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Business, Society
Vancouver ranks amongst one of most preferred cities to live in the world once again. According to the 18th annual Quality of Life survey by Mercer, a global consulting and investment organization based in Toronto, Vancouver ranked at 5th , offering the best quality of living and working worldwide for residents and expatriate employees. Vancouver is the only in North American city amongst the top 10 – despite its skyrocketing housing prices. In a survey published last month, Vancouver also got into the top 5 cities with the most expensive real estate markets in the world. On the other hand, economic uncertainty in Europe, hasn’t deterred Western European cities to get top spots.  Vienna takes again the first place, followed by Zurich (2) and Munich (4) . Meanwhile,   New Zealand’s Auckland grabbed the third place. Mercer evaluated the local living conditions in more than 440 cities worldwide (230 were included in this year’s list)  and were analyzed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories – including politics, social-cultural, environment, health, education, public services, recreation, consumer goods, housing and natural environment. The research is aimed to assist companies to ensure their employees receive fair compensation and meet their  needs while working abroad. Other Canadian cities also ranked fairly well in the survey — Toronto (15), Ottawa (17), Montreal (23) and Calgary (32). ‘Quality of living continues to be high in Canada with a stable political environment and positive social benefits, offering a very desirable and safe place to live and work for residents and expatriate workers,’said Gordon Frost, Leader of Mercer’s Talent Business in Canada, in a press release. ‘Our sustained high ranking is attractive to multinational corporations and their employees as they look to expand in Canada and provide significant opportunities to both Canadians and workers from abroad.’ In the United States, San Francisco (28) ranks highest for quality of living, followed by Boston (34), Honolulu (35), Chicago (43), and New York City (44).  In North America, Monterrey (108) and Mexico City (127) take the lowest spots and for the Caribbean, Havana (191) and Port-au-Prince (227). South American cities Montevideo (78), Buenos Aires (93), and Santiago (94) remain the highest ranking cities for quality of living, while Bogota (130), La Paz (156), and Caracas (185) rank lowest in the region. The city with the world’s lowest quality of living is Baghdad (230). The survey also studied personal safety and compiled a list of cities based on internal stability, crime levels, performance of local law enforcement, and the home country’s relationship with other nations. ‘Heightened domestic and global security threats, population displacement resulting from violence, and social unrest in key business centres around the world are all elements adding to the complex challenge facing multinational companies when analysing the safety and health of their expatriate workforces, ‘ explains Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president at Mercer, in a statement. As for the personal safety list, all the aforementioned Canadian cities  ranked 16th, in contrast with  US cities, which didn’t make the top 50. ‘Canada’s major cities continue to be much safer than every US counterpart. This is extremely appealing for ex-patriate employees looking to bring their families with them as they move abroad for work,’ Frost explains. In addition, the report reveals that most North American cities are safe for expatriates, but Mexican cities are ranked relatively low, because of the drug-related violence. Monterrey is the highest ranking Mexican city at 108th, whereas Mexico City takes the 127th place. In the rest of the American continent,  Kingston (199), Tegucigalpa (201), and Port-au-Prince (211) show the lowest levels of personal safety and at 96th Montevideo is South America’s highest ranking in personal safety; while Caracas (214) is the lowest. Unemployment, economic crisis and political unrest in some of the countries, are factors that explains these low rankings in personal safety in Latin America and the Caribbean. Globally, Luxembourg tops the personal safety list followed by Bern, Helsinki, and Zurich, all three in the second place. Whereas, Baghdad (230) and Damascus (229) made the  bottom of the list.
