Innoversity was founded in 2000
Innoversity has become a model for positive change. It has thrived because of the volunteer contributions of hundreds of individuals, the support of some wonderful sponsors, the commitment of executives from the Canadian media industry, the enthusiasm of the delegates, the expertise of a small consulting company and the sacrifices of one Canadian family.
The Reyes-Grange family and DiversiPro
Cynthia Reyes and Hamlin Grange, two veterans of broadcasting and print media envisioned an exciting place in which innovation, creativity and diversity were linked. They created the name “Innoversity”, a new way of thinking about the opportunities of diversity. Their daughter Nikisha Reyes-Grange, with a background in marketing and business development, agreed to help them develop the vision.
With years of media experience between them, Reyes and Grange saw an urgent need for Canada to find effective ways to reflect and integrate its fast-growing cultural diversity. They believed that the mainstream media, the industry in which they had both “been raised”, had a special role to play in setting the tone for the whole country.
A Time of Uncertainty and Risk
A group of executives from broadcast and print media supported the Innoversity vision almost immediately and began giving excellent advice. Innoversity launched its sponsorship campaign in the summer of 2001 – just weeks before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
With the whole world facing uncertainty, the media industry was hit hard and sponsorship commitments for Innoversity fell through within weeks. There was, however, a bigger impact to the world, as acts of fear and prejudice increased toward Muslims and others who looked “different” in North America and parts of Europe. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, a sombre Innoversity planning team gathered around the boardroom table, wanting to press ahead, but fearing that it would have to cancel the first ever Innoversity Summit™. Hamlin Grange said: “Now, more than ever, we need Innoversity.” Everyone around the table agreed. The Reyes-Grange family and their young company made the decision to plough ahead, acknowledging that it was a risky business decision that could cost them everything they owned. All savings were withdrawn and the mortgage on the family home got larger. Many prayers were said.
Thankfully, several media organizations became sponsors and partners in the critical months ahead, giving Innoversity a much-needed boost. The sponsors in that first year included:
- CBC Radio-Canada
- Directors Guild of Canada
- DiversiPro Inc (formerly ProMedia)
- The Toronto Star
- Flow 93.5 Radio
- CORUS Entertainment
- National Film Board
- International Broadcast Training of Canada
- Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
- Vision TV
- Canadian Race Relations Foundation
- Telefilm Canada
- Department of Canadian Heritage
- Wallace Studios