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Canadian Map the System Finals 2020: A Virtual Triumph

Organized by the Institute for Community Prosperity, in partnership with the J.W. McConnell Foundation’s Re-Code Initiative, the Trico Charitable Foundation and the Skoll Centre, Map the System is a global competition that asks students to think differently about social and environmental change. Amidst all of the changes to everyday life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Map the System (MTS) Canada had the amazing responsiveness to think differently itself and evolve the program to a virtual competition for the 4th edition of the Canadian finals. Latasha (Tash) Calf Robe, Map the System Canada Program Manager for the Institute for Community Prosperity explains:

“While there were many challenges during the online transition of MTS Canada, what kept us going was seeing how passionate students are about pressing social and environmental issues. It is truly inspiring to know that Canadian students are taking such initiative in systems education and changemaking.”

Paula Sahyoun, Social Innovation Fellow for the J.W. McConnell Foundation echoes Tash’s sentiments:

“During our initial contingency planning, we scarcely entertained the thought of cancelling the Final Competition. How could we? Students from across the country, since registrations in Fall 2019, had put in hours and hours of work diligently researching systems, problem and solution landscapes underpinning a societal or environmental challenge they were passionate about. We felt driven and compelled to continue honouring their hard work.”

A key element of Map the System is that the winners advance to the Global Final hosted at Oxford University. Because no one is able to travel at this point, the decision was made – with Oxford’s blessing – to virtually send six teams rather than the usual two.  The same six teams will also quality for Apprenticing with the Problem funding. James Stauch, Director of the Institute for Community Prosperity says:

“We wondered how much appetite students would still have without the Oxford ‘carrot’, and although the drop off was sharp, all but one school continued to stay involved. Some still had outstanding participation – notably Waterloo, Humber and UBC.”

James also explains that HEC Montreal was lined up to be the host school before the pandemic and they were an unmitigated delight to work with. However, there was no host school in this revised virtual setting. HEC Montreal will indeed host the 2021 Canadian finals if we are not social distancing at that time.

On Friday May 8, 2020, the 16 teams were broken out into two Zoom “rooms”-a health and housing room and a natural resources and sustainability room, which allowed audience members to choose to watch the room closest to their interests. There was a new Audience Choice aspect, where the audience voted for their favourite team in each room, with the two winners giving the prize money to their favourite charity. The judges had 20 minute Zoom calls with each team the day before, taking into account their research, their maps, and their presentation. The winners were revealed on Friday with no delay. Tash says:

“This year, teams were faced with the additional challenge of managing a Global pandemic and we wanted to host an Online Showcase that celebrated the tenacity of students. During the Friday May 8th Online Showcase over 170 viewers tuned in from coast to coast.”

Despite of all the challenges, MTS Canada had 16 Canadian Post-secondary Institutions participate, 215 participating student teams, 450 individual students, and six Global Finalists.

Congratulations goes out to all involved with a special shout-out to the following winning teams (in no particular order):

Winning CAD Institutions Team Name
Corpus Christi & St. Mark’s College Rise Above
University of Waterloo Transit-induced gentrification in Kitchener-Waterloo
Mount Royal University Canadian Charity System
University of British Columbia Free Periods Canada
Memorial University Holocene
Ryerson University The Affordable Rental Housing Crisis in Toronto


Missed the MTS Canada Online Showcase? Watch all the team video submissions here:


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