Cambridge Judge, Oxford Said and LBS Students at the Social Impact Day in Oxford

Cambridge Judge, Oxford Said and LBS Students at the Social Impact Day in Oxford

On Sunday 25th May 2014, students from Cambridge Judge Business School attended a Social Impact Exchange Day, alongside peers from Oxford Said Business School and London Business School.

The day’s activities, organised by the co-chairs of the Social Impact Clubs at the three business schools respectively, offered students an insight into careers in the social impact space, as well as encouraging creative thought on intellectual issues around social impact measurement.  The event further tested students’ core MBA skills, who were assigned to mixed groups in which to problem solve while building an investment case proposal.

Alumni Careers Panel

The first session featured a careers panel with three MBA alumni sharing their trajectories to date, the “serendipitous” nature of their paths, and how entrepreneurship and innovation featured strongly in each of their journeys.  The session was expertly moderated by Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford. What we consistently heard was that the term “social” was too often being applied to entrepreneurs and enterprises, and this branding was forcing socially-minded projects to be labelled as “charity” or “do-gooders”. In reality, social entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs whose ventures have a social benefit as a consequence of their operations.

“This House believes that all social impact that matters can be measured”

Our next activity was a parliamentary-style debate, in which three students from each school formed teams debating the motion: “This House believes that all social impact that matters can be measured”.  The Proposition and the Opposition student teams, both of which had spent the days prior preparing for the Social Impact Exchange Day, hotly contested the issues around: better financial performance of organisations as a result of impact measurement, directional change, and the concept of measuring impact volume through metrics versus its value.  The Proposition spoke about the Millennium Development Goals, Bhutan’s Happiness Index and other impact measurement initiatives, whilst the Opposition argued that the value of dignity and the value of hope, two important impact matters, could not be measured.  Whilst the vote was ultimately split-the judges in favour of the Opposition and the students in favour of the Proposition; we all enjoyed listening to the superb debaters and were thoroughly into the spirit of the exercise.

Impact Metrics

After lunch, we began the Impact Metrics Workshop, where we were divided into mixed school teams and given both a scenario and the position of a stakeholder.  Our session began with an academic introduction into impact measurement by Professor Alex Nicholls of Oxford Said Business School.  The scenario was focused on an imaginary social enterprise working on selling a nutritious food product in Kenya, aimed at tackling malnutrition amongst children.  Each team was assigned an expert who guided them through the what, who, why, when and how aspects of impact measurement from the designated stakeholder perspective. The following stakeholders were represented: the social enterprise, the NGO, the beneficiary (children), the social investor and the government.

Social Venture Business Plan

The last activity of the day was a business plan workshop focused on a social enterprise already in existence.  A practicing social entrepreneur and former Oxford MBA, shared his business plan on an electronic app service that would allow for individuals with disabilities in the UK to ascertain which facilities were available for them in the restaurants, bars and cultural locations of a particular city.  The students were once again reshuffled and given the task to brainstorm six aspects of a business plan: industry, market, product, team, social impact and financial performance.  Each team was allowed five minutes for each segment and then asked to present on one.  The workshop was once again facilitated by expert judges and the entrepreneur himself. Great suggestions were brought forth by the students which the entrepreneur found incredibly valuable and discussed subsequently implementing in his business.

We ended with social drinks and photos in the sun – the perfect wrap-up to a busy, active and thought-provoking day.  It was a wonderful collaboration of the three different schools’ Social Impact Clubs, and we now have a fantastic network on which to drawn upon post-MBA.  We sincerely hope that the Social Impact Exchange Day will become an annual tradition between the schools, rotating its host location every year to repeat this valuable exchange of ideas.

Priya Shah is a current MBA student and Co-Chair of the Social Innovation Special Interest Group.  She has a strong interest in social enterprise and impact investment, and will be spending her summer working with Acumen’s Impact Team in India.