Empowering Refugees through training and funding – Monash University Malaysia (Part 1 of 2)

The School of Business at Monash University Malaysia has been actively engaged for several years now in programmes aimed at assisting and empowering Refugees through capacity building, funding and partnerships with multiple organisations. In this two part post, I spoke with Priya Sharma, Coordinator and PRME Ambassador at Monash University Malaysia to look first at the School’s programmes to educate refugees and in the second more about a fund to support refugee community-based organisations, both in collaboration with multiple partners including the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

Provide some background about the urban refugee population in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to one of the largest urban refugee populations. According to the latest UNHCR statistics, Malaysia hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them (90%) are from Myanmar, and the others are from diverse countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Urban settings pose a host of real and difficult challenges for refugees, in particular refugee children. In Malaysia especially, refugee children and youth do not have access to institutionalized schools and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system of community-based learning centres.

What is CERTE and how it came about?

CERTE stands for Connecting and Equipping Refugees For Tertiary Education. It is a task force that aims to support young adult refugees in accessing tertiary education opportunities through knowledge and resource sharing, a bridge course, school readiness preparation, and mentorship. The task force is supported by Open Universities for Refugees (OUR) and UNHCR Malaysia and Teach for Refugees (T4R). It’s mission is to provide quality education to refugees globally and international universities in Malaysia. CERTE Malaysia was established during the OUR-UNHCR 3 C Forum-5/6 -August 2016- in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is led by Jessica Chapman, Managing Director of T4R and Dr. Robin Duncan from OUR. The 2nd session for 2018 will be held at Monash University Malaysia in October and is supported by the PRME team in the School of Business.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The aim of CERTE is to identify refugees who can demonstrate the motivation and academic potential to access further education and to equip and empower them to gain a place at university or college. The course is run over 3 weeks, during weekdays so that the refugee students are exposed to university campus life. Through this course, students are equipped with the basic knowledge of the application process of higher education institutes; have a better understanding of areas of knowledge and different academic disciplines; develop basic research skills in writing and presentations. On the last day, a graduation ceremony is held and a certificate of completion is awarded to the students by Richard Towle, UNHCR’s country representative in Malaysia. This certificate not only endorses their participation but also serves as a unique stepping stone to future learning opportunities in Malaysia or elsewhere. In addition, students who successfully complete the course are given the opportunity to sign-up for a continued mentorship program that will provide continued support in their university application process.

Who are the students?

Fifteen refugee youth from different refugee communities across Kuala Lumpur are selected through an interview process. They are Rohingyas, Sudanese, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Middle Easterns. They have completed their IGCSC or certain level of academic qualification from their home country but had to leave their country in a haste. Their education is abruptly halted and are unable to continue in Malaysia due to their status. Since this program, the students have taken part in other initiatives to improve their education, like online learning and education-focused projects initiated by T4R.

What have been some of the challenges? 

One of the major challenges is that the CERTE bridge course does not guarantee admission into universities. In addition, due to conditions by which the refugees leave their country, most often they do not possess the necessary documentation needed for access to education, informal or otherwise. One suggestion is to perhaps seek the assistance and collaboration of respective embassies to find ways to overcome this issue.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

We think this is an important initiative. Having other institutions take on similar initiatives will have a strong impact on the community. It takes education to another level by engaging with a vulnerable sector of the community and offering it to children and youth. This is crucial as refugee children and youth most often have their education disrupted. A lack of education can disempower those who need an opportunity the most and can lead to extreme poverty for generations. Education is often a lifesaving intervention that offers protection and preserves their futures. Although a temporary predicament, providing education through workshops and trainings like these instill a positive attitude, gives them hope and prepares them for future opportunities. It is therefore crucial to supply them with information that will allow them to explore the world and use the full capacity of their brains while maintaining their interest and enthusiasm.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are continuing with this initiative for the next batch of refugee students and youth. Meanwhile, this initiative has also sparked a conversation and discussion within the senior management of the University on access to education through various platforms and scholarships. A working committee has been established to discuss ways of achieving this and overcoming the challenges and obstacles faced.

Meditation in the Classroom (Part 1 of 2) – Chiang Mai University Faculty of Business Administration


Chiang Mai University Faculty of Business Administration in Thailand, is committed to producing social conscious students. They aim to instil sustainability in their students through a growing range of courses (for example a course on Accounting and Climate Change), sustainability assignments in all core courses as well as a focus on sustainability outside of the classroom in extracurricular activities.