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IdeasXChange Hub Events
IdeasXChange’s first 2016 workshop was constructed upon the words “resilient”, “sustainable” and “community”, presenting the importance of knowledge translation through collaborative learning and productive conversations. The ‘Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities’ workshop on February 11th was facilitated by three graduate students from the UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning: Maria Trujillo, Aaron Lau and Emmy Ann Lee. It initiated an innovative and engaging conversation with the panelists and knowledge experts of the night: Ross Moster, Ericka Stephens-Rennie and Elvy del Bianco. The main discussions of the night surrounded the questions of how “healthy communities promoting a sense of belonging, collaboration and happiness” can be created. The workshop provided a chance for students, alumni and Vancouverites to picture and plan out their perfect community, as well as the opportunity to learn from the panelists about the different community consolidating resources around Vancouver. Constructing “connected and sociable communities” was discussed as the core step to building a better world, and the panelists of the night kindly shared their knowledge and passion in their respective community building efforts at the workshop. The panelists and knowledge experts shared their achievements and passion for sustainable community building, consolidation and engagement with the workshop participants. Founder and President of ‘Village Vancouver’ Ross Moster, is a committed member of ‘Car-free Vancouver’ and Vancouver’s food policy council – he had accumulated extensive efforts in areas such as food security, as well as collaborative neighbourhood villages and food growing networks. Moster highlighted the importance of “connecting neighbours and community” to allow the exposure and exchanging of resources – generating a more sustainable and connected community at the local level. Ericka Stephens-Rennie, spokesperson and resident with ‘Vancouver Co-housing,’ the first co-housing project in Vancouver scheduled to be unveiled in 2016, is passionate about inclusive “community-driven housing solutions,” which allows an effective perspective in sustainable, green multi-cohousing. The multigenerational ‘Co-housing Vancouver’ project holds 31 units and fosters the physical environment for “meaningful connection and relationships”, as well as “authentic expression” and “a sense of safety and belonging” that can be generated through increased interactions between the residents. Elvy del Bianco, program manager for cooperative partnerships at Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, discussed the technicality and mechanics of resilient community building. His experience as a policy analyst for various government projects provided a look into the local community development. Del Bianco’s efforts place focus upon cooperatives and networks that can effectively share expertise and forge powerful connections based on purpose-oriented cooperative models. As the workshop and discussion began, participants were divided into the respective regions of the city: UBC, West Vancouver area and East Vancouver area. A printed map of each region was distributed at the beginning of the workshop, as well as pieces of coloured cards with various keywords to initiate group dialogue. Participants residing in the same region then discussed among each other about the common facilities and infrastructures that they would like to build in their region, and then mapped them out on the printed map. This activity emphasized change and community building that can be done at the local level – it encourages the sharing and inputting of innovative ideas that can improve the respective regions and communities. All participants were able to share and express creative ideas on improving the respective regions. They discussed extensively on sustainable or eco-friendly methods to engage local residents to better utilize communal spaces, as well as the resources and spaces where members of these local communities can engage and interact with one another.
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Environment
Stanford scientists say waves hitting the equatorial seafloor create centimetre-scale turbulence which is essential in driving ocean circulation on a global scale. The new findings published in the journal Geophysics Research Letters could eventually lead to improved future climate forecasts. “Climate models don’t do a great job of simulating global ocean circulation because they can’t simulate the small scales that are important for deep ocean mixing,” said study co-author Ryan Holmes in a statement, a graduate student at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. The meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is a global conveyor belt where cooled surface waters in high latitudes flow toward the equatorial regions. These waters eventually mix with warmer, less dense water and rise to the surface. They then flow toward the higher latitudes to complete the cycle. One such cycle takes hundreds to thousands of years to complete. Until now, scientists didn’t exactly know where in the tropical oceans this mixing of currents took place. They believed that intense deep ocean mixing required water to flow over rugged terrain. James Moum, a professor of physical oceanography at Oregon State University, and Holmes, who had been investigating equatorial mixing in ocean models for his PhD, went on a five-week research cruise in the equatorial Pacific to better understand mixing in tropical oceans. The team encountered strong turbulence along a 700-meter vertical stretch of water close to the ocean floor. This turbulence was unexpected as this part of the ocean floor was relatively smooth. “This was the first time that anyone had observed turbulence over smooth topography that was as strong as that found over rough topography,” said Holmes. Using computer models Leif Thomas, an expert in the physics of ocean circulation at Stanford and Holmes created a model simulating how winds blowing across the ocean surface create ‘internal waves’. However, their model did not produce the turbulence necessary for abyssal mixing. Instead the internal waves bounced between two vertical bands of water and the smooth sea floor without breaking. It wasn’t until Thomas incorporated the horizontal components of Earth’s spin into their simulation that everything began to fall into place.“It occurred to me that internal waves at the equator, where the effects of the horizontal component of Earth’s spin are most pronounced, could experience an analogous behavior when the waves reflect off the seafloor,” said Thomas. Holmes says, after including this horizontal component they found it changed the physics of waves in the deep equatorial oceans. This component likely drove them to break and cause turbulence and mixing. Thomas says the new findings point out the important role the deep equatorial waters play for Earth’s climate system. “Scientists have long known that the equatorial upper ocean is critical for the physics of internal variations in climate such as El Niño,” he said. “Our new study suggests the abyssal ocean at the equator could impact the climate system on much longer timescales.”
