Social Enterprise University Assignments
I work with a number of university social enterprise programs, and have seen how fantastic these subjects can be.
You get to learn about a new industry by working on real-world projects that can potentially solve important problems, and see if you’d like to work in this field when you graduate.
A lot of students go about these projects in poorly thought out ways.
This acts as a natural filter for the best students, who we then offer internships or jobs.
At the risk of ruining this filter, here are some ways to get the most out of your subject and get your foot in the door of the industry…
Don’t just write about other groups
We do not have a shortage of analysts; we have a shortage of do-ers.
There’s not a whole lot of value in you writing a comparative essay on different social enterprises, but there’s a lot of value in your new ideas.
e.g. Instead of writing about what doesn’t work, focus on a range of creative solutions and how they could be tested.
Pick a theme you care about
I’m always mystified by the students who sit in silence when the class is forming teams.
Why would you want to be allocated to a cause you don’t care about?
Your subject will become much more interesting if you pick a theme that has some sort of emotional resonance, or better yet makes you angry.
A personal connection is compelling, especially when you come to pitching your ideas at the end of the semester, e.g. if you, your friends or family struggle with a particular issue.
Actually build the thing
When making a presentation, you’re going to need to be persuasive.
You need to convince your audience that:
a) your problem exists
b) you understand the problem
c) you’ve put thought into the solution
d) customers verify that the solution is appealing
e) it has the potential to make sales and be financially sustainable.
Now you have a choice: the reading-doing ratio is about 5:1
You can either spend 5 hours researching, or spend 1 hour talking to customers.
Research is comfortable, whereas customer interviews take guts.
I get the hesitation around actually building something.
Unfortunately, that’s the real-world skill that lets you do cool things with cool people in the future.
Do you want to practice it now in a safe, low risk way?
Or do you want to stay back at the library researching dull frameworks and theoretical reports?
Sales beat theories
If you can stand up at the end and say:
“We came up with an idea, talked to customers and modified it, re-tested it and now have some pre-orders” …
…you can’t possibly get a bad grade.
Who could disagree with that synopsis?
You’re no longer guessing and regurgitating other people’s work, you’re speaking with confidence about real customers who have proven that they like your solution.
Please note, your friends don’t count as customers, it has to be tested with the kinds of people who actually make purchase decisions.
Find your weaknesses and work on them
Universities nudge you towards specialisations.
“I am an engineer, Tom does marketing and Steph does accounting. As long as I get the engineering right, I don’t need to understand the customer or how the financials work”.
This is a common and unhelpful trap.
A subject like this is your chance to get the crash-course in all the topics you’re yet to master.
You’ll probably lean towards one of those four, but it’s important that you know enough about each of the other three to give a 30 second summary to an audience.
If that currently scares you, then this is a great excuse to learn the basics – either from your teammates or Google.
Contact your guest speakers
“You know who we should hire? That bored looking student who never spoke to us”
As you may guess, this never happens.
If you find the subject interesting, talk to the people who are connected to your course.
If you find the subject difficult, talk to the people who are connected to your course.
Even if it’s just an email, they can steer you towards great resources and case studies, or provide useful feedback on your report/presentation.
Make the most of your investment
Whether you realise it or not, you have invested a lot of money in your subject.
My guess is somewhere between $1,000 - $2,500 per semester.
That’s $80 - $200 per week.
Your lectures and tutorials each cost you more than a trip to Gold Class.
Since you have a fair bit of money on the line, it might be worth spending an extra $50 to get the most value out of the subject.
Have a think about where a small spend can boost your outcomes, like building a prototype, conducting customer interviews or creating a one-page website.
You’ll learn more, and probably boost your grade by 10-15%.
Thanks for being interested in our industry – it’s an exciting time to get involved.
Working on something meaningful is more satisfying than “prestigious” and soulless graduate jobs, and you get the enjoyment of actually building something new.
If there’s anything I can do to help with your project, please send me an email, or have a look through the various articles and resources on this site.