Ep006: Mark Brand on Creating Upward Mobility Through Alternate Currencies and Love

By November 1, 2016Podcast

On this episode, Dr.G is joined by the fearless change-agent and social impact entrepreneur, Mark Brand. As a world-renowned culinary artist, Mark has become a prominent example of a new generation of leadership that focuses on passion and purpose. Using his 11+ businesses as a platform for good, Mark has proven it is indeed possible to be a socially responsible entrepreneur without sacrificing ones core business ethos. In this rare and passionate interview, Mark takes us on his inspiring journey to help breathe new life into marginalized and isolated communities through food, training and meaningful employment. He helps us better understand the importance of empathy, grit and failure as an entrepreneur, the unrelenting power of addiction, and the belief that second chances in life is our moral responsibility as a society. All this and more on today’s episode. Now, That’s Unusual.

About Mark Brand

Mark Brand is one of Canada’s most recognized social entrepreneurs. Having successfully created 11 businesses in Vancouver, he has become a prominent example of a new generation of leadership that focuses on passion and purpose. Brand and his teams are determined to breathe new life into marginalized and isolated communities through food, training and meaningful employment. Combining emerging technologies, alternate currencies and historical best practices, they are creating new blueprints to share globally with the intention of bettering the world. Brand has been recruited to speak, mentor and mediate on the topics of social inclusion, community collaboration, and food security from TED talks to correctional facilities, and everywhere in between. He sits on government councils, not for profit boards and business advisory committees bringing the lens of community first, each and every time. It is through his social impact efforts, and love for our neighbourhoods, that Brand has found a unique balance, proving that you can be successful in business while contributing to your community in a long-term and meaningful way.

 Key Interview Takeaways

“There is nothing more invigorating than knowing how flawed you are, and believing that you can still do good.” Because Brand has struggled with addiction himself, he has insight into the resilience it takes to pull yourself out of that rabbit hole and move forward with passion and purpose. 100% of the homeless have been abused, and that kind of trauma makes it very difficult to trust or to believe that you can do something great. Brand’s empathy for the marginalized motivates him to help them access services and become a meaningful part of society.

The best solutions are often the simplest and most obvious. Knowing that many who want to help the marginalized hesitate because they fear that their money will be spent on drugs rather than food, Brand created a token system that allows a person to trade a small, plastic coin with no denomination for one of five sandwiches at Save on Meats. After some initial backlash, the program has gone on to great success, realizing 90,000 redemptions in three years. The tokens are used by the Vancouver Coastal Health and police department outreach teams to support individuals struggling with addiction in making positive choices.

With the advancement of technology comes the opportunity to pursue unconventional solutions to social problems like homelessness. 92% of people on the street in North America have mobile phones, and 50% of those devices are smart phones. Brand’s current project, Positive Access Link (PAL), seeks to leverage the available technology to provide food, housing and medical services to the marginalized via a digital token communicated by cell phone.

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