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Society
When the movie Ten Years was released, Hong Kong was in a commotion. The low-budget film with its virtually volunteering actors had surpassed the newest Star Wars movie at the Yau Ma Tei box office last December, marking the Hong Kong people’s political awareness, expression and to some extent, unrest. Ten Years was a project directed and cultivated by five local undergraduate students from institutions scattered around Hong Kong. The entire production consists of five short films compiled together, connecting to one another under the larger discourse: a fictional foresight of what Hong Kong will become in ten years’ time. The five short films, ‘Extras’, ‘Season of the End’, ‘Dialect’, ‘Self-immolator’ and ‘Local Egg’, address socio-political issues that are currently in the local heat of debate.   Where did it all start? In December 2014, the ‘Occupy Central with Love and Peace’ campaign, a disobedience project aiming to inflict pressure on the PRC into implementing an electoral system of universal suffrage, and the spontaneous ‘Umbrella Movement’ that followed, brought people of different ages and occupations onto the streets. The movement was quite divided, as 12 different organizations and political parties were present, each advocating for their own version of ‘universal suffrage’ and ‘democracy’. Following the 2014 ‘Umbrella Movement’ and ‘Occupy Central’ protests that had placed Hong Kong under international spotlight, Ten Years symbolizes an artistic rise in political awareness and expression. Civil disobedience, language restriction and self-identity are themes within the piece that protest against China in response to the student strikes and subsequent violent outbursts. As SCMP writes, it conveys “Hongkongers’ worst post-Occupy fears”. The 2014 civil disobedience triggered the immense sense of segregation and disunion between the people, as more campaigns and alliances of different views emerged, such as the ‘Blue Ribbon Movement’ and the ‘Silent Majority for Hong Kong’. The disparity in opinions was the fitting climate for brewing violence and dissent, allowing any change to become impossible as 2015 rolled around. The prospect of previous efforts inflicting any effect at all on Hong Kong’s future was shattered when the Pan-Establishment, or Pro-Beijing camp, suddenly left the Parliamentary hall as they were asked to vote on the bill to pass a reformed (but apparently unsatisfactory) version of Hong Kong’s 2017 Chief Executive Election last summer. This tremendous act was broadcasted live. That summer, the disorganized state of the authorities left Hong Kong in awe, or rather, in distress, having witnessed the (live) process of returning back to square one.   Post-Occupy: where does Ten Years come into play? Hong Kong has entered a period aptly deemed the “post-occupy” time, where collective contemplation and criticism of past events start to sprout. Today, Hong Kong is divided as ever. The peaceful protestors of Central and Admiralty have long gone, as news channels are teeming with students and protestors with rebellious thoughts and schemes to break into government quarters. The Mong Kok civil unrest riot, better known as the ‘Fishball Revolution’ (there was a crackdown on illegal fishball-selling hawkers) that broke out on Chinese New Year in February 2016 at one of Hong Kong’s most populous districts, is a case on point of the pent-up dissatisfaction and opposition between civilians and authority. The violence that night left the Hong Kong Police Force, once known as “Asia’s finest”, with a tarnished image as severe distrust aroused amongst the Hong Kong people. ‘Extras’ launches a subtle but penetrative blow at Hong Kong’s pro-establishment and PRC-supporting groups. Kwok Zune, director of the short narrative in Ten Years, describes the local armed forces as “not much different from triads”, highlighting the police’s rising rate of power abuse and infliction of violence on those with opposing views. As a light movie review, netizens have linked the recent Mong Kok riot with the plot of ‘Extras’, exclaiming that the scenes in the movie are gradually materializing. Another heatedly debated topic is the extermination of Cantonese, Hong Kong’s official language. ‘Dialect’ depicts the marginalization of a Cantonese-speaking taxi driver who had failed to pass a Mandarin proficiency examination. The underlying pro-Cantonese sentiments expose not only the protection of the Hong Kong identity, but also an exaggerated defense against those who threaten its place. Hong Kong’s political unrest over the past year and a half has been a striking one. Though fragmented, the once largely politically silent and indifferent majority, especially students, are starting to speak up. However, Hong Kong itself is still unsure if it is prepared to hear the voices of its people. For a choir to produce a harmonious sound, the soprano, alto, tenor and bass singers must cooperate with one another, and listen to the sounds that each person is producing. Good progress cannot be achieved without open-minded discussions that give way to creative thought and new perspectives.