But one of their methods is not traditionally used in business schools, although perhaps it should be. All students at the Business School are given opportunities to meditate in the classroom, either through daily practice supported by faculty of core courses or through a specific elective. I spoke with members of the team at Chiang Mai University about their how they embed meditation into the curriculum.

Why meditation?

According to our mission to produce socially conscious students and produce graduates with morals and ethics, our faculty realizes the necessity of meditation practice. Meditation leads to Samadhi (state of mindfulness) which, in turn, increases the power of mind. Through meditation, our students will be able to control their minds. They will also be wiser, more highly responsible, more deeply mindful, and more caring.

For business managers this is particularly important because of the fast paced business enviornment of today. With Samadhi, the power of mind becomes stronger. This benefits their self-interest and common interest. It helps create a peace of mind which enables managers to have better insight and decision.

How is meditation brought into the curriculum?

We have put in place a course called Meditation for Business Leaders (MGMT 330) that is based on Meditation for Life Development course developed by Venerable Viriyang Sirintharo, the abbot of Wat Dhammamongkol Temple. Venerable Viriyang Sirintharo is the one who initiated and disseminated meditation courses throughout Thailand and other countries and he is now the great meditation teacher.

The Meditation for Business Leaders course is an elective course for students majoring in Management and a free elective course for students in other majors. It is a three-credit course with 2 credits for theory and 1 credit for practice. The course content covers meaning, objectives, methods, processes of meditation. It also includes benefits of meditation and how to apply meditation to daily life, work and business.

What kind of meditation is practiced during the course?

Learning activities under this course include both lecture and practice. The practice includes walking and sitting meditation. Students have to do meditation practice for at least 60 hours, including 7.5 hours a month at home. The activities also include a reflective session at the end of the course.

How are students not part of the elective benefiting from meditation?

Our faculty is the first faculty that allow students to do meditation practice before class. The practice takes only five minutes. Different methods were used such as finger counting, 4-7-8 breath counting, and breathing. This was the foundation of meditation for our students which allows them to gradually practice. We have several videos that help guide students (see above). This practice helps students’ mind to be ready and prepared for upcoming lessons. Students had better concentration on lessons, which resulted in better learning. Many times students sign up for the Medication for Business Leaders course after experiencing and seeing the benefits of these daily meditation practices.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Our main challenge is we are not sure whether our students regularly and seriously do meditation practice. If they do not, the objective of doing meditation cannot be achieved. Students will not attain Samadhi which causes them to be wise, mindful, responsible and kind-hearted.

At a reflective session at the end of the course, students gave positive feedback about meditation. They noted that their behaviours had changed in a positive way, that they were more focused, calmer and more mindful. Some students agreed to continue doing meditation practice. Many of our students recommended the course to other students which has led to an increase in numbers of students registering for the course.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

We believe that all business schools should teach their students how to practice meditation to help enhance students’ learning effectiveness and prepare them to become effective business leaders who have high responsibility, reasonability, and kindness and can handle difficult situations with their peace of mind.

 

12 Visuals to get inspired by for your next SIP report (Part 1 of 2)

Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, beyond being a requirement for PRME signatories, are an opportunity to bring together the work a school is doing in the area of responsible management education, reflect on that work and explore future opportunities. SIPs can provide an important communication tool to raise awareness both internally and externally about your initiatives. Using visuals in your report is one way to bring the information contained within your report to life, to make it easier for your stakeholders to navigate, understand, engage in, and to take action on. To inspire your next SIP report, here are 12 visuals (in two parts) taken from recent SIP reports. These examples are intended to be an exploration of the different approaches taken from different schools. For more examples you can browse through all of the SIP reports on the PRME website.

 

Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria in Canada has been working steadily to measure and reduce its carbon footprint. Over the past few years they have put in place new systems for data collection to ensure more accurate measurements for the various sources of emissions related to the school’s operations. They publish an annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Gustavson, prepared by Synergy Enterprises, one of many sustainability-oriented companies founded by former University of Victoria students.

Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa has a series of illustrations created to capture the school’s ongoing commitment to the principles of PRME. The first explores GIBS’s engagement through its people, the second its impact on its community and globally and the third innovation that it is fostering.

