Indigenous youth programs

BC Indigenous Youth 3C Challenge

Partial 3C logoIn 2018, the federal government approved $3.2 million in funding for BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) to deliver the BC Indigenous Youth 3C Challenge (3C Challenge) entrepreneurship training to 1,000 youth in BC. The innovative, experiential initiative, designed in partnership with NCIED and GSB, empowers Indigenous youth to learn vital skills to develop and grow their entrepreneurial spirit. More than 90% of the instructors/facilitators are of Indigenous heritage, and all content and examples focus on Indigenous business, culture and communities.

The 3C Challenge requires youth to work in teams to start a mini-business that will create value within 30 days. With a micro-loan of up to $1,000, each team explores and invests in an opportunity that will bring value on three dimensions: Culture - Community - Cash.

Since 2019, the 3C Challenge equipped over 350 Indigenous youth with the skills to become entrepreneurs. Training began in community workshops focused on the practical aspects of opportunity identification and fit; developing a business model; and outlining a timeline for success. The education and ‘hands on’ experience empowered youth to take concepts and ideas, and market and sell their product or service, with support and guidance from mentors.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to continue in-community delivery. Liam Grigg, BCAAFC, 3C Project Manager, was happy to relate:

The 3C team, in a matter of weeks, adapted the content, structure and delivery model so they could continue the program. During development, it was critical to ensure that the experience remained the same. A typical, in-person cohort is full of interactivity, relationship building and fun. Video conference platforms do not usually allow users to create those same human connections. The use of sharing within circle, removing power dynamics, and working with a decolonized teaching structure, allows the program to get to as close to the original experience as possible.

Grigg further reported:

Since transitioning to an online platform in mid April, 50 youth have participated in five cohorts. Learning skills such as, teamwork, idea generation, seeking opportunity, building a business framework, marketing, and e-commerce, youth are leaving with real entrepreneurial experience.

Overall, the 3C Challenge shapes and develops present and future business professionals and allows youth to experience business ownership with many of the tools necessary for them to be successful.

Leslie Varley, Executive Director of BCAAFC, remarked:

The initiative was a game changer for some of our youth, who took to entrepreneurship like fish to water. Our Indigenous ancestors excelled at entrepreneurship, and our youth are reclaiming these skills.

We timed the 3C Challenge to coincide with the BCAAFC’s Gathering Our Voices Indigenous Youth Training event, attended by 1,000 Indigenous youth from around BC. The 3C Challenge teams presented their business ventures on stage at the plenary session.

The great success is that one of our teams exceeded all expectations. A remarkable team of young women made bath bombs with a cultural component that were a runaway success. This team repaid their $1000 loan and went on to generate an additional $2500.  

Lianna Spence, an Indigenous artist, captures the spirit of the 3C Challenge in the logo she created.

 3C logo

I chose the moon because, in Indigenous culture the moon’s phases illustrate the progressive stages of the 30-day 3C Challenge.The first quarter moon represents the beginning. The closed mouth indicates silence as the participant begins to learn more about themselves and the possibility of owning their own business. The dollar sign in the arm reaching out towards the centre represents the cash required to start a business and generate a profit. The eyes in the face in the middle are looking up, symbolizing learning, growing and moving forward. Finally, the quarter moon on the right is the last phase of the Challenge. The tongue sticking out shows awareness, a taste for life, while the teeth represent the competence to talk about new skills and experiences. The heart in the arm extending from this quarter moon exemplifies giving back to the community.

Opening My World of Learning (OWL) Program

OWL logo 


Tribal Resources Investment Corporation (TRICORP) and Gustavson School of Business collaborated to create the Opening My World of Learning (OWL) program. The initiative, designed to provide recent Indigenous high school graduates with a six-week immersive UVic program, allowed them to explore university education, campus life and Indigenous cultural experiences.

Launched in 2019 at UVic, the inaugural OWL offered exciting opportunities for students from northwestern BC. They resided on campus and attended university credit courses such as Introduction to Business with an Indigenous perspective, Indigenous Studies, History, Fine Arts and Social Science. Cultural experiences included, joining the Mini-U students for dinner at the First Peoples House, followed by a medicine bag workshop in the Ceremonial Hall.

The objective of the program was to provide Indigenous students from rural and remote communities with an introduction to the University. A graduate remarked:

The overall experience has boosted my confidence in my ability to attend post-secondary. It had also eliminated much doubt that I had in my ability to pursue a higher education.

As a result of the program, 92.31% of the participants plan to continue post-secondary education now or in the future.

One graduate commented:

It was such an amazing wonderful experience. It took me out of my comfort zone and taught me so many new things about Business as well as Astronomy. I enjoyed the coursework and the instructors were an amazing plus! They were all so friendly and helpful, and so kind and understanding compared to the picture people have given me about Higher Academic institutions. It eased my fears and I fell in love with Victoria. I feel like I got to experience what it would truly feel like living on campus and away from family. I’m happy I decided to apply for it.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the OWL event scheduled for summer 2020 had to be cancelled.