Nurturing social entrepreneurs
Two newly established scholarships in the University of Sydney Business School show that entrepreneurship and innovation in business can be about more than generating wealth for shareholders.
Named in honour of his parents, the Westbrook and Jessie Anstice scholarships were established in 2010 by a donation from alumnus David Anstice (BEc ’70, Honorary Fellow ’09), matched by the University of Sydney Business School.
A lifelong supporter of the University, Anstice is currently president of the University’s USA Foundation, a director of the United States Studies Centre (USSC) and chair of the Advisory Committee on Innovation at the USSC.
Anstice is an ardent advocate for innovation, describing it as “the source spring of economic growth”. A second key factor is entrepreneurship: “required to transform innovative ideas into commercial viability”. He established the scholarships as a tangible expression of his belief that “Australia needs to look for new ideas derived from intellect. Universities are the best place to nurture intellect and thus lead innovation”.
The inaugural recipient of the Westbrook and Jessie Anstice Honours Scholarship in Economics and Business was Amelia Rochford, who completed a Bachelor of International Studies with honours in 2010. The scholarship enabled Rochford to complete a thesis about how social enterprise can benefit Australia’s long-term unemployed.
Social enterprise is a relatively new hybrid organisational form, Rochford explains. “Unlike traditional commercial activities, it explicitly combines a business model with social goals”. An example is Cleanable, a Melbourne-based cleaning business established in 2005. Cleanable gives mentally-ill people an opportunity for retraining and long-term employment using a self-funding business model.
Rochford was drawn to social enterprise because of its innovative approach. “It provides a market-based solution to social problems in a way that allows continued viability. This leads to ongoing benefits for those suffering social exclusion and disadvantage.
”Rochford’s research has convinced her that social enterprise has great potential to address environmental and societal concerns, especially in the lives of the long-term unemployed, but she is quick to point out the concept is underdeveloped in Australia.
“Although there has been a recent focus on social enterprise through the Productivity Commission’s report into the contributions of the non-profit sector, there is still far more that can be done to foster growth. The current government attitude is quite limited. An approach favouring the development of all types of social enterprise would be far more beneficial.”
The inaugural recipient of the Westbrook and Jessie Anstice International Travel Scholarship, Andy Thomas, also used his scholarship for altruistic purposes. It enabled him to attend the Global Youth Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Conference in Washington DC where he researched and shared new ideas about microfinance: the provision of basic financial services (such as savings, credit and insurance) to households below the poverty line as a means to improve their socio-economic position.
“The conference helped me broaden my understanding of microfinance issues”, says Thomas. “Australia has relatively few microfinance organisations – the majority base their Western operations in the United States – so the conference discussion on effective program design and policy advocacy went well beyond the scope that I’ve had access to so far. It was a unique opportunity to meet people who have been involved in the field since its inception.”
Thomas, who will complete a Bachelor of Economics and Law with honours in 2011, will use the knowledge he gained at the conference in his thesis.
“I plan to analyse factors that could restrict the capacity of microfinance institutions to stimulate growth in low-income developing countries. Specifically, I will look at the impact of disparity in bargaining power and information asymmetry in preventing the most efficient outcomes for these institutions.”
Thomas views his thesis as a vital stepping stone towards a career in development economics. After university, he hopes to work for a large development institution, such as the World Bank or the United Nations Development Programme.
“I can think of little more rewarding than working in this field, doing practical work to implement development projects as well as being an advocate for greater government support for policies and programs to foster economic growth in some of the world’s poorest communities.”
Both Rochford and Thomas are immensely grateful for the support provided by the Anstice scholarships. According to Thomas, “the specific focus of the new scholarships shows real foresight about what is in the best interests of students at the University”.
For Rochford, it confirmed that social enterprises were worthy of research. “The scholarship helped me financially but just as importantly it gave me confidence in my topic,” she reflects. “I’ve come to truly believe that social enterprise offers a viable solution to the problems plaguing society.”
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