MEC Outdoor Nation Combines Activities with Entrepreneurship in Montreal
What happens when you put 150 young, fit and eager people together, and ask them to come up with project ideas that will benefit the community? Some sort of magic called Outdoor Nation / Generation Plein Air.
Mountain Equipment Coop is a Canadian purveyor of outdoor equipment concerned with the environment and getting people outside. To that end, they have taken upon themselves to organize the MEC Outdoor Nation event this past weekend in the Old Port of Montreal.
A Meeting of the Outdoor Minded
A first in Montreal, and only second ever Canadian occurrence, the weekend event regrouped 150 young people aged 18-30 to share in outdoor activities, eat, camp and most importantly, put their minds together. The objective of the weekend was to initiate a handful of projects that will help the community at large to get outside more, be active and reap the mental and physical benefits that ensue.
Entrepreneur for a Weekend
Having been selected as part of the lucky 150 individuals, I can attest that it was a unique and exhilarating experience even though i was originally expecting to spend most of the time outdoors. The format of the even revolved around mini-conferences and brain-storming sessions. Participants listened to inspiring keynote speakers such as Claudine Labelle, founder and president of Fillactive, a foundation that helps teenage girls discover the fun of being active and healthy with friends. Micah Desforge, president at Tribu Expérientiel, taught listeners to connect with “Young and Old people that never age!”, while more speakers covered topics such as social media and startups topics.
On the first day, participants signed up to share outdoor activities and make new friends: Rock Climbing at Allez-UP, Stand-Up-Paddle-Boarding in the Bassin Bonsecour, Yoga, Running, and Slackline. Most everyone came alone, but connected with their team-mates and by the end of night, the atmosphere was that of one huge family of 150 people plus the organizers, regrouped around the campfire at the foot of the Montreal Clock Tower. An incredibly tasty BBQ preceded a private concert by the very talented Clay and Friends, who got everyone dancing late into the night.
Campfire songs, marshmallows and laughter were inevitable.
The second day started off early with Yoga on the beach under a beautiful blue and sunny sky. After a delicious breakfast and much needed coffee, tents were packed and everyone headed back to the Pavillon des Sciences to work on their ideas.
After lunch, each of the 14 teams got to present their projects and vote on their favourite ones based on three main criteria: feasibility, impact on the community and goal alignment with the weekend’s theme of getting people outdoors.
Three projects were voted on the spot, winning an initial round of financing of $1000 to get the project off the ground. MEC is backing these three projects and potentially more with the 1% For The Planet Initiative that has invested over $29 million in our outdoor communities since 1987.
The weekend closed with a group picture around the lake, and everyone hugged their new friends goodbye, vowing to keep in touch via Facebook and organize further outdoor events on the group’s new Facebook page.
MEC is bringing the event to Toronto as well at the end of June, though registrations are already closed. Keep an eye out for next year as the organizers hope to bring this idea summit to more Canadian cities!