 

The MBA office at Reykjavik University Business School in Iceland interviewed all teachers in the MBA programme in order to map the extent to which a focus on ethics was built into each course. This showed that nine courses out of twelve have CSR or business ethics elements in them. Of the nine, three put a great deal of emphasis on the subject as can be seen in the syllabus mapping.

Copenhagen Business School in Denmark provides a snapshot of different sustainability related research projects. They also include a picture, the name and contact details for those responsible for each project, making it easy to find out where you can find out more information about their projects, whether you are a member of the community or not.

 

Material issues for KU Leuven Faculty of Economics and Business in Belgium are displayed in the materiality matrix. These issues are categorized based on their ascending relevance to stakeholders (based on engagement activities) and the organization (based on the school’s vision, mission, values, and strategy). The most material sustainability issues are education and research that address sustainability topics, as well as the promotion of diversity/non-discrimination with an emphasis on gender equality.

 


Hanken School of Economics
in Finland uses tables such as this one throughout their report to outline goals from previous reports, progress made on those goals and to lay out future goals. Here they also address any delays or challenges to reaching set goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals – A List of Resources


On 25 September 2015, all 193 member states of the United Nations adopted a plan for a path to achieve a better future for all, to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect the planet. A set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets were presented that address the most important economic, social, environmental and governance challenges, and that will help guide national priorities over the next 15 years.

Business schools play a role in the successful implementation of the SDGs. Here are 6 ways they can do so with links to various resources to help.

  1. Learn more about the SDGs themselves: The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform provides information about not only each goal, but all of the individual targets related to each goal. The site provides multiple resources as well as links to individual organisations around the world focused on working to reach the individual goals (a good source of possible partnerships and projects) and how the nine major stakeholder groups are engaging in the SDGs. There is even an app for the SDGs that can be downloaded for free. GOWI provides a range of free online courses around the Sustainable Development Goals delivered via email that take 2-5 minutes to read. To get more in to depth take a look at the growing number of MOOC on the topic.
  1. Integrate the SDGs into teaching. There are a wide range of videos (the Global Goals have their own YouTube channel) as well as several online games, platforms and apps to engage in the different issues. World’s Largest Lesson offers lesson plans around the different goals which, although aimed at a younger audience, provides some good resources and ideas. Connect research on sustainability in economics, finance, and management among bachelor, master and PhD students through the oikos-PRME Research Hub. There are also a growing number of examples of how to integrate the SDGs into business school courses and how to get students more engaged.
  1. Explore what management education’s role is in the SDGs: The PRME Secretariat has released a toolkit, Management Education and the Sustainable Development Goals, exploring why signatories should engage in the SDGs and how they can do so. This includes aligning curriculum and research with the SDGs, seeing more applied research, acting as leaders of public opinion and connecting and collaborating regionally and internationally. Other articles exploring how schools can get involved include a summary of a panel discussion about the role of Management Education in the SDGs, Management Education and the Sustainable Development Goals – Get Engaged published by AACSB and The Sustainable Development Goals and Management Education – an Overview and Update. For some inspiration as to how business schools are already engaging in the SDGs read Primetime posts or look through this list of 100 examples.
  1. Explore what business’s roles are in the SDGs: The SDG Campus The Guide for Business action on the SDGs assists companies in aligning their strategies with the SDGs . The UN Global Compact also has a website which outlines how companies can advance each of the SDGs with links to additional business resources for each SDG. The Global Compact is currently working on a number of action platforms which will focus on different SDGs which are likely to produce additional resources through the coming year. AIM2Flourish provides a database of short case studies, written by students, on businesses engaged in sustainability and the SDGs and several businesses themselves have created SDG related toolkits.
  1. Explore new and strengthen existing partnerships with business: Partnerships isn’t just Goal 17 of the SDGs, it is a crucial part of all SDGs. The UN Global Compact and PRME offer a range of documents focused on how business and business schools can collaborate to co-create solutions for sustainability challenges, win-win partnerships that can yield fresh and innovative ideas. Partners with Business Schools to Advance Sustainability toolkit provides case studies and tips and the following blog posts also focus on developing partnerships with business:
  1. Audit and report on what is already happening across your campus and programmes: Take a look at what is already happening on campus and how you can link these activities to the SDGs. Use your SIP as an opportunity to take stock of which SDGs you are already engaged in and which you need to be moving forward with by reporting on progress and future goals. Some recently submitted reports have already started to report on SDGs or explore how students feel companies are doing reporting their own initiatives with Wikirate.

