Social Impact Hub: The new way to do business

| April 21, 2016

When Action Aid, an international non-profit that works to fight poverty and injustice, needed research conducted for their campaign that helps women in metropolitan areas, it sought the assistance of Sydney organisation Social Impact Hub (SIH).

SIH works with businesses keen to make their mark in a positive way. The organisation provides research and consultancy services to not-for-profits and businesses seeking expert assistance. The work is conducted by students at the University of New South Wales, who undertake SIH as a subject as part of the business and law degrees. Students must apply to take this subject, and all work is overseen by experts.

“It was a really good process,” said Rachel Colbourne-Hoffman Campaigns Manager at Action Aid. SIH collaborated with Action Aid to research ways in which to improve public services for women. They addressed needs such as street lighting and health clinics to, in the end, help launch a successful campaign called Safe Cities for Women.

It’s a brave new approach to a timeworn dilemma: how to make money, manoeuvre the business sharks and maintain a creative and innovative work environment. The conventional approach has been to employ a professional consultant or problem-solving team or round up a focus group to study the working dynamics of a project.

Enter Harvard graduate Jessica Roth with an innovative solution. She is the founder and CEO of The Social Impact Hub (SIH), a social enterprisethat challenges university students to delve into the respective issues and find a solution.

The result of this collaboration: SIH charges the companies it works with much less than established think tanks. Roth and her team are making positive financial and social inroads both for non-profits and those with a capitalistic mindset throughout the continent.

How it works

Students are given a combination of creative freedom and direct supervision over their respective projects.

All supervisors have practical and/or academic experience in the field of social impact. Additionally, most have experience working with students.

To ensure the work produced meets professional level standards, the majority of the projects also have an adviser who serves as an expert in the specific field.

If selected for the competitive program, UNSW students can take courses in either Social Entrepreneurship or the Social Impact Hub Clinic. Students come from diverse backgrounds and majors, which allows for a greater range of diversity in the work they produce.

Projects and partners

SIH has partnered with several philanthropic organisations and companies to generate successful business strategies. It has worked with students to:

·         Review international social impact mechanisms regarding homelessness with the Mercy Foundation

·         Conduct research to map the current Australian innovation landscape with PWC and create a website that publicly shares this information

·         Help analyse competitors and develop a growth strategy for start-up social enterprise Promise or Pay

·         Research the motivations of young Australians for workplace giving with Australian Charities Fund

In addition to working directly with social enterprises, companies and not-for-profits, SIH has undertaken several thought leadership projects. An example of one such project is the Field Guide to Impact Investing for Charitable Trusts and Foundations which was launched by respected business leader and philanthropist Carol Schwartz in 2015. According to Roth, the value of the impact investing market in Australia is estimated to be $32 billion in the coming decade. The involvement of philanthropic organisations is vital to help realise this growth. “I believe it is more sustainable to create change using a social business, rather than just relying on philanthropy,” said Roth.

The future of Social Impact Hub

Roth hopes to expand the company’s reach as well as its range. She plans on one day working with other universities and allowing students from other disciplines to participate in the program. Additionally, she is encouraging her enterprise to continually expand. “I would like the Social Impact Hub to serve as an incubator of social impact ideas and innovation,” she said.