The Path to Inclusive Innovation: How Ethos Lab is Empowering Youth and Creating a More Diverse Innovation Community

3 min read
February 27, 2024

Research indicates that diverse teams are more innovative and effective due to their ability to bring a wider range of perspectives and experiences to the table. This diversity of thought leads to increased creativity, better decision-making, and improved problem-solving. Yet, diversity in STEAM fields remains a challenge, as underrepresented groups often lack access to opportunities to participate in these innovative teams, highlighting the ongoing need for efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Locally, these efforts are being led by Vancouver’s Ethos Lab, who are on a mission to increase representation in innovation by engaging young and diverse voices. Their afterschool innovation academy for grades 5-12 allows youth to discover, explore, and grow through STEAM and culture-based experience. By focusing on increasing representation, Ethos Lab is creating opportunities for individuals from underrepresented communities and developing a new wave of diverse innovative talent.

Ethos Lab’s growth has been accelerated through partnerships with blue-chip organizations like Microsoft, Vancity, and YVR that have allowed them to run STEAM-focused programs, events, workshops for youth across BC. This includes their upcoming annual Black-a-Thon, hosted at Microsoft’s Vancouver HQ, which brings together more than 150 youth from across the province to hack an invention in Black history.

We sat down with Ethos’ Founder and Executive Director, Anthonia Ogundele, to discuss her organization’s roots, her experience going through the Venture Acceleration Program, and the pressing need to increase representation in the tech industry.


Tell us about Ethos Lab. What do you do and why do you do it?

Anthonia: Ethos Lab is a community centered innovation academy for youth in grades 5 to 12 in Vancouver, BC. We are for everyone, by us - meaning we are Black led organization but we are open to all youth. We intentionally fusing Black culture into science, technology, engineering, applied arts, and math (S.T.E.A.M) programming to encourage inclusion, acceptance, and representation. Youth involved with Ethos Lab are empowered with core skills and self belief to pursue post secondary education and career paths that are innovative and emerge as leaders in our societies.

As the executive director, I founded Ethos of the endemic lack of representation in STEAM. It illustrates a deep disparity of access that negatively impacts marginalized communities at all levels. I believe that it is so important that youth of all backgrounds have the resources, tools, and networks to be able to create the things they imagine and dream of using STEAM. And I believe that non Black youth should be exposed to more Black leadership to better center diverse and authentic identities.·


How is Ethos Lab increasing representation in B.C.’s innovation ecosystem?

Anthonia: We are increasing representation by our approach. We design our learning environment centring the Humanity of the Black experience- creating a space where Black youth are respected, reflected and protected. Creating a space like this makes it more inclusive for all. We have taken an interdisciplinary approach to STEAM, fusing and building a culture where by under-represented youth are able to see themselves. I have been intentional with my hiring ensuring we have a diversity of Faculty members representing various parts of the African Diaspora and ally leaders.


Ethos Lab has accessed business coaching and mentorship through Innovate BC’s Venture Acceleration Program. Can you tell us how the program helped your organization?

Anthonia: Yes, we were part of the New Ventures BC Venture Accelerator program. I entered the program as a new founder with an unincorporated business idea. Through the program I was able to learn how to create the essential foundational information in order to be able to build.


What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while growing your organization and how did you overcome them?

Anthonia: One of the major challenges is consistent funding and Talent recruitment and retention. Both of these challenges are two- sides of the same coin. The difficulty in sourcing multi-year funding makes it difficult to hire individuals beyond short-term contracts. This has proven to be an issue, with many people looking for stable employment in this economy.  We have received great support from corporate and federal grants who have continuously shown dedication to creating impact and supporting us.


What’s next for Ethos Lab? Are there any updates on the horizon?

Anthonia: Like any new organization the focus is on building the team and operational infrastructure in order for us to scale across the region and to deliver consistent and quality programming to our community. Our ultimate goal is to have Ethos Lab’s across the country and we are currently researching locations for planned expansion in 2025-2026. For now, we are preparing for our 2nd Annual Black History Hackathon (Blackathon) where we will host 150 youth from across the region at Microsoft Vancouver’s Headquarters to hack an invention in Black History.

None of this would be possible with the support of sponsors like YVR, Microsoft, Low-Tide Properties and Vancity Community Foundation. Black Futures Month is our annual fundraising campaign we invite any one that supports our mission to give

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