 

What resources have you developed to raise awareness about the SDGs in your school?

Engaging Employees with Intellectual Disability – Antwerp Management School

idwork-pagina-18ID@Work at Antwerp Management School in Belgium is a unique research project aimed at supporting organisations in attracting, developing and retaining employees with an intellectual disability. The project identifies the levers that can help facilitate the employment of disabled people, as well as the potential challenges and obstacles related to this type of employment effort. Intellectual disabilities are part of most of the Sustainable Development Goals including Goal 8 (unemployment rate and average hour earnings of persons with disabilities) and Goal 16 (increasing the proposition of positions for persons with disabilities in different organisations including in decision making positions).

I recently spoke with Professor Bart Cambré, associate dean research from Antwerp Management School about this innovative initiative.


How did ID@Work come about?

In the margin of the 2014 Special Olympics European Summer Games, Antwerp Management School conducted a study on the employment of people with intellectual disability (ID). The research was done by an inclusive team existing of two athletes participating in the Special Olympics European Summer Games and a senior researcher without ID. Their study focused mainly on employment in sheltered workshops and social economy. A first white paper was published.
The positive experience Antwerp Management School had by working with the researchers with ID, their added value during interviews, and the obvious need of more information and data on employment of people with ID in the regular economy, motivated AMS to develop a new project: ID@Work was born.
What is ID@Work?

ID@Work is a unique scientific project on the inclusion of workers with intellectual disability in the regular economy. ID@Work, stands for intellectual disability@work and has 6 goals:

  • hire the researchers with ID who volunteered in the previous study
  • conduct a study on the employment of workers with ID in the regular economy
  • write a white paper on this study (at this moment only available in Dutch and French)
  • develop a free scan for employers
  • develop a coaching programme for employers wishing to hire workers with intellectual disability
  • organise HR Master classes to train HR personal to hire workers with intellectual disability. This will be an exclusive AMS product.

The first 4 goals have already been achieved. The most recent one was launched November, 2016 and is a scan enabling employers to check how ready a company is to hire workers with intellectual disability. After having taken the test, every participant receives instant feedback and can ask for a full report and profile including advice and links with further resources to engage employees with intellectual disability. Both the tool and the report are free of charges.

What were some of the results of the study you conducted?

For the study mentioned previously, the inclusive team visited 26 companies and interviewed over 60 people all involved in inclusive work with people with ID.
The team extracted 6 pillars on which working with people with ID is or should be based. It is obvious that if one of the pillars is lacking or not equally balanced compared to the other ones, the risk of failure or a less positive experience with working with an employee with ID rises.
Those 6 pillars are:
1. Knowledge & Expertise need to be present before starting. If the company lacks knowledge, call in the help of experts.

  1. Strategy – refers to the reason for inclusion. What are the motives of an employer to hire people with ID? Is there an economic inspired strategy or rather social responsibility?
  2. Job matching – refers to the processes to match a candidate with the tasks needed to be done. Job design is a key element.
  3. Work culture – refers to the values and norms of an organisation when it comes to diversity, performance, organisational practices and policy. Integration and respect are key.
  4. Experience & Support – how much experience does the organisation have in managing diversity and to what extend is there support to facilitate the inclusive policy?
  5. Empowerment – refers to the level of autonomy and self-reliance of the worker with ID. Both need to be stimulated and can be endangered when the employer/organisation has a (too) protective attitude towards the worker with ID.

What have been some of the challenges and successes?
Working with two researchers with ID has been eye-opening. It has become clear that they have another view on the world compared to researchers without ID and that their vision leads towards other types of questions and unexpected answers from the interviewees. It was definitely an added value to the study.

Also, by walking the talk, Antwerp Management School became its own case study. Experiencing real live that things go wrong when the job doesn’t match, that getting professional accompaniment and the right financial incentives as an employer, and other types of help is a complicated adventure in Belgium.

We’ve proven the need of a project like ID@Work to facilitate the employment of workers with ID and to make employers reflect on the possibility and the benefits of hiring people with ID. The fact that not only placement agencies and care organisations, but also the associations of entrepreneurs back the project and promote the test, is a key element for making this project transcend the purely scientific level and enable the tools to actually make a real difference for people with ID in the regular economy.

