Gaspé community action group takes home grand prize at innovation challenge

Youth coordinator Kathy Gallon let out a squeal of excitement when she heard her team had been chosen as the winner of the Co-Lab innovation challenge at Bishop's University in Lennoxville over the weekend.

The $2,500 cash prize will go to the organization where she works: the Committee for Anglophone Social Action (CASA), a group that serves the English-speaking community in the Gaspé.

CBC Quebec partnered with Canadian Heritage, with the support of Bishop's University and the Quebec Community Groups Network, to tackle the question, "Do I have a future in Quebec?"

About 40 people, divided into six groups made up of community organizations and youth, spent two days in workshops and innovation challenges to solve some of the problems the organizations face.

Community groups were paired with young people from the community and local universities to develop and pitch the projects to the judges.

CASA's team — made up of Gallon, her colleague Shannon Marsh, and students Veena Nagamuthu and Kamal Benmiloud — pitched their idea before a panel of judges.

The funds will specifically go toward developing programming for people aged 25 to 40, with both lifestyle and employment services.

"Competition was fierce today. We were hopeful and knew we did a good pitch, but we knew others had good pitches also," Gallon said. "Hearing our name and knowing we won, we knew we'd been heard, so that was very gratifying."

Marsh, who is also a youth coordinator at CASA Gaspé, said there is no existing programming for people older than 30 as the organization currently only targets people in their late teens and early 20s.

But with the goal of employability, CASA Gaspé's new program, Destination-U, will help people aged 25 to 40 facing isolation, and help them engage in the community and find a sense of belonging.

Team member Benmiloud, who studies at Université de Sherbrooke, said he had no idea about the issues facing young people in the Gaspé, and adding that it was "a really special moment" when he heard his group had won.