Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneurs Award Programme
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Introducing Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneurs Award Programme
Oxford Brookes successfully bid for funding from UnLtd via HEFCE in 2012 and was initially awarded £25,000 to help students, staff and recent graduates to find, fund and support social enterprises. Additional funding of £5,000 for Try it, Do it and Build it awards and a further £25,000 for staff support was provided centrally to develop and support the programme. We have very successfully developed the programme in collaboration with and supported by ‘Student Hubs’. To facilitate this, the charity was given £9,000 by the University, and funding has since continued. Our staff and students have been able to use their premises to network informally with the social enterprise community. These are based in Oxford at their well-known social enterprise sustainable restaurant , Turl Street Kitchen. We are in the process of setting up a large Regional Hub with Oxford University, Student Hubs and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. Each of our faculties contributes £5,000 plus 75 hours a year of staff time to OBSEA, demonstrating their commitment to encouraging and providing this unique experience for staff and students to gain new skills and to put their ‘Passion into Action’. Our grassroots, non-hierarchical approach, and our hub and spoke model have contributed to embedding social entrepreneurship within the University, and within our region via our networks.
Why should Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneurs Award Programme be recognised for a "Lived it" Award?
Many of our students have spoken about the powerful impact on their university experience from combining a support programme along with a financial award. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and staff and students have praised our Masterclasses in project management, fundraising and marketing, and how they have increased their employability and skills beyond their university career and beyond the reach of the OBSEA programme. Since October 2012 we have supported and funded over 40 projects. Several of our key projects have already grown beyond their original plans.. Sustainabus has taken decommissioned double decker buses and is converting them into sustainable carbon neutral holiday lets. The Oxford Human Rights Film Festival received funding to become a sustainable annual event and to broaden its programme. Broken Spoke, the cycling awareness co-operative, is now running in schools throughout Oxfordshire. The Knowledge Project launched from scratch and already offers low cost community classes in subjects such as Introduction to Psychology, Shakespeare and Novel-writing.These have proved so popular as to incur waiting lists. For the current year we have secured an additional £5,000 funding from Santander and are launching an initiative with our Alumni to secure further support for the future.. We aim to make Oxford Brookes a hub for innovative thinking and action through social entrepreneurship across and beyond Oxfordshire. We have now created an Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership that encompasses the powerful breadth and depth of social enterprise in the county. This comprises Oxford University, including the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Student Hubs and Oxford Brookes University. Our ability to embed social entrepreneurship as a key part of the University and Faculties’ strategic plans conveys the strength of our particular approach to inspiring support, passion and action
Some evidence in support of this nomination
We have run this award-winning programme for two years and conduct regular reviews with our participants and within the OBSEA team. To date the feedback we have obtained has been very positive. All participants felt our programme enhanced their student and staff experience: some described it as “life-changing”, giving a clearer sense of direction.100% said they had become more confident at presenting and developing ideas and managing projects. Many spoke of improving their employment prospects. 88% said they were likely to continue with social enterprise in the future. We have learnt that it is important to offer structured support along with providing Awards. This year we changed the structure with the greater emphasis on giving participants time to prepare and develop their business proposals before pitching for funding. Many needed subsequent support in identifying a potentially effective trading model and identifying their customer base. Others needed to focus more on the beneficial client group of the social enterprise and identifying their specific needs. The Try It Awards are an excellent and cost effective vehicle for investigating and testing their proposal. According to the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship based at Oxford University, Oxfordshire is one of 3 UK hotspots for social enterprise and ethical investment. We know from our contacts with existing social entrepreneurs and from our experience, that social entrepreneurship is popular with young people and allows them to create their own opportunities and create social or environmental change. We launched our OBSEA programme in 2012 with 150 people signing up and this year we have 350 people signed up for the programme and have made over 40 awards in total. We have been approached via our website from people outside the University enquiring whether they would be eligible but so far have had to exclude them. We have spoken to community stakeholders and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and there is clear evidence of demand to develop social entrepreneurship education and to provide seed funding. Sample of testimonials regarding the impact of the OBSEA programme on individuals and their projects, gathered at a focus group: "Massive burden relief! It has made the project completely secure.“I practice social sculpture leading to social change. To be able to articulate my work as a social enterprise has been fabulous……It’s been a revelation in understanding where I am in terms of social entrepreneurship and what that means; what shape that passion will take…. that this will allow me to work but also be a social entrepreneur… “
“As an academic you’re not used to that world of business”
“driven and motivated”
OBSEA provided “a colourful, creative space for your imagination; the business skills came in later…[which was] ..entirely appropriate.”
“It’s time that people in universities started to think in those [business] terms. “It’s a very competitive environment and people need to adopt skills from business to attract students….research funding”
“It’s helped us be really clear on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, who it’s for and what the benefit is.”
“Only with training and knowledge can we compete with business.”
Recently I went for a job interview, a fill in role for the summer. The manager told me ‘I will not waste my time employing you in this role. If I am going to employ you it will be as an assistant manager at least’ – and it’s because I have done all of this…"
We have received national and international recognition for our work and are currently advising other Universities on how we deliver our programme for social entrepreneurship. We have a committed operational team dedicated to delivering OBSEA and formal financial and strategic support from our Senior Management to build on our programme’s development in the wider community. We have also cemented a formal regional partnership between ourselves, Student Hubs and Oxford University, aiming to become the leading regional hub for social entrepreneurship in the country. We have leveraged further financial support from our central funds, Santander bank and UnLtd, in the shape of £10,000 from other University underspends, plus a large HEIF contribution of over £40,000 per programme year in recognition of the salience and impact of our work. We have also been privileged with the support of Dr Katherine Grainger, CBE and Olympic Rowing Champion, and Doug Scott, Everest Mountaineer and CBE, amongst others, as Dragon’s Den judges and mentors.. We have awarded students and staff a grand total of £77,655 in cash funds for their projects, many of which are evolving and scaling up to an exciting, inspiring level.