January 11, 2010 – Aboriginal Social Enterprise: Hopeful alternatives

Manon Barbeau has a simple dream: giving young people from First Nations communities an opportunity to express themselves using video and music, promoting a sense of healing, empowerment, and community engagement. A filmmaker, Barbeau has always been passionate about creating movies that give voice to those who need it most. A powerful means of communication, films are an outlet like no other. And, so, since 2004, thanks to Barbeau's social enterprise, Wapikoni Mobile, small teams of impassioned cohorts - made up of filmmakers and community organizers - have been traveling to remote indigenous communities pursuing that one goal.

Each crew, with a mobile film studio and sense of purpose in tow, spend a month teaching young people aged 15 to 30 skills in audiovisual technology and music production. At the end of the four weeks, the young participants create their own film or musical compilation, on topics of concern to them, and showcase it to their community. But that's not all. Barbeau also helps distribute the finished products to festivals and conferences worldwide. In fact, since the initiative began, an impressive 29 of the films have won prizes.

Establishing a rapport

Of course, in order to make the most of their month-long trip, the crew needs to approach each First Nations community effectively. "Sometimes things happened in a community that we're not aware of," explains field coordinator, Sandrine Berger. "So you have to know who to speak with." That requires contacting elders and the band council as well as people in the field to ensure the time is ripe for their arrival.
Though primarily focused in Quebec, Wapikoni Mobile has already expanded to Alberta and Manitoba as well as to indigenous groups in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and French Polynesia. Barbeau's reach is impressive and growing. Since its inception, 1,200 youth have taken part and, in this year alone, they've produced 64 films and 94 songs.

Time for change

As Barbeau's story attests, when it comes to Canada's Aboriginal people, social enterprises can be a strong force of change. And for many, it's a long time coming. Just ask former Prime Minister, the Rt. Honourable Paul Martin, who recently announced the launch of a $50 million fund to promote Aboriginal business and entrepreneurship. At a number of recent events, including one hosted by SVP Toronto and another co-sponsored by SiG and MaRS, Martin reminisced about his commitment to right the wrongs of the Aboriginal people - a passion that began at 18 and has grown stronger over the years.

For the complete article, visit the Charity Village website by clicking here.