CYF & The Discover Zone: 2012-2014
The Discover Zone was a one-stop-shop for all things French in Canada… An interactive, web-based platform whose goal was to match those who were seeking post secondary opportunities in French to those who provided post secondary opportunities in French, thereby increasing the number of people participating in post secondary programs in French, and inevitably increasing the number of bilingual Canadians.
In a nutshell, the platform was simply bringing the supply to the demand, and it was conceived to benefit all stakeholders:
1) Opportunity seekers would not only be able to see an exhaustive list of all of the opportunities that best suited their individual interests, thereby eliminating the need for them to rely on Google searches to find opportunities on their own (which is a pain in the arse) but they would be a part of a community of like-minded individuals who were all striving towards a truly bilingual Canada.
2) Opportunity providers (language schools, online language resources, francophone universities and colleges, employers, francophone communities in the minority, and the entire province of Québec) would be able to market their products and services directly to their target audience, and they would also be able to reach potential customers that they might not have been able to reach with the limited marketing dollars that they had before.
3) In charging opportunity providers to market themselves on the platform, Canadian Youth for French would have a revenue generator that would allow them to be autonomous from public financing, and be more flexible and reactive in the services that they offered to their members.
Year 3: 2012-2013
It took a few months to finally received word that our project had been approved, but once we did, we went about planning the development of the Discover Zone (Disco).
After a few more months of development, Disco 1.0 was launched, and although it was fairly functional, there were a lot of missing pieces, and it didn’t quite work the way that I’d envisioned it in my head.
More than 250 people signed up for the Discover Zone in its short time online, but there were too many things that needed to change before I could feel comfortable actively promoting it. It wasn’t a failure, by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t an astonishing success, either.
Another big step forward in 2012 happened at our AGM in Québec City. As CYF was an organization on the move, we graduated from our founding board of directors to a diverse board of directors from all across the country, representing various as many Disco stakeholders as possible.
It was such a memorable moment to be able to address the 9 other board members at the AGM, and realize that the idea that I conceived in my parents’ basement back in 2008 had evolved into a truly national, not-for-profit organization that was going to change the linguistic landscape of our country forever.
Year 4: 2013-2014
Throughout the year, we tried to find ways to get the Discover Zone up and running at a level that we could be proud of, but at a certain point, it was determined that the costs associated with doing so were too great for our budget. There’s a reason why tech companies need private investors to get involved, especially if there’s no web development expertise on the roster.
In the end, because we were granted money to improve the Discover Zone, we made the decision to produce some promotional videos that would help us explain the concept to various stakeholders, in anticipation of receiving more resources in the coming year.
Our AGM was held in Winnipeg, and the board had an extremely enlightening plenary session with members of Manitoba’s francophone community, during which everyone involved began to see how closely our mandates were to each other, and how we needed to work together to increase the number of bilingual Canadians throughout English-Canada.
Year 5: 2014-2015
In 2014, we got word from the Department of Canadian Heritage that we would be granted the same amount of money that we’d been granted in 2013-2014, but that instead of it being “project” funding, it was “program” funding. This meant that the CYF was recognized by the Department as an integral part of the fabric in Canada’s linguistic duality community.
Unfortunately, because our budget hadn’t increased, we were still in the same position as the previous year in regards to the development of the Discover Zone.
Because of the impossibility of advancing the Disco file, the board of directors made the decision to put it on the back burner, and focus on expanding our membership base.
Unfortunately, in doing so, the organization lost its identity. Without the Discover Zone, the board of directors, which was recruited to primarily to represent various stakeholders of the Discover Zone, was navigating its way through rough waters without a compass, and the executive team, realizing this, was determined not to give up on the business model.
This made for difficult times, and combined with all of the other things that had been holding the organization back over the years, I came to be of the opinion that there were too many factors getting in the way of the organization fulfilling its mission, and for this reason, I had to step away from it.
Two weeks later, the rest of the board decided to dissolve the organization, thus beginning a 16-month dissolution process that I made sure to complete. I gave birth to the organization, so I felt as though it was my responsibility to ensure that it was laid to rest with as much dignity as possible.
It was a little rough for me to write this post… I would say it was more difficult to write this post than it was to write the post about my motivation through depression!
Even though I merely glazed over the major events, I invested my whole being into Canadian Youth for French for almost six years, and writing about it’s demise was almost like admitting that I was a failure.
But how could I possibly consider that journey a failure?
Before they’re 30 years old, how many Canadians can say that they visited their country from coast to coast to coast, testified before House of Commons, and Senate committees on multiple occasions, received an invitation to meet with the Governor General in his residence at Rideau Hall, were named recipient of the Commissioner of official languages award for the promotion of linguistic duality, gave more than 50 keynote speeches around the country, and met thousands of Canadians from many different backgrounds?
The best part about this journey however, was the intangibles… The things that can’t be written about… I got to walk through doors that never would have been accessible through any other means, and face challenges that you don’t get working as someone’s employee.
All of the above allowed me to gain an even greater appreciation for our country’s official languages, its official language communities, and its diversity, making me fall even more in love with Canada.
I am confident that the experiences that I had at the head of that organization have prepared me to tackle even greater problems that are still to come, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!