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Zehra Abbas, Founder of YTGA (INTERVIEW)

Youth Troopers for Global Awareness and Studio89

— May 1, 2012 — Social Good
Zehra Abbas is the founder of Youth Troopers for Global Awareness. When we profiled the Mississauga, Ontario-based organization a few months ago, we mentioned Studio89, a youth-led social enterprise cafe that offers fair trade refreshments and an “artademic resource centre.”

Today we're sharing our interview with Zehra, who tells us more about starting the Youth Troopers for Global Awareness (YTGA) social enterprise cafe as well as the team's sources of inspiration and creativity.

4 Questions with Zehra Abbas, Founder of YTGA

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
The YTGA team has faced too many challenges being a grassroots, youth-led non-profit in our suburban city of Mississauga, Ontario due to the lack of resources we have available here. When we started thinking about getting ourselves into an office space we wanted to address the issues of self-sustainability, empowering and educating youth about various social issues while providing skill training and offering free art resources and community space. We also wanted to increase accessibility to ethical and fair trade products. Since we have always been an organization that uses artistic means to educate about local and global issues, the pieces just came together to form Studio 89.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I think it was a very organic process. Personally, the more I learn about all the various elements that make the world go round, it just makes sense to follow that inside voice that screams, "Gotta make change happen somehow!" and just keep working towards that change.

We live in this very high-consumption society where fair trade is virtually unknown and there is a lack of global consciousness. The YTGA team felt compelled to rectify that.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
We inspire each other. We read stuff, share it, talk about it and analyze it. Sometimes we over analyze it and wonderful things arise. As a result of the dialogue, ideas burst forth and motivation is born, and then we create. The creation method is ever evolving depending if it's a theatre performance or content for our website or our social enterprise (which is a monolithic-sized undertaking in comparison), but the process is almost always the same.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Again, our creativity is usually born during the dialogues we have. For example, if we have been asked to perform for a conference on youth suicide prevention or human trafficking, we will talk about all the aspects and angles of that issue and discuss what we would like to address with the audience.

We often share personal experiences or articles we've read and research we've done regarding the issue. As the conversation continues, light bulbs start going off. As the ideas come forward, others build on them and we put all our thoughts and ideas into a virtual box, then make notes of the ones that really pop. We often do both group and personal brainstorming. Our members have been meeting weekly in an informal setting for the last six years so the conversations tends to flow very well.