Budding entrepreneurs ‘jam’ to solve Toronto’s social challenges

Participants of Toronto Jam for Good get a weekend to make and pitch prototypes

Toronto Jam for Good.
Organizers and participants in Toronto Jam for Good pose for a group photo, March 31, 2019. Matthew McCarthy/Toronto Observer

One team proposed a website that would help millennials seeking mental health treatment to easily connect with therapists.

Another team imagined a “compost concierge” service for condo owners to encourage the composting of green waste in large residential buildings.

These ideas and more sprang from 30 people divided into six entrepreneurial teams at Toronto Jam for Good, an event at which participants created prototypes to solve social problems in the city.

The teams  working hard at WeWork before having to present to the judges on March 31. (Matthew McCarthy/Toronto Observer)

Participants of the event, which ran March 29-31, were given the weekend to make the prototypes. Each person chose from three roles: developer, business strategist or designer.

The teams got to choose from a variety of social problems, including climate change, mental health and financial inclusion. Teams had to keep their projects secret until Sunday, when they presented to a panel of seven judges. Prizes were awarded to teams with the most innovative ideas.

“I’ve run these before, and I always get blown away from the kind of ideas and social enterprises that come out of this,” said Roxanne Nicolussi, the founder of 5Y Impact Lab, and one of the event organizers.

Similar “jams” aimed at solving social problems have been hosted in countries such as Barcelona, Berlin and London over the past eight years. This is the first time the event has come to Canada, though the organizers would love to bring it to other parts of the country, such as Montreal and Vancouver.

Participant Jamie Weatherby, a developer on team Compost-A-Lot, was happy to be a part of the event.

“I got to go beyond my role that I usually have in day-to-day life, like I’m a developer and I actually got to experience the decision-making process.”

“I’m really proud of how we naturally worked together,” added Gabriela Osorio, who took on the data-scientist role for Compost-A-Lot. “I’ve never seen a team work like that. It’s really nice.”

Aldo de Yong facing the audience and presenting information about the Toronto Jam for Good. Wearing a bright green shirt and blue jeans, wearing glasses with his left arm crossed towards his chest while in front of a brick wall.

Aldo de Yong giving an introduction presentation about Toronto Jam for Good at Idea Couture on March 29. (Matthew McCarthy/Toronto Observer)

Organizer Aldo de Jong, co-founder of consulting firm Claro Partners, said he brought the event to Toronto because of the city’s diversity and inclusion. He said business has a role in solving social problems.

“What I’m most passionate about is making the world better, and I think that the best way of doing that is by creating business,” he said.

The teams and projects that participated:


WokeWork wanted to reduce barriers for newcomers looking for employment in their specialty. They found that individuals who have moved to Canada are denied job positions due to a lack of Canadian work experience, among other barriers.

WokeWork proposed a web browser add-on that employers can use to review resumés to see past experience and education in other countries, especially details that would otherwise not translate well on a resumé.


BlueSky found that digital-savvy millennials have difficulty getting the professional mental health treatment they need.

They introduced a website that lets you fill out your needs and get a therapist to help you. They provided a link to a prototype of their social service. 

The team won as a prize a consultation with The Moment, a Toronto-based innovation design studio.


The Contained team reported that 11.2 million plastic cups are used once and thrown away in Toronto each week. The waste created a $2.6-million tax burden in 2016 for Toronto’s waste system, they said.

Contained’s solution was to create a system in which people would order food for home delivery in reusable containers that are collected afterward for future use. The team also created a webpage of an outline of their social service.

They won a consultation with Climate Ventures, a part of the Centre for Social Innovation that provides acceleration, co-working and community services.


Team Compost-A-Lot reported statistics that show 27 per cent of waste is diverted from high-rise residences, compared to 65 per cent of houses. High-rise buildings can spend thousands for waste collection each month.

Compost-A-Lot created the Compost Concierge service, which would give advice to building owners on composting and green bin strategies, and how to implement weighted scales for compost and garbage collection.

“We had to move through every stage so quickly,” said Lindsay Bangs, a developer on Compost-A-Lot. “It felt like … time was rushing ahead of us.”

They won a strategic design workshop from 5Y Impact Lab and Claro Partners.


MoneyWorX found that post-secondary students and immigrants are vulnerable on a financial level. They tend to struggle with financial terminology, awareness and good habits.

Their solution was an app that lets you access the tools and products for financial situations. Explanations are simplified so they are easy to understand.

A link was provided to a mobile prototype in their presentation.

MoneyWorX won a trip to Coopérathon 2019, the largest social innovation competition in Canada, according to the event’s Twitter bio.

Hashtag Mental Health

The team behind Hashtag Mental Health found that there are apps for contacting therapists and to relax, but not as many to connect with friends.

They introduced SafeSpace, an app that connects people with trusted peers, friends, therapists and supportive community members. There is also easy access to 911 in the chatrooms and on the resource page of the app.

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Posted: Apr 1 2019 11:41 am
Filed under: News