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Health
A new study has shown the link between noradrenergic neurons and susceptibility to depression for the first time. The study was published by Bruno Giros’ team, a researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and Professor of psychiatry at McGill University, in the journal ‘Nature Neuroscience’. “We know that a small cerebral structure, known as the ventral tegmental area, contains dopaminergic neurons that play a key role in vulnerability to depression,” said Bruno Giros, whose team is part of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal research network. By mimicking stressful events in animal models, the researchers found out that an increase in dopaminergic activity increases cases of depression. The dopaminergic neuron is controlled by the noradrenergic neuron. “It is this control that steers the body’s response toward resilience or toward vulnerability to depression,” said Giros. Giros’ team showed, animals incapable of releasing noradrenaline, are more likely to develop depression following chronic stress. However, this is not the case if the situation is reversed ; Increasing noradrenaline production does not lead to higher resilience and less depression. The noradrenergic neurons are found in a Cerebral structure called the Locus Coeruleus. These neurons connect with each other via a neurotransmitter molecule called noradrenaline. It regulates emotions, sleep and mood disorders – and now, Giros believes, it is also involved in resilience and depression. Stressful life events like  job loss, accident and death of a loved one can cause  major depression in some but not in others. A determining factor is resilience, a biological mechanism that enables an individual to snap out from a traumatic or stressful event. However, researchers are still working on how resilience plays a role. “Beyond this discovery about the brain mechanisms involved in depression, our results help explain how adrenergic drugs may work and could be used to treat major depression,” said Giros.
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World, News
The quality rather the quantity of education will better a nation’s economy in the developing world according to a Stanford University expert. “If there is going to be inclusive economic development across the world, attention must focus on school quality and having all students achieve basic skills,” wrote Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist in a new study published in Science magazine. The implications are more important for developing countries as these countries lack knowledge-based economies. Many believe rates of school attendance, student enrollment and years of school to be major factors affecting the economy. However, economic growth is highly dependent on students’ basic skills in math and literacy. Increasing human capital – the combined economic value of the skills, knowledge and experience within a community – has been misinterpreted in its implementation, according to Hanushek. He said it has led to policies looking to increase head counts, enrollment and retention in schools, ignoring important issues related to increasing skills and knowledge among students. “We argue that too much attention is paid to the time spent in school, and too little is paid to the quality of the schools and the types of skills developed there,” Hanushek wrote with co-author Ludger Woessmann, an economics professor at the University of Munich. The study indicates ‘knowledge capital’, cognitive skills of the population, rather than human capital of ‘school attainment’, the highest level of education completed, is the key factor in economic development. The study also finds student enrollment measures have no correlation to how much students are learning. Track records show, leading world economies are changing to knowledge-based economies. “They require both the skills to innovative and a highly skilled workforce to execute new designs. As economies move from agriculturally based to manufacturing based to knowledge based, the importance of cognitive skills becomes magnified,” he said. He also added, job markets rapidly change in growing economies, requiring individuals to adjust to new demands.
