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INNOVATION PRIZE FOR AFRICA

November 3rd, 2014 No comments

 

Scaling African Innovation

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With the recent success of Demo Africa and the upcoming Innovation Prize for Africa [IPA], there’s a palpable wave of momentum for innovation and its implications for the continent. And there should be.  Our generation has seen Africa leapfrog towards greater financial inclusion, thanks to mobile money.  We’ve seen $100 3-d printers coming out of Cameroon and urine-powered generators coming out of Nigeria.  In short, we’ve seen tremendous African ventures that were remarkable not just for their technology, but their capacity to impact millions of lives.

After all, isn’t that what its all about?

In Africa, is it enough for innovation to be novel or should it also be disruptive? More importantly, should it also be scalable? And what is the definition of scalable, anyway?

I was fortunate to enjoy a brief chat with IPA’s Program Director, Ms. Pauline Mujawamariya, in which we discussed the distinction between technological upgrades and scalable innovations, the kind that can change a continent’s trajectory.

In the West, entrepreneurs make millions everyday from technological services or products that optimize customer experiences for non-essential goods and service (Twitter, Instagram, Uber).  But estimated annual per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa is still only $1615 USD, which means the most lucrative businesses must go for volume.   It means the big money is in solving big problems for the majority, i.e. the mass market, otherwise known as middle and low-income customers.  Because technology reduces marginal costs so dramatically, it’s becoming cheaper and quicker than ever to reach the base of the pyramid.  And technology is reducing the risks associated with serving the BOP, making it easier for businesses to scale quicker.

For example, in 1983, Muhammad Yunus  broached the heretical idea of bringing micro-credit to the poor.  It took over 20 years to perfect his model before the methodology was reaching scale and likewise considered creditworthy.

By then, 70% of SMEs in Africa still lacked access to capital and  in 2004, GroFin introduced it’s mezzanine debt solution.  With proprietary technology, we have likewise refined a replicable model across 12 operational offices.  This means steadily increasing volume while steadily improving returns.    And this increased scale has been key to unlocking investor support, bringing GroFin to over $400 MM AUM today.  Nevertheless, we are still far from plugging a global SME finance gap, which is still estimated to be approximately $3 trillion USD.

However, specialized  tech solutions and software, like RSA Archer,  Efront and B Analytics and even crowd funding platforms bring impact investors and the general public a bit closer to unlocking capital for the 2.3 billion unbanked people globally. They do this by increasing speed, reducing risk, improving data availability, pooling funds, etc.   VC4Africa’s own nanoCredit is a fantastic example, using big data and analytics to reduce cash- flow based loan processing time to nanoseconds, thus potentially helping banks and mobile companies to finally fill Africa’s missing middle. With over 100 million MSMEs potentially touched in Africa, it a perfect example of accelerating scale by using technology to address the needs of the base.

This is an exciting innovation but only a piece of a much larger puzzle.  

For Africa to reach its potential, our challenge is to scale access to health care, to renewable energy, to low-cost education in a continent where nearly half the population reportedly earns less than $1.25 a day.

For those up for the challenge, the Innovation Prize for Africa [IPA] is accepting applications until November 3oth.  The Innovation Prize funds up to $100,000 and provides mentoring and exposure for entrepreneurs pioneering technological breakthroughs  in manufacturing and service industry, health and well-being,agriculture and agribusiness, environment, energy and water and ICTs.

And for those that intend to build these scalable innovations in an ecologically sustainable manner, VC4Africa’s Green Pioneer Accelerator is also another great resource.  They will be accepting applications until December 1.

 

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Afro-diasporic linkages & Entrepreneurship Education

October 7th, 2014 No comments

Tracker & Alpha Phi Alpha’s ‘Men in the Making’ Program

Sabre Collier is a Skoll Scholar and a Shell Foundation Fellow. This is the third in her series of posts from Johannesburg, where she is working with GroFin. GroFin finances small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

Tara Sabre Collier

Tara Sabre Collier

Africa is championed as the globe’s next economic frontier, with capital flows reaching all-time highs.  Yet this glorious FDI boom has a major pitfall.  Poverty at the grassroots level has barely budged in the past decade, largely because Africa’s economic expansion has created insufficient jobs.   Today, the region has some of the world’s worst unemployment rates, which has dangerous implications for the next generation.

