Creating maximum impact: Engaging students through a social enterprise

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

Degrees alone will not land graduates meaningful employment if students do not possess a range of complementary skills. This paper explores the setting up and impact of an enterprise, Business Without Borders Swinburne (BWB) which aims to enhance social prosperity across borders, through the application of business specific skills to create positive outcomes for the local and global community. BWB is a voluntary extra- curricular activity which was set up to provide students with opportunities to develop and enhance their employability skills through a social enterprise. Students are mentored by an Industry Board and gain invaluable experience working entrepreneurs in an enterprise with a formal structure. BWB has just celebrated its first birthday. It has been a highly successful initiative, raising over $15,000 in funds, involving over 150 undergraduate and postgraduate students from courses across the post-secondary sector, and overtly contributing to the employment of at least 12 students and graduates. Using triangulation and a qualitative case study methodology this paper explores BWB through the lenses of the architects and proponents of BWB, Industry Board members, and students who are involved in BWB. Initiating co-curricular activities at a university requires energy, champions, and support from senior management. Industry Board members have found the experience very valuable and have gained insights into the capabilities and potentials of young students and graduates. Students have made new friends, developed networks, begun to develop professional identities, seen the impact and results from their efforts, whilst furthering their employability skills.

Keywords: volunteering, employability, social enterprise