How design can create positive social and environmental impact

The Big Issue student collaboration winner

Meet Amy, Kaitlyn and Lily, three students who have experienced firsthand what’s involved in designing a social impact program.

Using design-thinking to create environmental and social impact change

The Social Impact Project is an initiative led by The Big Issue, which partners with universities to provide students with a real-life social enterprise learning experience. Students are challenged to develop a concept and plan for a project or business that will create positive social or environmental change.

Along the way students are guided with exclusive resources, receive advice and feedback from The Big Issue, and hear from guest speakers who have experienced disadvantage and worked within The Big Issue’s social enterprises.

Our students’ first collaboration with The Big Issue created ‘Tekiō’, a concept designed to bridge the gap between disability and mainstream fashion via a cross-compensation model.

Why study social enterprise?

Social Enterprise is an exciting theory-based subject that is driven by the desire to create positive change through entrepreneurial activities. These activities harness design-thinking and problem-solving processes in the realisation of pragmatic, viable project proposals from initiation to client presentation.

Social Enterprise provides students with a framework to understand the business-model generation and the skills to source, evaluate and measure opportunities through systematic research and competitor analysis. This empowers students to conceptualise, develop and propose new ventures and products that focus primarily on social change for good.

Social enterprise shark tank pitch round two

The first trimester of 2023 saw our second Big Issue project take place. This time, on-campus and online course students, led by learning facilitators Cheri and Kuen, competed against each other in teams of three or four to pitch their Social Enterprise concept ‘shark tank’ style.

In the run-up to the big pitch, students were briefed by Julianne Gardiner, The Big Issue’s manager for educational enterprises. They also heard personal stories from participants in The Big Issue’s social enterprises and engaged in intensive feedback sessions mid-way through their projects to help refine their ideas.

The winning students received online tickets to the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2023.

Corporate gift box solutions creating social impact

The winning concept was Elpis; a social enterprise selling sustainable gift boxes to the corporate market creating employment and training opportunities for women escaping domestic violence.

Elpis' mission and impact statement

Julianne Gardiner said of the collaboration, “I was so impressed with the time and effort students put into developing their social enterprise ideas and delivering professional and engaging pitches. Teams demonstrated an understanding of marginalised groups and the barriers they face and worked hard to develop solutions to real-world problems. Congratulations to everyone on their hard work and achievements!”

What is Elpis?

According to Greek mythology, the gods gifted Pandora a box that they warned her never to open. But Pandora's curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box. When she did, all the evils and ills of the world poured out. Scared at what she had done, Pandora slammed the box shut, trapping one last spirit inside. That spirit was Elpis, the goddess of Hope.

The Elpis mission is to help female survivors of domestic violence re-enter the workforce by providing on-the-job training to assist women in securing and retaining stable employment in creating exclusive and sustainable gift boxes for the community and corporate businesses.

How Elpis creates short-term impact

Elpis offers women the opportunity to learn transferrable skills with continual on-the-job training. A role within Elpis is not designed as a long-term solution, instead, it is a transitional tool to assist women in securing and retaining stable and reliable employment.

Depending on the length of their employment, each employee can work within multiple different departments allowing them to understand each aspect of the business, making them a more appealing candidate for employers down the track.

Julianne Gardiner said of the winning concept “Elpis, the winning team, stood out as a well thought-out and achievable idea with real potential for social impact and growth. The team considered the suitability of the work opportunities for the target beneficiaries and thought about the support required. In addition, they identified a way to maximise impact and scale the business, and clearly communicated their plan.”

Elpis' collaboration products

Students Amy Weidemeier and Kaitlyn Towner said of their experience:

“I am very grateful to be able to have been a part of this journey. It has been a great experience to collaborate with The Big Issue on such a meaningful proposal and to listen to all the incredible voices who have inspired this project.”

Elpis' collaboration products with The Big Issue

“We have a greater appreciation for what the Big Issue does and how they help people all over the country. Hearing from the Big Issue participants really changed our perspective on what problems people are experiencing and what is happening around the country with little support given. Our feedback sessions were extremely beneficial, as we received advice on how to expand our ideas and help this group of women more than just selling gift everyday boxes. We also used the feedback to further develop our knowledge of social enterprises while receiving someone else’s perspective on our idea.”

Design industry partnerships with Torrens University

We believe it’s up to all of us to make the world a better place, and our goal is to be a force for good – and to encourage our students to do the same. The Social Enterprise subject is available to all Design, Business and Hospitality students.

If your organisation is social-impact focused, whether you’re a business led by ethics or a not-for-profit organisation, such as a charity or another for-purpose organisation or initiative, we are open to developing a partnership. Visit Social Enterprise Hub for details.

Check our Design and Creative Technology Courses to learn more
Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.