Reportedly, over 600 million jobs need to be created by 2020 just to keep employment levels the same in the developing world.   With half its population below 25, sub-Saharan faces a demographic dividend like no other.  The risks that youth unemployment portend for delinquency, crime, violence and even terrorism have already been flagged in academic and multilateral research.  We know we can’t depend on manufacturing or services sectors to employ all these youth and much must be done to transform the agricultural sector for adequate income generation.

In urban Africa, many of these youth have already decided to take life by the horns and become self-employed.  But it’s been proven that entrepreneurs of necessity rarely make major economic leaps forward.  It’s a problem that governments, NGOs and international development agencies all recognize and have been rushing to solve, in a flurry of advisory services, innovations, policy recommendations, incubators, etc.

South Africa has one of Africa’s most developed entrepreneurial ecosystems, as far as enterprise training, incubation and start-up capital, which is why it’s so frustrating that SA’s youth unemployment rate is actually still the 3rd highest in the world.  Better harmonization and new solutions must be developed to grow entrepreneurship and the private sector inclusively, in order to avert a crisis here.

The African diaspora is a huge untapped resource in this push for sustainable entrepreneurial and business development in Africa.

Why are Afro-diasporic linkages so compelling to promoting entrepreneurship and private sector growth in countries like South Africa?

Well, firstly, the African diaspora is huge! In the Americas alone, the Black population is nearly 200 million, with 40 million US African-Americans and nearly 100 million Afrodescendant Brazilians.  Also, the global African migrant population is 140 million, mostly in Europe and the Americas. In addition, Afrodescendants and the rest of the global African diaspora bring immense financial and human capital that can accelerate Africa’s trajectory.  For example, the value of remittances from African Diaspora migrants far exceeds all development aid from the entire Western world .  And this is just pure transfers, it does not even consider the regenerative potential from business linkages between Africa and the African diaspora. Moreover, the African diaspora brings high levels of tertiary education, technical skills and new commercial networks that can benefit Africa.  US African-Americans alone so economically powerful that, as a nation, their GDP would be the 16th highest in the world- imagine the potential for trade with Africa!

This is why I get so excited about organizations like Africare, Homestrings.com as well as DAIN Network that leverage Diaspora linkages to economically empower Africa.

And this is why I was enthused to discover this diasporic partnership in the form of Project Alpha, a new youth entrepreneurial training program, launched by Tracker and Alpha Phi Alpha!

african-diaspora-group

Instructors and participants of Project Alpha after a training session

Tracker’s Men in the Making partnership with Alpha Phi Alpha has leveraged African-American technical and business expertise to enrich the lives of young South African entrepreneurs, many of them entrepreneurs of necessity.  One of South Africa’s largest vehicle tracking device companies, Tracker started Men in the Making as a way to provide career guidance to high potential adolescent boys from disadvantaged backgrounds. Today, Tracker has close to 6,000 Men in the Making beneficiaries throughout the country.  As part of its Project Alpha initiative, Tracker partnered with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to establish a youth entrepreneurship program for at-risk South African males this year.

A bit of background about Alpha Phi Alpha: Founded in 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is a historically African-American collegiate association that unites African-Americans, the African Diaspora, and people of color around the world. It is embedded with the African-American community’s fight for civil rights through eminent leaders such as: W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Edward Brooke, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Young, William Gray, Paul Robeson.  And it recently launched its South African Chapter Rho Phi Lambda.

The Men in the Making entrepreneurship program was designed by Dr. Richard Hayes, a Professor of Entrepreneurship & Management at Hofstra University and also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.  He designed the program to help youth analyse the business model canvas and then tailored for youth as well as local context.  Project Alpha’s seminars meet at the University of Johannesburg, where Professor Hayes is also coordinating an international entrepreneurship exchange program.  At the end of the course, students compete and are judged on their business plans, which this year included solar cars, organic disinfectant, smartphone app for exercise and insulated school shoes!  For the next intake, Project Alpha will integrate a social enterprise component in which participants design business models around the needs of their own communities.

In comparing the legacies of segregation and the path for inclusive development in USA and South Africa, Dr. Hayes references “middle men minorities” as being driven to entrepreneurship.  He explains,

“For groups that were excluded from mainstream economy, the only solution was to build your own.  This gave rise to “protected enclaves”- kind of like markets with limited competition because they were cloistered due to segregation.  This may have been healthy at the time but it also contradicted cooperative economics in the broader scheme of the country.  Even now, if we are not allowed to be part of the mainstream economy, through having access to jobs, one of the best solutions is to build our own economy through entrepreneurship.”