What does a school – or any other employer for that matter – needs to know before hiring a person with ID?
The most important thing is to gain knowledge on intellectual disability and to know what kind of tasks you would this person like to execute and what basic skills he/she needs to have able to do this. For example, would you like to hire a person with ID to help in administration, then list the tasks involved and the required skills. Does the job include sending emails, look up things on the Internet or use spread sheets to make listings, then be aware of the fact that the worker needs to know how to use a computer, write emails in a proper way, etc. Do not expect these skills to be granted. Reflect on the question if your company/organisation is willing to invest time and money into extra IT training for the worker with ID. Also determine if the tasks you would like to be executed by a person with ID are sustainable or limited in time. If so, you might need to foresee other matching tasks for the worker with ID later on or make him/her aware of the fact that the job is only temporary.

Second is communication. Make sure that the whole company or organisation carries the initiative. Everybody needs to know why a person with ID is being hired and what the benefits are.
Third, set boundaries. In a people and socially oriented environment such as a school, the danger of ‘over’-caring is real. Being too protective is not stimulating the empowerment of the worker and will consolidate the innate helplessness the majority of people with ID are locked into. On the other hand, too much care will weigh on the co-workers of the person with ID. Because of the innate helplessness and the fact that the borders between private life and work are not always clear to the worker with ID, they keep asking for all kinds of help if co-workers do not set clear boundaries. The danger for workers to become after-hour caregivers for their colleague with ID is real.

What’s next?

With another 6 months of the project left, we’re now working on the last two goals of the project: a coaching program for employers and HR Master Classes. The first one will be developed with agencies already active in placement and job coaching for workers with a distance to the labor market. The HR Master Classes will be an exclusive program by Antwerp Management School.

Parallel to this development we will be analysing the data harvested with the ID@Work scan and use the results to consult experts and authorities in improving policies regarding inclusive work.
We secretly hope to be able to install a chair on the subject later on.

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When Business and Healthcare Meet: A Look at an Interdisciplinary Business Run By Students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University

13923535_706655699475691_725367246747842977_oThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) Faculty of Business has a mission of IDEAS (Innovation Driven Education and Scholarship).  Underpinning this mission is the responsibility to develop future leaders who can contribute to the society meaningfully and innovatively.  Over the years, their Faculty has gradually stepped up its emphasis on ethics, responsibility, and sustainability in education, research, and service to the community.  A conversation between colleagues in business and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University resulted in the development of an interdisciplinary venture; the student-run Wellness Clinic.

I spoke with Pamsy Hui from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University about this innovative initiative.

What is the Wellness Clinic?

The Hong Kong PolyU Student-run Wellness Clinic is the first student-run physiotherapy clinic in Hong Kong.  Jointly set up by the Faculty of Business and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), it promotes and provides preventive care programmes, such as fall prevention programme and lower back pain prevention programme to the community.  These programmes are designed, promoted, administered, and implemented by students, under the supervision of a registered physiotherapist.

How did it come about?

It started out as a university-funded interdisciplinary initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among students in the two PolyU units in 2013.  It was identified early on that preventive health services would be a focus.  The first phase of the initiative was an open competition, in which student teams put forth different business models based on their findings on the preventive healthcare needs in the community.  The winning team was then invited to join the core management team of the clinic, implementing its business model.  The first management team has since passed the responsibility to their successors.  So we have gone through a period of succession planning and transition in the clinic’s short life as well!

What are the key features and how does it work?

The interdisciplinary nature of the clinic is one of its biggest features.  While the physiotherapy students design the actual programmes to introduce to the community, the business students take care of the service operation, marketing and general strategic plan for the clinic.  In order to provide programmes that are high quality and suitable for potential clients, the two groups of students need to maintain constant communication.  In other words, business students would need to communicate to physiotherapy students the market needs, and physiotherapy students would need to communicate to business students whether the needs can be served.  Without such two-way communication, resources would be wasted on programmes irrelevant to the community served.

The second biggest feature is the extent through which students can practice what they learn in the classrooms.  In fact, through the application of their specialised skills, be it physiotherapy or business, students get to see for themselves how their knowledge can be a force for good.

The clinic is intended to be a self-sustaining social enterprise in the long-run.  Therefore, a Care Fund was established.  Normally, clients pay a fee for the service provided.  Part of this income, along with donations, is fed into the Care Fund to subsidise clients who cannot afford the normal price.  Part of the challenge for the students, then, is to figure out how to balance different types of programmes and clients to sustain the clinic.

How does this connect to the SDGs?

