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The profile of social enterprises is rising

Universities in UK support social entrepreneurs


Karl Belizaire is policy manager, leading on youth and education, at UnLtd, a foundation for social entrepreneurs and she has spoken out with The Guardian about how do we embed a culture of social entrepreneurship in higher education.

How do we embed a culture of

social entrepreneurship in higher education

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Since 2009, UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, has been working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to support higher education institutions (HEIs) to find, support and develop the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

So far, UnLtd has partnered with 56 HEIs across the UK and we´re working with them to ensure that every staff member, every student and every recent graduate understands what social enterprise is, what the social benefits are and how social entrepreneurship can be developed. Indeed, our aim is to "embed" a culture of social entrepreneurship in 40% of he HEIs in England. So what have we learnt so far?

Central to our approach is to invest in and support the individual entrepreneur – and to help HEIs create a supportive, encouraging environment where social enterprise talent is nurtured and opportunities spotted. So far, our support programme has made about 500 funding awards, with over 50% to students, 25% to staff and 10% to graduates. Some of our awards are designed to help people try an idea – give them confidence to continue – while others have been designed to help social ventures get going and scale.

Over three quarters of HEIs reported making changes to the way they backed social entrepreneurs, introducing and developing specific social enterprise support, strengthening their institutional offer with increased knowledge and contacts, with some even incorporating into curriculum development and delivery.

Ensuring that social entrepreneurship meets the core objectives of the institution, particularly with regards to graduate career paths and the student experience, seems to be an essential part of enabling future support programmes to be sustainable. Two thirds of HEI partners expect changed or different approaches to continue after the programme ends, dependent on funding and internal reviews.

It still feels that like early days for embedding cultural change within higher education, but we´re witnessing clear and positive indications that the foundations for it are being established.

You can read our research paper on unlocking the potential of social entrepreneurship in higher education, find out more about the HE support programme including current case-studies, or catch the Twitter highlights from the recent Lead The Change event.



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