John F. Wood Centre hosts the 2nd annual EDI Pitch Competition | Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics

John F. Wood Centre hosts the 2nd annual EDI Pitch Competition

Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2024

EDI Pitch Competition winners and judges

The John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise, in partnership with the Lang School of Business and Economics, proudly hosted the 2nd annual EDI Pitch Competition on April 5th, 2024.  

This annual competition invites Lang students, as part of their curriculum, to critically examine pressing issues surrounding Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), Accessibility, and Reconciliation responsibilities. Participants are encouraged to first identify violations of EDI principles in an assigned societal context and then propose effective, practical solutions that can be implemented within organizational, leadership, and work environments.  This year, the focal theme for the pitch competition was 'EDI in sport' with the event taking place at the Gryphon Football Pavillon. Within this broad theme, students concentrated on one of the following five critical areas: 

  • Reconciliation/Indigenization in Sport 

  • Accessibility in Sport 

  • Gender Opportunities and Issues in Sport 

  • Mental and/or Physical Wellbeing in Sport  

  • Ethics in Sport 

"The EDI pitch competition was an excellent opportunity for students like me to learn about and identify EDI issues in sports and then combat the identified issue with a tangible solution. It is actionable events and opportunities like this that ultimately contribute to the positive and inclusive culture that we have here at the University of Guelph," said BComm student Henry Turner. 

After being assigned one of the five topic areas, each team was tasked with identifying a specific problem within the broader theme to tackle. Students were encouraged to utilize the Innovation Toolkit provided by the Wood Centre, applying a proven ideation process to refine their ideas and develop the best possible solution. Additionally, the Wood Centre staff provided guest lectures on developing pitches, delivering a presentation, and fostering creative confidence, equipping students with the necessary tools to prepare for their refined in-person pitches. 

“It is events like these, that highlight that our students are preparing themselves to lead with empathy, to build inclusive teams, and to create products and services that cater to a diverse world. This is the kind of leadership that the global workforce desperately needs,” said Jessie Kennedy, Manager of the Wood Centre. 

In the preliminary round, students pitched their ideas to a group of judges, made up of faculty, sport industry experts, members of the Indigenous community. The judging panel selected the top group to move on to the final round in the afternoon. The top 5 teams presented to a final judging panel and a live audience and were awarded a cash stipend.  

"Events like the EDI pitch underscore Lang Business School's and the University of Guelph's foundational vision and values—the conviction that business should be a force for good. This ethos distinguishes Lang from other business schools. As we inspire leaders for a sustainable world, it's essential that we at Lang exemplify the ideals of the society we envision," said Kathleen Rodenburg, Associate Professor, Lang School. 

This year’s event involved over 120 students, 27 presenting groups, and 20 judges, with a live audience of over 60 in attendance to watch the final pitches. Student pitches addressed a range of opportunities for engaging with EDI in sport, including sexual harassment of athletes, doping, creating more accessible venues, revising the use of appropriative and culturally offensive mascots, incorporating more training for coaches, and revising how government funding is allocated and leveraged with various communities.  

“Too many organizations say that they value EDI and commit to reconciliation but struggle to follow through with change. This event helps students turn values into action. As part of the curriculum, students practice embedding EDI into the way organizations and individuals operate for more meaningful impact that centres what communities need and want. It isn’t easy work, but the students showed that as the future leaders they can tackle difficult problems ethically and professionally,” said Thomas Sasso, Assistant Professor, Lang School. 

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