Flipping the frame: Reframing students as emerging social entrepreneurs


Torrens University sees industry connection as a proof of possibility for our students

According to an article from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, people between 18-34 years old are more likely to start up social purpose organisations than accept traditional employment working for someone else.

Another survey conducted in 2022 stated that 60% of teens would prefer to start a business than have a traditional job. A recent study by British Council, in collaboration with RaiSE in Singapore, shows that of the 146 social enterprises studied, 40 percent were youth-led.

Social Enterprise program at Torrens University

At Torrens University, Social Enterprise is in our DNA. It’s the DNA of our business and it runs thick through our curriculum. It’s fitting that Torrens University was a major partner of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) in Brisbane recently.

Torrens University’s Social Enterprise subject offers a unique opportunity for cross-discipline collaboration across the cohort. It falls into Design Common Core, a collection of subjects that offer a grounding in design thinking.

Mark O’Dwyer, Program Director, Design Common Core, said the offering invites students to be open to using design as a force for good and introduces classes to leading social enterprises who inspire students through their experience.

"Our Social Enterprise subject enables students to appreciate the power of creativity as an agent of change but also how to analyse different entrepreneurial business strategies and explore diverse funding strategies needed to realise their ideas,” explains Mark.

"Students develop creative confidence to envision the future and bridge the gaps. They leave not just learning the language of design but with a set of creative skills that can improve the well-being of society.”

Commercial Interior Design student Briana Hobbs shares her experience studying Social Enterprise at Torrens University.

“Hearing stories from social enterprises in the industry gave me the motivation to create something that mattered,” she says.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Bachelor of Communication Design student Sarah Fell.

“The invaluable experience of live industry guests visiting, not only gave me real insight to the importance of empathy directly relatable to my studies but also encouraged me that design for good is truly alive and paving the way for when I go out into the industry.”

Torrens University doesn’t believe in gatekeeping entrepreneurship knowledge

‘Fostering student entrepreneurship: A hybrid dialogic and industry approach’ was Design and Creative Technology lecturer, Cheri Flewell-Smith's, presentation at the Academic Symposium at the Social Enterprise World Forum 2022 in Brisbane in September.

In the presentation, Cheri showcased Torrens University’s approach to embedding social enterprise and industry into classrooms with an abundance of benefits, and the profound effect it has on students.

Cheri Flewell-Smith - SEWF

“Torrens University has moved beyond basic industry lectures and sees the industry as a collaborator, consumer, or even an investor in our emerging talent pool, which in turn invites students to explore how they too, can use design as a vehicle for social good.

“We’re demonstrating that being a 21st-century learner means designing more equitable, sustainable and inclusive products and services,” says Cheri.

“Students leverage their design skills and business smarts to solve real-world problems in meaningful ways. It broadens their minds to the myriad of possibilities their careers might take when they graduate.”

Success lies in bridging the gap from learning the theory of social enterprise to understanding all that is involved with starting a social enterprise.



Industry guests embedded into the Social Enterprise subject

Torrens University is committed to connecting students with industry throughout their studies – and the Social Enterprise subject is no exception.

Industry guests in the Social Enterprise subject have included Unlabelled, which sells hand and body washes, and Mood Tea, both social enterprises dedicated to helping prevent suicide in young people. Good Citizens Eyewear produces a pair of 100% recycled eyewear from one bottle of plastic waste, BindiMaps create an app for the sight-impaired to navigate indoor spaces and Communiteer is a virtual volunteering platform. Boardsox creates surfboard covers and uses its profits to help fight climate change, and alumni, Josie Harvey from Earth Ninja sells reusable cutlery and has partnered with OzHarvest to provide a meal to someone in need for every set sold.



The unique industry approach allows for 360-degree real-world actionable feedback, and it is mutually beneficial growth for all parties, a breeding ground for the cross-fertilisation of ideas and systems. Students and industry exist as co-creators of the learning journey, eventually centring the student voice as emerging leaders because Torrens University has shifted the passive and traditional lecture environment to an active learning space.

Having industry in class, and sharing their entrepreneurial journey also exposes students to best practices. And gives them a fly on the wall look at what it means to build and scale a social enterprise in real time.

Good Citizens

Good Citizens

Bachelor of Communication Design student, Cheyanne Colleen, says hearing the real stories from the industry has been inspiring.

“As a student, some briefs can be hard to imagine on a real-world scale but seeing and hearing the process from industry professionals, people who have actually created businesses that make a difference is beyond inspiring,” Cheyanne says.

“It makes you think of the endless possibilities you could design for good, and gives you hope that one day you too can be part of a project with a lasting, positive impact on the world.”

Mood Tea

Mood Tea

Torrens University leads by example with a mentor in their midst

It’s no surprise that Torrens University is leading the way with its approach to collaborating with social enterprise. CEO and President of Torrens University Australia, Linda Brown, who is also EY’s 2022 Australian Entrepreneur of The Year, is a role model and leader in this space.

A passion for social enterprise runs in Linda’s family. Her husband, Robert, owns and runs Fruit2Work, an award-winning social enterprise employing returning citizens touched by the justice system. Fruit2Work won social enterprise of the year 2020 as well as zero recidivism from the fresh start offered to their staff of reformed offenders.

Their daughter Logan’s initial social enterprise, ‘Chopped Vintage’, was a recycled fashion venture that also helped those affected by the justice system before she moved on to make her mark in agri-business.

Cameron Brown, Linda’s son, led Pouring for a Purpose, a social enterprise aimed at equipping at-risk youth with training and employment opportunities, before managing the Freedom Hub, a social enterprise supporting the abolition of child slavery. He now contributes as part of the team facilitating Sydney World Pride 2023.

“More people in Australia are employed by not-for-profits and social enterprises than the mining industry. You want to be where the jobs are,” said Linda.

It is this passion, and the belief that profit and purpose can co-exist that drives Linda and the mission of Torrens University.

"Profit and purpose don't have to be mutually exclusive. At the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2022, which we were a major sponsor of, we saw thousands of people and hundreds of businesses striving to find a new, more sustainable way to do business that contributes to the greater good."

In an interview with Impact Boom, recorded at SEWF 2022, Linda shared her thoughts on the role universities play in supporting changemakers to create impact.

Linda Brown and Bryce Ives with Impact Boom

Linda Brown, CEO and President of Torrens University Australia, with Bryce Ives, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Torrens University Australia in conversation with Impact Boom.

“It’s our ethos to make the world better and live our values. Torrens students want to be changemakers and agitators, and each year we see thousands of students graduate who want to change the world - and when they succeed, the world changes.”

“Long gone are the days when an expert is disconnected at the front of a lecture hall - learning must be experiential,” Linda says.

“Our industry rockstar experts work in genuine partnership with our students. Our curriculum meets the aspirations of our students and the social enterprise sector and together they actually create meaningful outcomes.”

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