Social Exchange initiative will develop significant ecosystem for social enterprise

Lightbulb in clasped hands | Social Exchange | Torrens University

Torrens University is set to launch a new initiative for the local social enterprise sector at Social Enterprise World Forum 2022 in Brisbane.

The initiative informally called ‘Social Exchange’ will reveal and showcase each social enterprise’s value to society through digital media content and reports developed by Torrens University students. This content will highlight the mission and ethics behind each business, as well as their social impact.

Over time, it is hoped that this initiative will provide a space for public to decipher whether a product or service provided by each social enterprise is worthy of their attention. That is, whether the social enterprise adds value.

The initiative will be layered, and provide services across the sector

Torrens University researcher and project lead for this initiative, Dr Hayden McDonald, says there is a real need for a platform with an agnostic view of all these different social entities.

To fill this need, Dr McDonald developed the concept of a Social Exchange platform. His vision is to develop a platform to eventually function like a traditional stock market by enabling social enterprises to communicate their value to a broad audience.

By gaining access to a Social Exchange platform, social enterprises would become connected with a broader membership base of organisations, donors, and volunteers to be built over time. The aim would be to attract members searching for a single source of information with commentaries and advice about how enterprises are advancing social and cultural goals and their motivations for doing so.

“The idea of Social Exchange is that we can showcase the value that they're providing to society and to communities, and then we can create like an ecosystem of people that really subscribe to that value system,” said Hayden.

“We can sort of drive some real momentum in terms of what those organisations and contributors to our societies are actually doing. So that's the vision.”

Innovative experiential learning tool allows authentic real-world work experience

While seeking grant funding to develop a Social Exchange platform, Dr McDonald has partnered with Torrens University’s Social Enterprise Hub Manager, Peter Graves to stage the platform’s implementation.

“Currently, the new initiative being launched engages the skills of our Business and Design and Creative Technologies faculties. Academics and students from these faculties have contributed to producing media and video content to create social enterprise case studies from organisations engaged as clients of Torrens University’s Social Enterprise Hub,” said Peter.

Organisations involved in the pilot study are based across Australia and New Zealand including Tech for Good, IPA Recruitment, Coffee Brigade, Fruit2Work, Viva Mutual, and Kathmandu.

“We have so many skilful people who are involved in our organisation who really aspire to improve or create social impact and there's a real mutual benefit to all those people within our ecosystem,” said Hayden.

“Another opportunity we were conscious of, is really wanting Social Exchange to be a learning tool for students and we see huge value in this,” said Hayden.

Under this initiative, Torrens University students will be responsible for curating the content for the social enterprise. The process of producing digital media is comprehensive and requires students to apply a range of technical and smart skills to ensure that quality outcomes are achieved.

“In producing content, students work with CEOs and various other business stakeholders who run organisations and social enterprises, they're skilful businesspeople who our students have access to,” said Hayden.

In Hayden’s opinion, the opportunities are diverse for marketing, accounting, business administration, digital media, and communication design students.

“Actually, it’s an attractive opportunity with huge value across our entire student cohort. The benefits to students are also significant,” said Hayden.

“They have their authorship of that content distributed by the client and through various media platforms, so it creates an e-portfolio for the students, right? So, the student has worked with a live company and produced content that's distributed via web and media to targeted members of the ecosystem, and we can start to put that information into the student’s resume.”

Benefits to the local social enterprise sector

Our students will help social enterprises to better understand their target markets for positioning, engagement, sponsorship and for contributing to their sustainability and overall impact.

“Success will be watching these organisations come together and communicate to their audience what it is that they deliver from a value point of view, because that value is really significant for our economy,” said Hayden.

“It might not be our traditional idea of economy, but say our social economy, our cultural economy, all really important avenues for exchange; this is what make us thrive as people.”

"In this way, the new initiative is also a vehicle through which Torrens University can mobilise its 'Be Good' agenda,” said Hayden.

“By creating opportunities for Social Enterprise to communicate their social impact, these initiatives drive connection in the world for good and strengthen our impact.”

Hayden explained that the new initiative will do this by containing information and stories that showcase the ideas, actions, strategies and funding needs of enterprises operating in social economies.

“The connections to ‘Be Good’ are significant. Essentially, what we are trying to do is showcase the good work that social enterprises are doing and we're enabling our students to provide an initiative to share the entities’ social impact.

“We want it to be an ecosystem for everyone and anyone who is interested in enterprises that have social impact.”

Students’ work on display at SEWF 2022

At the launch at SEWF 2022, Torrens University will showcase the featured organisations involved in the initiative, an incredible opportunity to launch to the sector, and entice more engagement in the Social Enterprise Hub.  It will also showcase the incredible talent of our students.

For more information about our Social Enterprise Hub

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