Given the size of the Base of the Pyramid market in South Africa (an estimated 50% of the population is below the poverty line), there is a huge untapped market that Dr. Hayes students are uniquely prepared to understand and to serve as entrepreneurs.  The onus is simply adequately preparing their skills and business models, and facilitating the capital and linkages to make these models a reality.

On this Dr. Hayes emphasizes

”The intellectual potential is there- now it’s just what can we put in place to cultivate it. Young African minds are not given enough credit- these are kids from the township, out in the West Rand yet with support and role models and access to the right resource, they rise to the occasion.  If placed in the right positions and given the right opportunity, there’s no limit to what they can do.”

 

Finding Career Purpose in Social Enterprise

September 9th, 2014 No comments

Jonathan Waldroup is the Operations and Finance Manager at Impact Business Leaders, an organisation that provides career opportunities for professionals looking to develop business solutions that solve major global challenges.

jonathan-waldroup-ibl

Jonathan Waldroup of Impact Business Leaders

Six years ago this December I did the unthinkable: I dropped out of Oxford.

Now, as I prepare to return to Oxford under completely different circumstances, I couldn’t be more thankful for that decision. In the six years in between, I have struggled with the search for a fulfilling career, as have many in my generation. My search led me to Impact Business Leaders and a renewed optimism in the very topic I left behind when I dropped out of Oxford. This is a story of how I came to believe in the power of a practical, impactful economics, known by the name of social enterprise.

“Saving Economics from the Economists”

I arrived in Oxford in September 2008 to study for an MPhil in Economics, just as world markets found themselves plummeting into the abyss. Living and studying in Oxford was a dream come true, and my wife and I still remember our time there as one of the most formative experiences of our lives. But it became clear all too quickly that a career as an academic economist was not going to work for me.

Theoretically I understood how different the highly specialized, mathematical approach of academic economics was from the more logic-based undergraduate economics that I so thoroughly enjoyed. But as I attended class and observed the world around me, it seemed that the discipline was out of sync with reality. How could anyone speak with such certainty about models and theories when the realities they claimed to explain were crashing down all around? I simply could not square the claims of rigor and precision in the classroom with the messy facts outside.

Ronald Coase, a Nobel laureate in Economics, put to words a few years later exactly what I had felt:

“Economics as currently presented in textbooks and taught in the classroom does not have much to do with business management, and still less with entrepreneurship. The degree to which economics is isolated from the ordinary business of life is extraordinary and unfortunate….[It] ignor[es] the influences of society, history, culture, and politics on the working of the economy. It is time to reengage the severely impoverished field of economics with the economy.”

The Oxford Econ Department was not to blame for this problem – it was an issue that slowly accreted across institutions as economics morphed from a study of everyday life and business into a specialized tool of policy (as Coase also points out in his article). There are many legitimate and helpful uses of academic economics, but I needed something more tangibly impactful.

After the Crisis

Returning to the US, I worked in the corporate world for a few years while I struggled to find some direction. After much deliberation, I decided to pursue the same types of international issues I had originally hoped to address with economics, but now from a more holistic perspective. I took up a degree in international affairs in Washington, DC.

It was during this time that I discovered the field of social enterprise, and spent a summer working with Village Capital in Nairobi, setting up an accelerator program for social enterprises. Here was a group of innovators that drew on the key insights of economics in a practical way, driving impactful results every day through the simple concepts of supply and demand.

Social entrepreneurs, and the impact investors who provide capital to them, realize that social impact is often more sustainable when driven by the market. Businesses can be firmly built on the demand from those at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP)—who live on a few dollars a day or less—generating solid financial results while simultaneously creating positive social impact. The companies I saw working with VilCap were enough to convince me of the value of social enterprise, and I left Kenya with a renewed appreciation for a more practical and empathetic economics.

Finding Direction

Having finished my degree in DC, I was committed to pursuing a career in social enterprise and had the good fortune to get involved with Impact Business Leaders (IBL) in its early days. At IBL, we recognize that there are many people like myself, who have become disenchanted with the prevailing economic notion that business exists purely for profit, and equally with the notion that social impact can only be achieved through handouts.

But moving between the traditional corporate world (or government, academe, NGOs, etc.) and the social enterprise/impact investing world can be surprisingly difficult. Social enterprise is still a nascent sector driven largely by personal connections, and still heavily segmented geographically. IBL helps bridge the gap, connecting professionals with job opportunities around the world, and preparing those professionals for the opportunity with practical training from our group of experienced instructors, all of whom are practitioners in the field.

