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Linda Brown on the role of universities in the creation of changemakers

by Mirabelle Morah / August 2022

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” Dalai Lama. 

As CEO and President of Torrens University Australia, my job is to create opportunities not only for our current students, but also future students – the changemakers of the future.

I think a lot about what the world needs and I agree with the Dalai Lama.

Except, I would redefine what a successful person is. 

We live in a world of increasing polarities. Debates about economics, politics, gender, health, race and religion often have one thing in common – the need to drive us onto one side or the other. 

Social entrepreneurs and social enterprises have the power to break the cycle of polarity and redefine what success is. 

The success of our planet is in fact dependent on that redefinition: successful people are peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, lovers – and above all, they are changemakers 

One of the best ways of doing that is at places where we come together to collaborate very intentionally for common good such as Social Enterprise World Forum 2022.

SEWF 2022 has the vision of ‘co-creating the future’, which is achieved through collaborating with various organisations to facilitate a discussion and foster an understanding of social enterprise. In doing so, SEWF also recognises the tireless efforts of individuals who work to create an inclusive and sustainable future for those around us. 

Social entrepreneurs, changemakers come in all shapes and forms.

The common picture of a social entrepreneur is of someone who is on the frontline, often working in a human services industry, providing access to employment, food, renewable energy, and other critical services. 

Also read:  June opportunities for social entrepreneurs

While this is true, I want to challenge this definition. 

Anyone can be a social entrepreneur with the right mindset. 

Ultimately, that means that the hairdresser who recycles 95% of waste with Sustainable Salons Australia and whose proceeds from recycling aluminium helps Oz Harvest fund meals for the homeless and whose cut hair is made into brooms to absorb oil spills. They could just as much be a social entrepreneur as Muhammad Yunus, founding father of Bangladesh microcredit lender Grameen Bank, which provides loans on easy terms to the poorest. 

One of the key markers is, as American pioneer Bill Drayton said, social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.”   

At Torrens University, the concept of social entrepreneurship is in our DNA.  

It’s in everything we do, from the way we interact with our students to the opportunities we provide to them such as our Social Enterprise Hub where they get the opportunity to connect with social-impact-focused organisations that help them make a positive difference in the world and through embedding our Be Good ethos into the curriculum. 

Tenacity, creativity, and inclusivity are all trademarks of social entrepreneurs and successful people.

How can universities breed more successful people – more changemakers? 

As universities, we should all stand for a global movement to produce changemakers because the world needs them more desperately than ever before. We need to advocate for higher institutions that educate for sustainability and good social outcomes – at local, national, and international levels. 

Also read:  May opportunities for social innovators

So, here are some things to start with: 

  • Become B Corp certified – because there is no Planet B 
  • Apply a human centred approach to everything, but in particular to systems – because systems are run by people. 
  • Remember that culture eats strategy for breakfast – a powerful and empowering culture is the faster route to organisational success. And culture exists everywhere – not just in the boardroom but also in our neighbourhoods, schools, community and sporting groups and clubs. 
  • Invite, make space for and include the voices in the room who are never heard – our First Nations People, children and young people, alternative schooling systems advocates, alternative health and wellbeing groups, elderly people and members of LGBTQI+ would be a good start. 
  • Foster soft skills, not just by an ‘overlay’ but by having the harder, more honest conversations around conflict resolution, anxiety, depression, mental health issues – so that by learning to become more inclusive of their difficult internal states, leaders can authentically demonstrate compassion in action. 
  • And finally, provide opportunities to those who need them the most – because empowering people through education is the ground that will stabilise the earth in troubled times. 

Whether you are part of a social enterprise agency, policymaker, researcher, academic or just interested in the social enterprise sector, I encourage you to join SEWF 2022 and create a more sustainable world where purpose, passion, and profit sync together for the greater good. 

⏤ Written by Linda Brown

About Linda Brown

Winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2022, for her efforts to keep students happy, and for creating a more personalized curriculum for students, Linda is a trailblazer, a ‘star and dynamo’ who envisions providing affordable, relevant education that is also intrinsically connected to the industry. 

Also read:  May opportunities for social innovators

Linda’s entrepreneurship is reflected in the Strategic Education Inc. acquisition of Torrens University Australia (SEWF 2022 Partner) during the pandemic. This massive investment was seen as ‘a vote of confidence in the Australian education industry’ at a time when a lot of Australian universities were struggling to keep educating.

Mirabelle Morah is the community and communications manager at SEWF