kelly, and Senior Communication Manager, Kenny Leon, each providing unparalleled attention and mentorship.

The OCC Experience & Journey To Starting OEDS

At the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce (OCC) I was afforded the opportunity to network with the local business community, high-level CEO’s and politicians, gain hands-on experience in policy, advocacy and marketing as well as work on other areas of my professional development. I became so involved in the volunteering commitment I made to the Chamber that it began to conflict with the time that I should have been devoting to my full-time university studies and the paid work I did as an independent contractor in the event marketing industry. In feeling highly fortunate for the opportunity however, I felt intense pressure to stay committed to the Chamber despite how it really did put a little too much on my plate. So, in an effort to not quit, the creative solution I came up with in order to continue volunteering was to share both my workload as well as the great hands-on learning opportunity I was receiving at the OCC with other eager students like myself – thus was born OEDS. Little did I know, starting OEDS would end up being a greater time commitment than volunteering at the Chamber. In any case, this is how our story began.

As merely a new Chamber volunteer, I had no real executive power to recruit other volunteers under the banner of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and extend the same opportunity that I was getting to other willing students. To overcome this obstacle I created and incorporated OEDS in order to obtain high level executive power as the Chairman and Founder of my own nonprofit organization. In starting my own nonprofit I secured the ability to recruit students under the banner of OEDS to assist the OCC in economic policy research projects. I saw this as a means of sharing my workload by growing the OCC’s student volunteer policy team and thereby increasing their research capabilities while providing an opportunity for eager students to get involved in politics and their local business community in the same fashion that I had. The OEDS program I developed to accomplish this initiative was first termed “Early Economists” and gave students hands-on experience in research and policy analysis as well as great networking and professional development opportunities. The same program exists today, however our “Early Economists” are more formally termed Policy Analysts or Seniors Policy Analysts to more truly reflect the nature of their roles.

At its outset, OEDS was meant to be a temporary project aimed at assisting the economic development committee of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce with various research goals. Today, after assisting a number of economic development institutions on an ad hoc basis with various research projects we’ve successfully moved towards independently conducting policy analysis and research on matters we consider intriguing. The primary aim of OEDS was to advance Ontario’s economic development through research and policy analysis while simultaneously affording eager students exceptional hands-on learning, networking, and professional development opportunities. Much has changed since 2012, however throughout the years we’ve remained committed to our core goals as an ever evolving group of students who are willing to volunteer for our communities in an effort to advance economic development in order to better the lives of our fellow Canadians. A thank you page will be made in honour of the long list of those volunteers who have volunteered in our organization and made us a possibility. All of your support, past, present and future is eternally appreciated.

Reflecting & Looking Towards The Future…

We have a long history here at OEDS, from when we expanded our organization to include 3 distinct branches / teams in Kingston, Dufferin and Ottawa Ontario as well as created a separate headquarters to oversee all these municipal branches up until this very moment – a time well-after closing those branches and centralizing our operations on one large team. We’ve worked extensively on equity crowdfunding advocacy and related policy analysis; developed economic scorecards for various cities as well as thought through how and when we would be able to utilize the software we purchased for a pretty penny on our website (GIS); struggled as a student run not-for-profit startup with low-to-no funding; wrestled with how to increase political engagement among Ontario youth in the 2016 election; and much, much more. This will be one of a handful of posts to be sporadically released that give our members and readers insights into our evolving story. We’re still working hard behind the scenes on a variety of new initiatives for our annually scheduled September 2016 kickoff. New policy reports on the impact of an Ontario regulated marijuana industry as well as a minimum guaranteed income are also on the horizon. As the Chairman and a freshly graduated student, I have more time and resources to do even more with this not-for-profit that I started 4 years ago to help our province move forward in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. I look forward to what we can all do together. Stay tuned!

Original post: Wednesday, June 8 2016 at 9:00pm

Last edited: Thursday, June 9 2016 at 3:07pm

Author: Jordan Dedier


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