So when I return to Oxford in October for the upcoming IBL@Oxford program, in partnership with Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, I will be completing a circle that began in Oxford six years ago. I left Oxford disenchanted about economics; I return to Oxford hopeful about how economics can be practically applied to make a difference in the world, through the host of innovative entrepreneurs around the world who care about more than profit.

If you find yourself questioning why you do what you do, perhaps it is time you consider a program like IBL@Oxford. Applications are still available online through September 15, and we would be glad to speak with you more if you have any questions.

- Jonathan Waldroup is the Operations and Finance Manager at Impact Business Leaders and can be reached at jwaldroup[at]impactbusinessleaders[dot]com.

 

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The Zoona Story: Empowering MSMEs via Mobile Money Transfer in Zambia

June 24th, 2014 No comments

Skoll Scholar alumnus Mike Quinn, CEO of Zoona mobile money transfer in Zambia, tells us how the Zoona story went from an idea to reality – and shares his vision for its future.

Mike Quinn

Mike Quinn

” In 2007, I experienced a turning point in my life. I was completing a theoretical master’s degree in Development

Management from the London School of Economics following three years of volunteering in Ghana and Zambia with Engineers Without Borders Canada. I was hungry to get back to Africa as a social entrepreneur, but deep down I felt that I lacked the experience and expertise in business I would need to have the impact I craved. A friend referred me to the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Said Business School, and the moment I opened their webpage I knew I wanted to be there. I applied and was extremely fortunate to be selected as a Skoll Scholar.

The year at Oxford was game changing in so many ways. I shook hands with the visiting President of Ghana in my first month, became friends with some of the most accomplished and talented people I had ever met, built a business network to draw on in the future, and filled my brain with knowledge on topics such as venture capital, organizational design, and social enterprise business models. I also got engaged to my wonderful wife Isabelle, thanks to all of the Oxford fancy balls I took her to!

I also came up with an idea. I would start a business connecting real entrepreneurs in Africa with impact-focused venture capital funds in Europe and North America. I made a business card with the name “African Enterprise Partners”

The Zoona Team

The Zoona Team

and the logo of a baobab tree and started handing it out at every opportunity. One of my professors of a social enterprise class, Kim Alter, helped me refine the idea into a pitch and introduced me to the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF). Shortly after finishing my MBA, I was back on a plane to Zambia on a GBF consulting contract in search of my first investment deal.

My very first day back in Zambia, I was introduced to two entrepreneurs who also happened to be brothers. Brett Magrath sat quietly while Brad sold me on their start-up mobile payments business that was about to launch called “Mobile Transactions”. They had had built a mobile payment platform from scratch and wanted to empower micro and small businesses in Zambia to process mobile money transfers for the 85% of Zambian consumers that don’t have bank accounts. They were motivated by making money, but the social mission was central to their vision.

Mobile money transfers empower small businesses

I spent the next two months emphatically selling the investment opportunity to GBF, which closed when the Fund boldly invested $200,000 of convertible debt into a business with only three months of revenues. They asked me to source new deals for them but my mind was made up that I was going to work day and night with Brad and Brett to make our business successful. And we had BIG dreams right from the beginning. When I stood in front of both brothers at our first ever strategy meeting and asked them what our vision was, Brad immediately replied, “Breakfast with Bill Gates”. We decided we should tone it down and be more realistic so we settled on a “Cashless Africa.”

Zoona in the market

Zoona in the market

The early days were exciting and we always thought we were on the verge of taking off. I remember how exhilarating it was handing out fliers in front of the government-owned post office in downtown Lusaka, which had a monopoly on the money transfer industry in Zambia, when Brad was placed under “citizen’s arrest” by the manager for attempting to steal their customers. So we set up one of our first agents 20 meters away. Five years on, that outlet now processes over $400,000 per month in transactions and is owned by a 24 year old woman named Misozi who operates an additional eight outlets, employs 14 people and earns over $9,000 per month in commissions. The social mission has become reality.

