Social Innovation Fellows Mean Business
26 March 2014 at 9:08 am
Top postgraduate students are set to help social enterprises develop new business models and become more “investor ready” under a new Social Innovation Fellowships Program established by UTS Business School.
The program – said to be the first of its kind in Australia – aims to help develop the social enterprise sector in Australia, as well as the emerging social finance market.
MBA students selected to be Social Innovation Fellows will work with a social enterprise to analyse its business model, review market research and look at ways to make it more attractive to institutional and private investors.
The pilot program will work with Australia’s oldest charity, The Benevolent Society.
“The program will give social enterprises access to cost-effective advice they might not otherwise afford, at the same time giving MBA students invaluable experience,” UTS Business School Dean Roy Green said.
“This goes beyond the traditional approach of a university providing policy advice to community organisations, or including social enterprise as a subject in a Master’s program. The students will be doing real work with a real impact.”
Social enterprise is a relatively new model in Australia that blends philanthropy and business. A social enterprise seeks to make a profit from revenue-generating activities but with the goal of financially supporting social impact activities such as helping the homeless or disadvantaged children.
Social enterprises can also attract “impact investors”, who seek out opportunities to invest in profitable but responsible businesses with the aim of generating a financial return as well as a social one.
“Impact investing is one of the priorities for the Group of Eight, with UK Prime Minister David Cameron last year establishing an international Social Impact Investment Taskforce. Australia is the only nation outside the G8 to be invited to engage with the group,” Dean Roy Green said.
Dr Danielle Logue, who co-founded and directs the Social Innovation Fellowship Program with the UTS Business School Strategic Partnerships Unit, said millions of impact investment dollars are available in Australia but not enough social enterprises are able to meet investment criteria and there is a lack of capacity building in this nascent market.
“The aim is for the fellows to help build capacity inside those social enterprises so they can access capital from impact investors,” she said. “More broadly, this is about rethinking business models to address the challenges facing economies globally”.
In the pilot, MBA students Kyle Westgarth, James Sowden, Pepijn Meijboom and Crystal Hanna have begun working with The Benevolent Society to develop a social enterprise model for its activities.
“The work will focus on its Shaping Brains program, which uses cutting-edge neuroscience techniques to help disadvantaged children overcome learning difficulties, often due to early trauma,” she said.
The Benevolent Society and the student fellows will investigate ways to develop a business model around these services, to generate revenue from some clients that will support the work they do with those less able to pay. The students will present their final report to the Society in April.
“Our hope is that the UTS Social Innovation Fellows will provide business analysis that will help our social enterprises, like Shaping Brains, to be competitive and attract investors,” Benevolent Society’s Executive Director, Finance & Business Services, Wendy Haigh said.
“This is important so that we can scale up our innovative program to reach more disadvantaged children with learning difficulties whose needs are not currently being met.”
Dr Logue said UTS Business School wants to contribute to building a pipeline of impact investments in Australia, and to help organisations who are seeking funding from Australia’s various social investment and development funds and other commercial and impact investors.