The Wellness Clinic deals directly with Goal #3: Good Health and Well-being.  Specifically, through the operation of the Wellness Clinic, students strive to provide services that are available to all, including elderly who cannot otherwise afford to pay for the programmes.  Regardless of the clients and programmes, the aim for the Wellness Clinic is to promote preventive healthcare.  Rising healthcare costs have been a concern the world over, especially in ageing societies.  If people can be educated about the prevention of health issues, the burden on the healthcare system can be lightened.  In a small way, the Wellness Clinic also aims to prevent extreme poverty brought forth by potentially crippling medical expenses among some of the most vulnerable inhabitants in the city (i.e., the elderly).

Challenges?

With its interdisciplinary nature, communication across disciplines would be a challenge.  Business students and rehabilitation science students have different mindsets and different focus areas in the project.  Fortunately, so far, all the students involved have gone into this with a learning mindset.  That helps a lot.  Another major challenge is the sustainability of the project.  Students constantly face the challenge of making the clinic financially viable while providing affordable care for those who need it.  That means they have to keep thinking about new business plans and reaching out to new donors.  Sustainability can also be viewed in terms of the human resources.  Most students complete their programmes in four years.  If they sign onto the project in their second year, realistically they have at most two years on the project before they are busy with the final year workload.  That means new members need to be recruited onto the team every year.  New members bring new ideas and energy, but also pose challenges to continuity.  Students really do learn the challenges of succession planning in this project!

Successes?

As the Wellness Clinic has a constant stream of courses for different target clients, it benefits a good number of people.  For example, among the clients in the fall prevention classes, 68% of them demonstrated significant improvement in the knowledge of fall prevention, 57% of them are more confident about dealing with falls, and 38% of them showed actual physical improvement.  These are encouraging results.  Meanwhile, both sets of students get to practice what they learn in a meaningful way.  They also get to learn about how to work across disciplines, sharpen their communication skills, and strengthen their sense of responsibility.  In addition, through the experience, they get to experience organisational issues, such as succession planning and sustainability.  These are good learning opportunities for the students.  From an education point of view, this serves as a prototype that we can replicate in the future with other disciplines.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar in place?

Interdisciplinary projects like this are very challenging to sustain.  First, there has to be strong commitment from different parties.  Even though this is a student-run project, supervision by the faculties would still be necessary.  Faculty support – be it financial or merely moral support – would also help motivate students.  Second, in a university setting, the need for a good succession plan is even more pressing than in normal organisations.  The turnover is constant and frequent.  Faculty facilitation in this aspect may be necessary.  Third, sustainability will be a challenge.  Before embarking on such projects, it is good to assess the long-term financial viability of the projects, as well as the likelihood that people will be excited about it in the long-run.  Finally, it always helps if the project is consistent with the general philosophy and values of the school.  Such projects take up a lot of energy, and if they are not in line with other things the school is doing, they will be very difficult to maintain.

What’s next for the initiative?

For the Wellness Clinic itself, sustainability is the number one priority.  The goal is not about growth, but about maintaining good quality and affordable preventive physiotherapy programmes for the community.  In order to serve more people in need of the services (but cannot afford them), students will need to find innovative ways to keep the Care Fund healthy.

This project also shows the value of interdisciplinary student projects.  So another next step is to locate new opportunities for business students to work with students from other disciplines (e.g., construction engineering, nursing, design, etc.) on social enterprise projects.

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How the Social Impact Festival at University of Western Australia Supports Global and Local Progress

img_7254-smlThe Sustainable Development Goals help us consider everything – from one person, to the university, to our cities – in a global context. They provide a robust yet accessible framework for learning about global progress. This is the focus of the work being done at the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia. Among their many programmes is their annual Social Impact Festival, an opportunity to bring together individuals and organisations who are deeply committed to making Western Australia a better place.

I spoke with Claire Stokes from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia about this increasingly successful event.

What is the Social Impact Festival?

The Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (UWA) hosted the first Social Impact Festival in May 2015 – we call this ‘prototype 1’. It saw over 1,000 people attending events on the UWA Crawley campus focused on furthering social impact. When 2016 began, the team at the Centre for Social Impact UWA decided to take the festival into ‘prototype 2’ in July 2016. Katie Stubley (the other co-director) and myself started with a purpose and designed the event to fulfill that purpose. This included three primary aims: share and diffuse cutting-edge knowledge; strengthen and connect social impact networks; and increase our capacity to make WA better for all. We also identified many people, ideas, organisations and networks that have been deeply committed to making WA a more just, vibrant and better place for all. So a key element of the festival was bringing stories of social impact in WA to the surface to be celebrated and amplified.

