SDG Impact Icons: SheEO Activators
“I want to live in a world designed for and by everyone—so it’s imperative for us to allocate resources based on need so we can transform existing systems to be more inclusive.”
In partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada, each month, Startup Canada is celebrating and putting the spotlight on leading Canadian social innovators driving change in one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Startup Canada was pleased to sit down with Vicki Saunders, Founder of SheEO, to learn about the SheEO Activators and their impact on SDG 5—Gender Equality.
SC: What is SheEO and who are the SheEO Activators?
VS: SheEO is a global community of radically generous women funding and supporting women working on the ‘World’s To-Do List’. Started in 2015 in Canada, SheEO has grown into a community of 5,500 Activators and 60+ women-led Ventures in five countries.
Ventures are creating the socially- and environmentally-sustainable jobs of the future. They’re dramatically accelerated through partnerships with a global ecosystem of connected, engaged, influencers who offer their networks, expertise, advice, and buying power to scale up social innovations around the world.
We’re proud to have Activators representing a wide variety of sectors, ages (11 to 95), and career-stages.
SC: How does SheEO advance the SDGs of advancing gender equality and reducing inequalities?
VS: We support Ventures working on SDGs. All of them are women-led and majority women-owned. Many of them focus on hiring people with barriers to entry and pay a living wage.
SC: Vicki, what motivated you to start SheEO and what motivates Activators across the world?
VS: I am motivated by the knowledge that we have all that we need to support one another when we come together. I want to live in a world designed for and by everyone—so it’s imperative for us to allocate resources based on need so we can transform existing systems to be more inclusive.
SC: What has been your impact to date and what are you most proud of?
VS: We’ve funded more than 60 ventures, raised over $5M that will loan forward perpetually (based on our high payback rates), and raised 5X that number in follow-on funding from Activators. We are also creating socially and environmentally sustainable jobs for the future.
I’m most excited by the transformative impact of the relationships built through the SheEO experience. Social capital is an incredibly powerful tool on the path to creating a better world.
SC: Vicki, did you ever doubt that SheEO would work? What has inspired you to keep going through tough times?
VS: I wondered what would happen if no one showed up to support this radically different model. It’s a challenge for many people to shift their mindset and do things differently and I’ve had to breathe, a lot, to get through the tough times. Being surrounded by women who understood the vision helped, and seeing the impact we have on women-led Ventures keeps me going every day.
SC: What is the next mountain you and the Activators are conquering?
VS: We have 70 countries in the pipeline and we’re aiming to reach one million Activators in the next decade. We are experimenting with strategies for self-organizing structures, democratizing capital allocation, and engaging everyone in the community to allow them to contribute on their own terms.
SC: What has been your biggest learning along the way?
VS: In any given room of women, every single hand goes up when you ask if they would support someone in the room if they asked for help.
We all want to help and contribute—and the reality is that the vast majority of us don’t ask for help. We keep our heads down. We think we have to do it all alone and keep ourselves in isolation, which inevitably means we stay small.
Creating conditions that encourage people to ask for help and share their gifts is a big part of our work.
SC: Where can others learn more about SheEO and becoming an Activator?
VS: You can learn more at www.SheEO.World and on all social channels.
SC: What is your dream for Canada and the world regarding gender equality?
VS: It’s a very simple concept; treat everyone equally. This is not a hard thing to achieve. All we have to do is to decolonize our minds and hearts.
SC: What is your message to Canada and the world?
VS: We need a new model and a new way of being in community and relationships with each other. We focus on radical generosity as our core culture at SheEO. My hope is that Canada can lead the way with a new paradigm for community engagement and economic self-sufficiency.
Are you interested in learning how your business can create a social impact? Join the Startup Canada Social Impact Network to gain access to social enterprise programming online and on-the-ground.