Alison Lawton

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Alison Lawton
Born (1970-05-29) May 29, 1970 (age 48)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater Concordia University, Simon Fraser University
Notable work Uganda Rising
Spouse(s) Frank Giustra (2000–2007)

Alison Lawton (born May 29, 1970) is a Canadian social venture philanthropist, social advocate, and business investor.

Early years[edit]

Alison Lawton was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. From a very young age she was involved in fundraising and volunteer work. As part of her NGO involvement, she attended the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, after which she started volunteer work for Earth Day International. It was this fundraising work that led her to approach David Richardson who convinced her to join Investor First Financial to learn about investing, knowledge that could one day enable her to start her own NGO to pursue the change she sought in the world.[1]

Lawton graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Concordia University in 1995.[2] After graduating, she joined Investor First Financial in Vancouver, BC where she started her business career in private equity sales in the areas of syndicated software, film, television, real estate and tax shelter offerings.[3]

In 1997, Lawton founded her own private equity boutique investment firm, Winfield Venture Group Ltd,[4] now known as Mindset Venture Group Ltd.

Lawton completed a Master of Arts degree in Applied Sciences at Simon Fraser University in 2006.[5] Her thesis focused on "the role of the media in creating value in financial markets."[3]

In 2000, Lawton married Canadian businessman and philanthropist Frank Giustra. They separated in 2007 and have two children together.

Business career[edit]

In 1998, Lawton was one of three founding partners of Vancouver based leading tech incubator IdeaPark Ventures Inc. that was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.[3] In 2000, IdeaPark sold to Itemus Inc – a dot com incubator co-founded by Goldcorp mining magnate Ian Telfer.[6]

Lawton continued her business career by investing in start-up companies and was an early stage investor in Vision Critical and Yoga.[4] Other portfolio companies included BC based software start-ups Sosido Networks, Strutta, and Tyze Personal Networks. Alison served on the Board of Directors of Vision Critical[7] as well as the advisory board of LX Ventures Inc.[8]

She was an early investor in the Acumen Fund,[9] one of the first impact investment funds in the US. She partnered with Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing to launch Canada’s first social impact investment fund, the MaRS Catalyst Fund.[10] Alison’ is also a founding investor and a board member of Canada’s first health related social impact bond, Activate, created by the Heart & Stroke Foundation in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.[11]

Lawton continues to invest in early stage companies with rapid growth potential in a variety of industries including SaaS, fintech, healthtech, and consumer product & services businesses through her Vancouver based private boutique investment firm Mindset Venture Group Ltd.

Philanthropy and advocacy[edit]

In 2005, Lawton was appointed Chair of the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign for UNICEF Canada. Some of her campaign initiatives included producing the Unite against AIDS concert series, including artists Avril Lavigne, John Mayer, and Sarah McLachlan, and UNICEF’s first Canadian art auction, Unite with Art. The events raised funds for UNICEF, as well as the consciousness around HIV/AIDS and how it redefines childhood for millions of children worldwide.[1] Alison also produced a 25-minute educational documentary for UNICEF; Hope in the Time of AIDS featured Stephen Lewis and was narrated by Pierce Brosnan.[12]

Lawton served on the board of the Positive Women’s Network and Pacific AIDS Resource Centre (PARC) and worked one on one with HIV-positive kids in home settings and helped to organize retreats for HIV-positive women and children.

