So here I am, preparing myself for my first ever talk at the United Kingdom after having graduated from Imperial College London just about 10 years ago. returning to home soil in Malaysia to build my career & contribute to solve some of her problems. It still feels surreal, but one does not simply miss out on an opportunity to be on a panel with amazing youths all over the world to debate whether social entrepreneurship could be taught at the @HEGoingGlobal!
It’s been a fantastic journey throughout, even a surprise to myself, that I would be here doing what I do. Basically, my current portfolio are the following: I’m a social entrepreneur at EYE Project, a digital marketer at SocialGrooves.com, the digital manager to Dato’ Lee Chong Wei, a founding Global Shaper at the Global Shapers Community Kuala Lumpur Hub but most importantly, a Malaysian building his own version of a #betterMalaysia. And I remember all I ever wanted to do was make a difference to people’s lives.
And now, to be part of a global event organized by the British Council, is one way I can thank everyone who ever supported me to be where I am today. Thank you, my family, friends, partners, associates, social media followers and all. You guys made me happen :’)
Teaching Social Enterprise? Young Social Entrepreneurs Debate
So yeah, this Going Global Panel Session will be happening on the 1st June at Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London, in less than 2 weeks! Here’s where I need your help: what do YOU think about this topic? Can we create social entrepreneurs, or is it something we have to personally experience first in order to “make the leap” headstrong into social entrepreneurship?
In other words, even if there were such thing as a course on social entrepreneurship, how should it be done? Do share your answers, as it will be a good piece of material for discussion during the event.
Now here’s more about the panel: it will be taking place at the Going Global, a forum for education world leaders to debate international higher and further education issues and challenges, and to discuss collaborative solutions. The key theme for the event is “Connecting Cultures, Forging Futures”, the idea that the fusion of diverse cultures generates a creative force, which is a major catalyst of leading edge innovation. Investment in the connection of these cultures produces a tangible return and measurable impact for the future.
The session will be chaired by Vonnie Sandlen, Women’s Officer and President Elect for 2015/16 of NUS Scotland
Regina is a software developer and social entrepreneur with a passion for using technology to bring social change. Regina is an Ashoka Fellow, an Aspen Institute of New Voices Fellow, a GOOD fellow, a Global Shaper of the Accra hub of the World Economic Forum, Vital Voices Fellow, finalist for the African Digital Woman of the Year and a Change Leader with Tigo Reach For Change. Ashesi is a private, non-profit liberal arts university located in Ghana, with a msion to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate among its students critical thinking skills, concern for others and the courage to transform a continent. Her university education included economics, leadership, and entrepreneurship. She started working in the corporate sector. While she was initially unaware of social entrepreneurship, she was interested in solving social problems. She approached her lecturers, and was encouraged to apply her learnings to tackle social problems, and link up with alumni. Her university education helped her as a social entrepreneur with problem solving, business and computer science skills, access to advice and encouragement, and linking her into a network. She also learnt the need for a sustainable business, not reliant on funds. She reflects that had the focus of her education been social entrepreneurship, she would perhaps have started her social enterprise sooner.
Ayu (Lee) was born and grew up in a remote village. Encouraged by his parents, he was the first from his village to study at university. He wanted to provide opportunities to others. He reflects that traditionally education in Thailand teaches students to compete for jobs in industry, government or hospitality, be motivated by money, and move to the city, rather than encouraging them to return and contribute to communities they may come from. Ayu’s education has played an important role for him in overcome barriers that he may otherwise have faced. His university education gave him credibility and enabled communication across linguistic, educational, professional and geographical boundaries, important for sharing experiences of coffee farmers and promoting his social enterprise. Ayu sees higher education as providing relevant skills and knowledge applicable to needs assessments, understanding problems faced by the community, and developing a business plan. However, he asks, how can knowledge from university be brought back and applied to the community, e.g. to solve social problems. How can students be enabled to choose options that involve helping communities, rather than just focusing on making money or studying for itself?
Christopher is a passionate advocate for youth empowerment. He is a Global Shaper of the Kuala Lumpar hub of the World Economic Forum. He sees life experience, rather than university education, as important in the journey of a social entrepreneur. While he advocates that social entrepreneurship cannot be taught, he sees exposure to social enterprise as necessary in order for those who take up social enterprise to get the support they need, especially from peers. He sees four main factors as influencing a young person’s decision to approach social entrepreneurship as a career decision: 1) how supportive universities are to the idea of SE, 2) the level of activity from student-based NGOs such as ENACTUS, 3) access (or distraction) to too many opportunities and 4) most importantly their respective family background. From his own experience of higher education, rather than the specific education he received, he found that being away from his own environment, being involved with student organisations, and being encouraged and supported by peers, educators, and family, assisted him on his journey as a social entrepreneur.
Joshua found that there was no clear route into social entrepreneurship. While Joshua did not study entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship, his university studies in History and Politics equipped him with skills in writing, developing a coherent argument, telling a good story, researching and public speaking that he uses daily as a social entrepreneur. He “stumbled” into running a social enterprise, although his idea from research he did for his Masters dissertation. He did not initially know what social enterprise was, and would have liked more exposure to social enterprise and business, with it being presented as a viable career path. He sees a big responsibility/opportunity for universities to open the minds of young people and show them all the possibilities in the world. He reflects that in today’s climate, where there is competition and uncertainty, entrepreneurship skills – social or otherwise – are essential, and should be included in university education.