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Society
Digital textbooks and e-learning resources have been steadily on the rise and becoming increasingly widespread, despite the heavy debates surrounding its implementation into traditional education. As conventional learning materials are replaced by tablets and other smart devices, the future of digitalization and educational technology becomes prevalent and fast-approaching. One country that is demonstrating the all-pervasiveness of digitalized education is Asia’s leading tech hub – South Korea. Its high-achieving, accomplishment-pursuing attitudes towards youth education has earned its rightful place as one of the top achieving nations in various educational and IQ tests carried out worldwide. South Korea’s e-learning culture and its players  In 2013, the South Korean government had announced its plans to implement an “educational paradigm shift”, known as ‘SMART education’. Rather than a blatant proclamation of loyalty towards digitalized resources for learning, the concept revolves around an acronymic slogan promoting a self-disciplined, motivated, and adaptive outlook on nationwide schooling. South Korea’s ‘SMART education’ bears the ambitious mission of digitalizing education completely and wholly by 2015. Today, in 2016, the nation’s e-learning goals are evident. As high school students prepare for the College Scholastic Ability Test, or Suneung that takes place in November annually, it is clear that the vision to digitalize is well on track. Students diligently attend school during the day, and log in to their online classrooms as nighttime dawns. Judy Suh’s 2012 award-winning short documentary ‘ExamiNation’ portrays the South Korean attitude towards education. Through the capturing of the average high school student’s hardworking, nose-in-book lifestyle, youth education is exposed as a cultural phenomenon in itself. The documentary follows final-year high school student Bitna Hwang and her repetitive musings at school, private cram centers, and dimly-lit studying cubicles where she spends hours doing practice exams and memorizing content. The average South Korean high school student spends 16 hours a day studying. Amidst this nationwide emphasis on lengthy hours of study, where does technology fit in? Private tutoring expenditure in South Korea tops $20 billion annually, and is a thriving industry feeding off the rigorous lifestyles of diligent young students (and their parents). Online cram schools are a new, budding form of e-learning, allowing subject-specific content to be even more accessible than ever. A package membership allows full access to lecture videos, past papers, and online streaming schedules, encouraging the importance of self-directed study patterns that extend school hours. Journeyman Pictures’ documentary on South Korea’s academic scene and sky-high teen suicide rates exposes the masterminds behind these online academies. They are profit-driven entrepreneurs who sport wacky costumes to make their lectures interesting in order to prevent students from falling asleep due to strenuous hours of studying with devices in hand. Students typically spend more than 2 hours a day reviewing merely from online lectures. During the live streaming, up to 300,000 students nationwide are logged on and ready to learn. The key is to “keep costs low and provide kids with good-quality online content”. It is clear that education has become a corporatized business tool with its elevated demand. The people’s attitudes towards youth education, paired with the culture of online and after school tutoring reflects not only the competitive, dog-eat-dog nature of the local education system, but also the fast-advancing pervasiveness of digital learning outside the classroom. North America’s Khan Academy – where does digitalized education stand? Similarly, e-learning and digital education in North America are widespread. Cloud-based learning and information storage tools, as well as multimedia materials are becoming increasingly popularized. Online tutorial videos teaching various subjects such as science, mathematics, and economics are an example of the shifting education scene – from traditional paperbacks to digital learning. SRI International’s study on the use of Khan Academy in North American schools showed that its role satisfied a “blended learning model”. Khan Academy is a popular academic website providing students with free instructional and tutorial videos on subjects such as mathematics, science, economics, and more. Its resources are used mainly in K-12 education within North America. The “blended learning model” is the combination of self-directed online study with instructor-led school-based learning, allowing students to enhance their knowledge on particular areas of study. Khan Academy’s steady rise stipulates a shift of emphasis onto self-paced and self-directed learning that can prepare students for independent knowledge acquisition and research in university. During online study, students can practice newly-acquired skills from classroom-based instructed learning, and obtain a better grasp on areas in which they have trouble with. Thus, the “blended learning model” acts as not only a tool for teachers and instructors to track students’ learning curves, but also for students to monitor and pace their own learning progress. As digitalized learning becomes an academic trend, it is important to evaluate the implications behind its popularization in order to utilize it to full potential. South Korea’s academic paradigm shift clarifies the connection between readily-available online education, and diligent attitudes that will lead to success. The use of technology as learning tools and why they are used is ultimately what constitutes as the culture of digital education.