For the first three years we were constantly out of cash. I tapped into my Oxford network and recruited my MBA classmate Keith Davies to join the team and manage our finances while I went out to raise more investment. In early 2012, we closed what was the first ever international venture capital round in a Zambian start-up. The Omidyar Network, Accion Frontier Investments Group, and Sarona Asset Management Fundput in nearly $4 million of equity, the proceeds of which have helped to put the company on steroids. We rebranded to “Zoona”, which means, “It’s Real” in a local Zambian language and is one of our core values. We have built a customer base of 500 agent outlets that service 500,000 unique consumers and process $25 million per month in transaction value. And we are growing rapidly: our headcount has increased from 44 people to 75 in the first half of 2014 alone as we gear up for expansion into new markets.

Zoona employee

Many Zoona agents are young entrepreneurs themselves

Zoona’s core purpose is to help small businesses grow. We want to become the best in the world at providing business solutions to micro, small, and medium enterprises in Africa that unlock their latent potential. Our mobile payments platform has evolved from money transfers to other transaction types, including payments from retailers to suppliers. We also provide affordable working capital finance and business management tools to our agents so that they can grow their businesses sustainably. Many of our agents are people under 30 years old who are first time entrepreneurs themselves and are creating jobs, servicing their communities, and helping their economy grow.

Our biggest challenge now is to prove we can do this at scale. Our vision is to build a billion dollar pan- African business that proves entrepreneurship can have social roots that make a big difference to people’s lives, while also making money.

As Steve Jobs once famously said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?” My job at Zoona is to make sure we do just that.”

 

Demystifying Social Enterprise and Inclusive Business

June 23rd, 2014 No comments

By Alexa Roscoe, Founder, The Social MBA  

This blog was originally featured on The Social MBA  and is reposted with permission. You can also follow The Social MBA on twitter @Social_MBA.  

Alexa Roscoe

Alexa Roscoe

This year’s Skoll World Forum on Social Enterprise only confirmed the accelerating levels of interest in social business.  The event brought together representatives from the private, public and non-profit sectors, all of whom agreed on one point:  inclusive business is the future.  However, there is one point which lacked any degree of accord: namely, what exactly inclusive business is.

Newcomers to the field might be forgiven for feeling a bit lost.  Inclusive business, and the related disciplines of social entrepreneurship and social “intrapreneurship”, have evolved faster than practitioners’ ability to articulate exactly what it is they are doing.

This blog is the latest instalment in my personal crusade to demystify the jargon surrounding the field of business and development.  It does not try to attempt to provide definitive descriptions; rather, it outlines the key elements of each term for which there is general agreement as well as those for which there remains some disparity.

Inclusive business is perhaps best defined by what it is not: corporate philanthropy.Inclusive Business and Corporate Responsibility:

 

The term arose from the need for a differentiator from the more widely known “corporate social responsibility”, or CSR, which had too great an association with company giving which benefited society but had at best a tenuous connection to core business practice. Think of a pharmaceutical company sponsoring a theatre production.  Good cause? Yes. Inclusive business? No.

Rather, inclusive business refers to core business practice- design, sourcing, production, marketing or delivery- conducted in a way which benefits society through core business practice.    It can be thought of as overarching strategy to use business for good, an umbrella term encompassing the narrower tactics of social entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship.

While broad enough to include most activities, there is some debate around the term’s use, particularly in regards to whether inclusive business should include all activities which create social good (e.g. creating jobs) or just those proactive steps to go beyond minimum legal requirements (e.g. paying a living wage rather than the minimum wage.)

CSR remains in use, but increasingly less so, and mainly within corporate sourcing teams with the fairly narrow mandate of social auditing. CSR may or may not be used synonymously with corporate philanthropy.

Key Elements of Inclusive Business  

What it is What it is not What it may refer to in practice
-          business practice which benefits society

–          an overarching term to include all models which contribute to this goal, including social entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and ethical sourcing

-            Philanthropy or charity -          Taking measures to mitigate harmful practice

–          The nuts and bolts of the industry such as social auditing

Social Entrepreneurship:

 If inclusive business can be thought of as an overarching strategy, social entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship can be thought of as two specific tactics to achieve it.

The key element separating the two terms is this:  whereas social entrepreneurship involves forming a new venture with joint commercial and social purpose, social intrapreneurship involves working within an existing company to enhance its social impact.

Let’s take social enterprise first.    While sometimes used as a synonym for inclusive business, in fact there are relatively clear parameters on what constitutes a social enterprise; namely, a venture which:

 

  • prioritizes social impact above profit;
  • receives a high percentage of income from commercial, rather than charitable, sources; and
  • in some definitions,  reinvests profit earned back into the enterprise or other activities of social value (rather than paying out to shareholders).