Lawton met Lloyd Axworthy, former Director of the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues and former Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, in 2004. He encouraged her to cover the forcible conscription of children in Uganda’s civil war.[3]

After a trip to Uganda she struggled with how to properly publicize the plight of the Acholi children in Uganda and consulted with former President Bill Clinton, whom she met while touring Africa with UNICEF and the Clinton Foundation. On a special request from the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, she flew to India to present her work and also consult with the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader told her to stop worrying and "work from a place in your heart."[13] What started off as an educational video that Axworthy could use for lobbying, ended up becoming "Uganda Rising", a full-length documentary that chronicled the 20-year civil war in the country.[14] Written and co-directed (with Jesse James Miller) by Pete McCormack, and narrated by Kevin Spacey, it screened at more than 25 film festivals worldwide and was the recipient of the Best Documentary Award at several festivals including WT Os International Film Festival and Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.[15]

In 2006, Lawton founded Mindset Media Society, now known as Mindset Social Innovation Foundation. Mindset Foundation is a registered Canadian charity.[16]

Lawton donated $1M to the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in 2009 to establish the International Reporting Program.[17] The International Reporting Program runs for ten years and gives journalism graduate students the opportunity to report on under-reported global issues. The students of the first year of the program won an Emmy for the investigative journalism short film 'Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground’.[18]

In 2009, Lawton launched the Open Health Initiative as the new focus of Mindset Foundation. The Open Health Initiative focuses on the human right to health with a goal to identify innovations to transform the global problem of access to medicine. Research commissioned by the Foundation identified that the North American public had limited awareness of the problem, and supported the launch of the Access Our Medicine Initiative in 2014.[19] Since then, over 130,000 people from 160 countries have signed a declaration calling on stakeholders to work together to find solutions.[20] Mindset Foundation’s support of social innovators also led Lawton and her team to partner with the Dispensary of Hope, a US 501(c)(3) charitable medication distributor based in Nashville, TN, on a $200M drug recovery program through a commitment to action through the Clinton Global Initiative.[21]

Awards, appointments and memberships[edit]

  • UNICEF’s Champion for Children Award (2006)[22]
  • UNICEF Canada Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS Chairperson (2006–2010)[23]
  • Simon Fraser University Outstanding Alumni Award for Community Service (2007)[24]
  • Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40 Award (2006)[25]
  • Appointed to the John F. Kennedy School of Government Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University
  • Previously: Advisory Committee for Virgin Unite Canada[26]
  • Previously: BC Advisory Council for Social Entrepreneurship[27]
  • Senior Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability and Social Innovation at the Sauder School of Business, UBC[28]
  • Member of the UBC Graduate School of Journalism Advisory Board[29]


  1. ^ a b theXtraordinary. "Alison Lawton - TheXtraordinary". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  2. ^ "Concordians at the top". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  3. ^ a b c d Mckenzie, Kevin Hinton & Ryan. "Alison Lawton: The Connector". BCBusiness. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  4. ^ a b "Alison Lawton | Renewal". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  5. ^ "SFU News Online - Outstanding alumni: Creating a healthier, safer world - January 24, 2008". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  6. ^ "Big Net incubator to be launched today with $125-million to invest". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  7. ^ "Alison Lawton - Vision Critical". Vision Critical. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  8. ^ "LX Ventures Announces Additions to Advisory Board".
  9. ^ "Stocks". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  10. ^ admin (2015-11-27). "Partnership with MaRS, Canada". Virgin Unite. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  11. ^ "Community Hypertension Prevention Initiative". Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  12. ^ "HOPE in the TIME of AIDS: The Film «". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  13. ^ Committee, Canada Tibet. "Canada Tibet Committee | Library | WTN". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  14. ^ "Uganda Rising: The Canadian Film About Northern Uganda". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  15. ^ "Uganda Rising". Archived from the original on 2012-03-26.
  16. ^ "Home". Mindset. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  17. ^ "Supporters - International Reporting Program". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  18. ^ "UBC journalism school wins Emmy for investigative documentary | UBC Graduate School of Journalism". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  19. ^ "Health". Mindset. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  21. ^ "Dispensing Hope: Transforming US Medicine Surplus". Clinton Foundation. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  22. ^ " - Page Not Found". Archived from the original on 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2011-07-07 – via
  23. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  24. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  25. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  26. ^ [1][dead link]
  27. ^ [2][dead link]
  28. ^ "Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing - UBC Sauder School of Business, Vancouver, Canada".
  29. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2009-04-10.