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IdeasXChange Hub Events
  Watch IdeasXChange present the 2016 Meet & Greet evening with guest speaker Peter Klein. An Emmy-Award Winning Journalist and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, Klein discusses his experience as an investigative journalist and talks about the importance of dialogue between people of different backgrounds and disciplines. He is also a former producer of CBS News 60 Minutes and in 2009, alongside his colleagues he started the International Reporting Program (IRP) – a UBC project that reports on under-covered global issues around the world. He is currently turning the IRP into the Global Reporting Centre (GRC), a non-profit organization that follows a similar vision – highlighting important and neglected stories worldwide. The GRC partners with leading reporters and media organizations to produce solutions-oriented journalism. The IRP’s first project resulted in the Frontline and WORLD documentary investigation, which looked into the international electronic waste trade, earning Klein and his class an Emmy for the Best Investigative Newsmagazine.
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Health
A new technique will potentially create new neurons and allow them to reconnect in people with central nervous system damage. A research team led by McGill University and the Montreal Neurological Institute has created new functional connections between neurons for the first time. These artificial neutrons grow 60 times faster, but are identical to naturally growing neurons in the human body. (Courtesy of: McGill University) “It’s very exciting, because the central nervous system doesn’t regenerate”, said Montserrat Lopez in a statement, a McGill post-doctoral fellow who spent four years developing, fine-tuning and testing the new technique. “What we’ve discovered should make it possible to develop new types of surgery and therapies for those with central nervous system damage or disease.” To make healthy neuronal connections that transmit electrical signals in the same way that naturally grown neurons do, precise manipulation and specialized instruments are needed. This amount of precision is due to the minute size of the neurons, which are 1/100th of a single hair strand. An atomic force microscope is used to stretch the transmitter part of a neuron and reconnect with the part of the neuron that acts as a receiver. Margaret Magnesian, a neuroscientist at the Montreal Neurological Institute and an author on the paper “Rapid Mechanically Controlled Rewiring of Neuronal Circuits,” says ”this technique can potentially create neurons that are several [millimetres] long, but clearly more studies will need to be done to understand whether and how these micro-manipulated connections differ from natural ones.”
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We are hiring!

Join the UBC IdeasXChange Team. Deadline: October 3

How to apply: Fill out the application form (required) and send us a short resume (optional) See the HIRING PACKAGE HERE for more details on all of the executive volunteer positions below.

About the magazine and contributing writers

Those who qualify will write articles in one or several of the following categories: foreign affairs, sustainability, environment, social issues, science and business. Individuals may also write in other categories if they have a special expertise they want to bring to our attention. If interested, send an email to contact@ideasxchange.org along with a resume and a couple of links to previously published articles. Post-secondary writing assignments are also welcome – more details to come.

ABOUT THE IDEASXCHANGE HUB: Innovation workshops and forums

The unprecedented issues of today inspire us to connect minds and spread knowledge through talks and workshops. We believe that many of today’s social, economic, and environmental challenges are all interconnected. Solving them will require innovation and collaboration. We host interactive workshops and panels on a wide range of social, economic, and environmental themes by bringing together some of the brightest minds in their respective fields. Attendees come from diverse backgrounds. By joining our events you will learn and connect with other like-minded people.


2016

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2015

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange. [huge_it_portfolio id=”3″]
Panelists | Knowledge Experts Our panelists have ranged from community leaders, CEOs of social enterprises, ecological economists, food security and international development experts, and policy makers. In 2015, IdeasXChange hosted six events that brought together 28 panelists from many industries and interest groups. This included social sustainability, food security, ecological economics, corporate social responsibility, international aid, and green technology/green economy. See more here. Workshops | Connecting Minds Our workshops connect students, academia, and practitioners at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. Often times we host them after panel discussions because we want to give everyone the chance to exchange ideas and foster a space for innovative thinking. Our events are unique as we give you the chance to connect with other like-minded people and the changemakers of tomorrow. Awards IdeasXChange has been awarded four grants by the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2015-16.
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