However, there remains a fair degree of ambivalence as to where exactly these parameters should be set.   Should a social enterprise prioritize social impact to the extent it risks going out of business? What percentage of its income should come from commercial activities, and how soon?

Does impact invest constitute venture capital or just another form of grant?

For a more in-depth exploration of the term, The Overseas Development Institute dedicated a  working paper to the topic.

Key Elements of Social Enterprise  

What it is What it is not What it may refer to in practice
-             A venture which  receives a high degree of income from commercial, rather than charitable, sources but which prioritizes social impact above profit

 

-          A charity without any commercial income

–          A company which produces some social impact (e.g. jobs) but which retains the primary goal of maximizing profits

-          A charity with some commercial income alongside other funding sources

 Social “Intrapreneurship”:

While social enterprise is increasingly well-defined, social intrapreneurship may well take the highly contested award for most jargony term in the entire field of business and development.

Like social entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship is one tactic to achieve inclusive business outcomes. Unlike entrepreneurship, social intrapreneurship involves working inside existing companies which may achieve and even seek to maximize social impact, but which still seek financial profit as their primary objective.  Unlike corporate philanthropy, intrapreneurs also remain intrinsically linked to the company’s core business activities.

Key Elements of Social Intrapreneurship  

What it is What it is not What it may refer to in practice
-          Working within a company to improve social impact through core business practice

 

-          Setting up a separate business

–          Corporate philanthropy

-          Taking measures to mitigate harmful practice

–          The nuts and bolts of the industry such as social auditing

Conclusion: 

In addition to the speed at which the field has evolved, there is another reason the definitions of inclusive business, social entrepreneurship and social intrapreneurship remain nebulous: the three increasingly intersect.

This convergence, to borrow Accenture’s phrase, can be taken as a promising sign of inclusive business moving from the purview of a few niche specialists into the mainstream.      The increasing professionalization of the field requires ever more specific terminology.  Inclusive business is the future. Let’s make sure we define it well.

This blog was originally featured on The Social MBA  and is reposted with permission. You can also follow The Social MBA on Twitter @Social_MBA. 

 

 

 

 

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Creating Bridges for Impact – inter-school social impact event

May 29th, 2014 No comments

Yashveer Singh, current Co-Chair of the Oxford Business Network for Social Impact, gives us this report from the recent inter-school event on social impact. 

Yashveer Singh

Yashveer Singh

The Oxford Business Network for Social Impact (SI-OBN) with support from Skoll Centre and Alumni relations office organised the very first inter-Business School Social Impact student exchange conference on May 25th, held in the Oxford Launchpad co-working space at Saïd Business School.

Over last few months, in our interactions with the students from other business schools we felt the need of a platform which can not only bring together energies of students inclined in the sector but also provide a platform where they can discuss and express their ideas and get guidance from the experts.

In the Oxford Launchpad

In the Oxford Launchpad

It is the first Social Impact-focused student conference of its kind hosted by any business school in Europe, and the plan is to for the organisation of future events to rotate between different business schools each year. With the inaugural edition hosted by Oxford and participation from some of the leading schools such as London Business School and Cambridge Judge Business School, we plan to scale the participation from next year.

The conference started with a speed networking session of the participants, where students worked in groups to come out with a product idea around a single word assigned to their team. The exercise helped the participants to get to know each other and get an overview of everyone’s interest and background in the space. Thereafter, and with an impressive speaker line-up, a social impact careers panel discussion provided insights to students about opportunities, expectations and challenges in the sector from experts who have gone through similar journeys after their business school education.

This interactive session was followed by a passionate debate amongst participants from LBS, Cambridge and Oxford with the proposition “The house believes that all social impact that matters can be measured”. The debate was hugely engaging and witnessed some really strong & diverse arguments through various examples shared by the contestants.

In the next half of the conference, students participated in workshops on impact measurement metrics and a real time social business case competition. These sessions not only exposed students to the methodology and the standard practices to these critical and important aspects of the sector but also provided them scope to come out with innovative ideas and brainstorm within smaller groups and get feedback from others. I always believe social impact is a team game and these sessions were a great way to work within different teams to learn not just from resource persons but also mutually from other students.

The event is definitely a great start to what could be a platform which can provide opportunities to collaborate and work together to future leaders of social impact space. The team is especially thankful to our guide and advisor, Dr Pamela Hartigan, Executive Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at our business school, who provided regular guidance and support in conceptualizing and making this event a reality.

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