Why every university is a social enterprise

SEWF Australia 2022

Torrens University is thrilled to be a major partner of the 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum which will be held in Brisbane, Australia.

When I first joined Torrens University two and a half years ago, I was drawn to the institution for two reasons.

The first was our commitment to employability, not as a buzzword but as a core mission and the ultimate measure of success. Because when a graduate gets the job they love, it is a game-changer for them, their family, friends, and community.

The second was our values - Be Good, Be Bold & Creative, Begin and End with People, Be Global, Be Well. These values fuel everything we do.

Because of these values, we are a beautiful business, purpose-driven, focused on quality and ready to scale. We are committed to creating the next generation of change makers and disruptors by disrupting the model of higher education. This is what drives us to be the only Australian university that is a Certified B Corporation.

These two reasons continue to inspire and drive me. So, I am extremely excited and proud that Torrens University was today announced as one of the major partners of the Social Enterprise World Forum, which will be held in Brisbane in 2022.

What is the Social Enterprise World Forum?

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is a major event and opportunity for social enterprise leaders and practitioners from around the world to network and exchange ideas about the future of social enterprise. It is an opportunity to have the difficult conversations that are needed to drive change, and challenge the status quo.

What is the connection with Torrens University?

On the surface, the connection between the social enterprise movement and universities might not be obvious, but we share a great deal in common.

Like a social enterprise, at its core, a university is purpose-driven, and committed to advancing society to achieve significant public good. At Torrens University, we are committed to all of this and much more.

As a purpose-driven, Certified B Corporation, at Torrens University our growth and success as an institution is underpinned by a greater purpose. It is the belief, and the knowledge, that when our students and our staff succeed, it is not just one person that prospers – it is families, communities, countries, the environment that thrive.

In the day-to-day dynamic of running a big institution such as a university, sometimes we underestimate the impact of what getting a job means and how it changes lives.

As a private business, we harness significant private investment, to create economic mobility at scale by ensuring that more people have access to high-quality education, which in turn transforms communities and societies and helps us advance towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Why is this important to SEWF?

So many social enterprises globally share this very idea. Getting a job is transformative. Being employed can be the key to a different future. Social enterprise is about enterprise, about creating value for your stakeholders, it is not about charity.

Being both a B Corp and an Australian accredited university means Torrens University does not sit neatly in traditional spaces asking the standard questions. We are much more comfortable standing alongside the bright sparks – the change makers, the agitators, the innovators, the entrepreneurs. It is why Torrens University is increasingly focused on social entrepreneurs and the social enterprise movement, because so many of the best and brightest people are now working in this space.

It is also why, as a university, our approach to higher education is different. Our approach is appropriately disruptive and focused on creating the changemakers and leaders our world needs to tackle the problems of today, and tomorrow, and to drive meaningful and holistic change for the better.

Our unique approach means we are always rigorously considering our business model to ensure access to students worldwide, ensure the most excellent quality and impact, and always focus on the student and what they need. This sharpens the conversation, collaboration and debate we have internally.

We ask questions like: are we using technology enough to ensure access and maximise the learning experience? Can we shorten the time of it takes to obtain a degree to support people already working in industry? Can we make sure students have a choice in when and how they learn? As we deliver to more offshore online students worldwide, this opens larger questions about how we can ensure more affordable access to Australian accredited degrees around the world.

We exist to add value

The openness of these conversations and our belief in enterprise is like the energy that fuels the core of the social enterprise movement. As our Pro Vice Chancellor Academic, Professor Eddie Blass, said in a recent opinion piece - “Social enterprises exist to add value – it is an enabling model to power people in need to move to a position where they are no longer in need.”

It is our mission to add value to the academic journey of our students, infused with our commitment to Be Good, so that they are empowered to take their hopes, dreams and passion to the next level and make change happen.

We are also committed to building relationships with social enterprises and to understanding their needs and aspirations so that we can support their growth, amplify their impact, and add value to their mission. Key to this is creating immersive opportunities for our students – through internships, volunteering, and jobs – so that they can see that there are ways to progress their careers while making a positive impact in our world.

We need social enterprise now more than ever

The partnership with SEFW solidifies much of our work and importantly brings forward the core promise of Torrens – that we champion the power of people to connect the world for good.

The Social Enterprise World Forum in Brisbane will come at such a momentous time globally.

2022 is just around the corner, and we will, hopefully, be coming out of some of the roughest chapters of the global pandemic. All that we have witnessed collectively and as individuals over the past few years speak to why society needs social enterprise now more than ever before.

When those of us who are committed to social enterprise unite in Brisbane next year, it will give us the time and space to reflect and to ask the big, bold, and dangerous questions.

Questions like how will we use the experiences of the past two years? How will we take the lessons from this time and ensure a better future through social enterprise? How can we, as a global education provider, contribute to the growth and development of the social enterprise movement both here in Australia and around the world?

For us at Torrens University, this is a chance for us to not just support the movement of social enterprise, but also to ensure our students from around the world can join this important conversation.

Torrens University is unashamedly thrilled to be playing a tiny role in this big global event.

Listen to Impact Boom’s special podcast episode, and hear from a selection of Australia’s impact-led leaders share the SEWF Australia 2022 backstory, and why this is such an exciting opportunity for delegates from both in Australia and around the world.

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