Monday, July 20, 2015

Social Innovation Incubation

Everyone wants to make their mark on the world – but taking the first steps to starting isn’t always easy.

That’s why I was very impressed to meet 13 CQUni students participating in the Gladstone Region Social Innovation Incubator earlier this month.

Travelling to the resources hub from across Queensland and even interstate, the students tackled a two-week course in Community Engaged Learning – with an innovative twist.

The intensive pilot project was structured around real life experience – students met Gladstone industry, business and community leaders, and grappled with many of the challenges faced by the fast-changing regional city. 

The project was an initiative of CQUni Associate Vice-Chancellor (Gladstone Region) Professor Owen Nevin, Social Innovation Project Manager Dr Julie Roberts, and Gladstone Regional Council Multicultural Community Relations Officer Luis Arroyo.

Dr Roberts explained to me that there’s so much students can learn in this space, but the key for this course is getting inspired – coming face to face with real-life challenges for regional communities, and being given the means to tackle these challenges creatively.  

And inspiration came thick and fast, with the student teams creating business plans and colourful “pitches” for four big ideas – then received assessment and feedback from a panel of community leaders in a dynamic “Dragons’ Den” format.

The panel included myself, and we faced some tough decision-making to pick a winner – and eventually awarded two teams the prize, with each in seed-funding to grow their social innovation idea. 

The two winning ideas were The Refinery, a small business hub to support and grow local micro-businesses, and Harbour Heroes, a tween gaming app concept built around environmental values and local pride. 

We are establishing ourselves as a leader in social innovation, which is at the heart of CQUniversity’s values.

Social innovation is not only preparing students for the workforce, but preparing them to be leaders in their sectors – and the ability to innovate, and to give back to the community around you, is crucial to that. 

Gladstone was chosen for the pilot due to keen support from Professor Nevin, as well as a range of industry and community groups.

Professor Nevin said he hoped to run the course regularly, and open up participation to local people who want to grow their own social innovation ideas, as well as CQUniversity students.
Participants finish the two weeks with the ability to evaluate and assess social impact, design social innovation projects, and better understand the finance, process and leadership required in the new sector.

Congratulations to all the students and staff involved in the Gladstone Region Social Innovation Incubator, and I hope you can take many big and world-changing ideas back to your communities, and careers. 

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