What are the key features of the Festival and how does it work?

The concept of ‘social impact’ is so broad that we knew a regular conference format would not work. To see real change, we knew we had to reach audiences beyond those who had previously engaged with the Centre and in a variety of settings. The format was based roughly on a ‘fringe festival’: a diverse range of small, low-cost, and engaging events in a variety of venues so attendees could ‘create their own adventure’.

We turned to our postgraduate course – the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – for a framework which gave us the following themes for the four key days of the festival:

  • Creating social impact: entrepreneurship, innovation & design
  • Demonstrating social impact: research, measurement & evaluation
  • Funding social impact: investment, philanthropy & ethical consumerism
  • Leading social impact: organisation, collaboration & systems

As a whole, the festival featured 34 events over 7 days in 16 venues around Perth. Individual event prices ranged from $0 to $30 and 15 events were free. More than 150 people and organisations contributed to the festival programme (including speakers, workshop facilitators, co-working space hosts, artists, performers, open house venues, and market stall-holders). Through the interactive ‘Stories from the Field’ events (21, 22, 26 & 27 July), 68 individual stories of social impact were shared. Twenty local ethical businesses featured in the Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show (23 July), and 10 spaces and organisations featured on Social Impact Open House day (25 July).

What are/were your favourite parts of the festival?

Pitching events are always interesting, as they provide opportunities for real people and organisations to take action, as well as the chance to learn about investing and the local landscape. The Impact Seed Pitch Night on 26 July was no exception. Run by a new Perth-based organisation, Impact Seed, the event saw five investable social businesses pitch for investment to a packed auditorium of 120 people. It also featured a highly engaging keynote address from Bessi Graham (The Difference Incubator, Melbourne). Graham also sat on the judging panel with Paul Flatau (Centre for Social Impact UWA), Derek Gerrard (Innovation Bay), and Paul Bide (School for Social Entrepreneurs).

Two other standout events were the Festival Opening and Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show. The Opening was a directed performance, mixing inspiring speech from Michael Chaney, Cassandra Goldie and Noel Nannup together with music, poetry, song and dance. The Marketplace & Ethical Fashion show held an atmostphere that was absolutely perfect for what we were trying to achieve. There was a modest amount of stalls – 20 in total – but every single person involved demonstrated deep passion and commitment to their cause. This also extended to an excitement in celebrating and helping each other on the day. Businesses represented included social enterprises, fair trade homewares, organic kombucha and tea, eco-garden services, ethical fashion, Aboriginal enterprises, and more. An estimated 300+ people attended the event and all stallholders reported they sold more than expected.

Although not an event, the ongoing co-working and collaboration space was another highlight. This provided ample opportunity for attendees of events throughout the festival to come early or stay afterwards to simply work, or meet other like-minded people and make new connections. The hosts of this space, Perth-based social innovators enkel, also ensured users of the space made the most of it by engaging with interesting activities such as mindfulness, story-telling, and more.

What impact does the festival aim to have/ already have?

We have already observed and heard about the immediate impact of the Festival. For instance, as one of the key aims was connecting people across sectors we were delighted to hear that almost 70% of attendees said they made new connections they intend to follow up with (or already have). That does not even take into account the connections made across the 150 contributors. We have also heard of some changes, or actions taken based on transformative experiences. For example, 26% of attendees to seek out formal education or training in fields linked to social impact. One person reported they have already chaired a board meeting and presented information from the Festival, leading the Board to review the organisation’s mission, objectives, strategies and how we can better measure our social impact.

Anecdotally, we have heard of many new connections and collaborations around Perth that resulted from the Festival, while other connections have strengthened or formalised. This is exactly the kind of impact we intended to create.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Design with a purpose. That was the single-most important aspect of the festival and it resulted in an event that was not only successful in terms of numbers and engagement, but in the immediate impact it had, leaving everyone involved with the optimism and drive to create positive change.

What’s next?

We are synthesizing the huge amount of information that was drawn out during the festival – in the form of stories, ideas, presentations and feedback. Many of the resources presented or created throughout the festival can be found here: http://www.socialimpactfestival.org/resources/

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