PPE student interns with a Halifax social enterprise
Philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) student Alexander (AJ) Case worked this past summer as a marketing intern for VIDA Living, a social enterprise. The organization was founded by Halifax entrepreneur Ron Lovett who saw a problem with affordable housing in Halifax and decided to use social entrepreneurship to tackle it.
Lovett’s solution was to buy condemned buildings, renovate them, and increase security, but also build a community for the tenants. VIDA Living focuses on extra amenities for the tenants, including gyms, libraries, and beautiful landscaping, all with a goal of improving quality-of-life.
Case’s main role was to work on the changes that VIDA Living were making to affordable housing, but he also worked on business development with one of Lovett’s other companies. His responsibilities varied from establishing a community rewards program with community partners to putting a gym in a building.
Although at times his work was stressful, Case loved the workplace culture.
“It is really a unique culture in the sense that everyone is equal — everyone can choose what they do and everyone has the same autonomy. In fact, the hardest part of the job, apart from adjusting to the fast pace, was realizing I had to take the initiative to do things. I was used to jobs where you are closely monitored. It is very different to have that autonomy and take charge of things on your own. It is culturally progressive. This is Ron’s vision. This is the way working should be.”
At meetings, Case was expected to take an active part.
“They told me I was hired because they thought I had a unique way of thinking. They wanted me to poke holes in things so they could see things that needed to be changed or fixed. It is great to know that people value what I am saying.”
Case found the most rewarding part of the summer was to see buildings that were largely empty of people when he started are now almost completely full.
“It is an affirmation that the model will work,” says Case.
Amanda Rainville, Lovett’s executive assistant, says, “AJ was thrown into the job and he has a great ‘go-with-it attitude.’ He picks up any task that is thrown at him. That is the nature of start-ups, you never know what is going to be needed that day.”
Rainville says this type of experience in the workplace is invaluable.
“It is a new world, so it is great having real experience, dealing with customers, starting a new company, seeing all the good, bad, and the ugly of it. I would urge students to look for opportunities like this with an entrepreneur,” says Rainville.
Case chose to study PPE because he wanted to be able to think critically and he valued both being able to communicate and understand the world around him.
“I thought about what foundation of knowledge I wanted to have and the kind of person I wanted to become. I really wanted a unique lens to view the world.”