The Big Issue is a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to supporting and creating job opportunities for homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people across Australia. It proudly helps people help themselves, by building their confidence and earning a meaningful income across several work opportunities including The Big Issue magazine, the Women’s Workforce and The Big Issue Classroom, and the Community Street Soccer Program.
The challenge took place over 12 weeks in their social enterprise subject where teams of students chose an area of interest they believed was an opportunity to create a positive social impact through the creation of their own social enterprise project.
Culminating in receiving invaluable personalised feedback from The Big Issue on their own unique impactful business ideas, an impressive array of concepts were conceived by the students.
Be Good is a value that sets our students apart
At Torrens University Australia our social enterprise curriculum gives our students the framework to conceptualise, develop and propose new ventures and products by leveraging their problem-solving and design-thinking skills to improve lives and create positive change in the world.
The Big Issue was involved throughout the trimester introducing how they operate, their business model, and the incredible impact they have made so far. One of the highlights for our students was a class where the beneficiaries of The Big Issue's initiatives shared their personal stories, another was the initial feedback on students’ ideas.
“The Big Issue Social Impact Project Challenge is a great learning experience for students,” explained lecturer Cheri Flewell-Smith.
“Not only do they gain a deeper understanding of social enterprise, but they also develop valuable employability skills.”
It is a sentiment shared by Mark O’Dwyer, Program Director, Design Common Core.
“Having the opportunity to get real-world feedback on their projects helps bridge the gap for students entering industry,” said Mark.
An opportunity to learn from one of Australia’s best social enterprises
At the end of the trimester, the best student submissions were chosen to take part in a competitive pitch to a panel of three judges where The Big Issue National Marketing and Partnerships Manager Simone Busija was part of the judging panel.
During the pitch the teams needed to detail how their idea works, the social impact opportunity, the business model, viability and feasibility, as well as an evaluation of what success would look like.
“I was very impressed with the high calibre of each presentation and the obvious time and effort that had been put into each project,” said Simone.
The winning concept titled ‘Tekiō’ was created by students Hannah Cooper (Residential Interior Design + Graphic Design), Tehgan Brink (Communication Design), and Rebecca Barlett (Residential Interior Design).
The trio’s concept was for a social enterprise designed to bridge the gap between disability and mainstream fashion via a cross-compensation model. Tekiō subsidises free tailoring services for people with disabilities through clothing purchases.
“It was interesting to learn about the positive impact companies and major corporations could have in the world, if they put people and the planet first,” said the team behind Tekiō.
“Initially, we bounced off each other's ideas, looking at inequalities in our society and areas that we could feasibly make a difference in, which resulted in the concept of tailoring clothes for disabled people,” said team Tekiō.
“We were imagining how garments are not very adaptable for people with limb differences and our idea kicked off from there.”
Simone commented on the uniqueness of Tekiō and how it identified a clear target market and addressed a gap and need that people take for granted.
Team Tekiō said they were overly proud of their proposal.
“From day one we were ready to take on the challenge and our goal was to make it to the end and learn as much as possible. Knowing that our hard work has paid off and has been appreciated not only by our lecturers, but also The Big Issue, is incredible.”
Creative concepts across the class
The challenge has been an amazing opportunity for the students, reflected by the standard of projects across the whole class.
“The students have built on their creative problem-solving and design thinking expertise they've learnt in other subjects, to create and pitch a commercially viable solution,” said Cheri.
“Not only have they gleaned real-life insights from a successful and well-known social enterprise like The Big Issue, but they've also gained skills that give them the edge over other graduates.”
The concepts across the class were varied and focused on creating real world change. Some of the other concepts included:
- Cupola Nest, a bio-ceramic eco dome housing for people who have been priced out of the housing market or cannot afford to pay market-price rent.
- Macro Leatherworks, a social enterprise designed to reuse kangaroo hides from government ordered culling operations to create leather goods to sell to tourists, with a portion of the profit distributed to conservation groups.
- Safebuddy, a cross compensation model whereby for every 5 backpacks sold, it would fund a free backpack for a primary school aged child to receive a 'safe buddy' backpack equipped with everything a child escaping domestic violence might need.
The Big Issue Social Impact Project is a perfect example of how Torrens University Australia ensures our students are connected to industry throughout their studies.