Why making a social impact and profit aren’t mutually exclusive

Running a socially or environmentally-friendly business doesn’t mean you have to forgo profit, as Alexandra Gall and Dulana Jayawardena found out, both having completed social entrepreneurship opportunities during their degrees.

While social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are modern buzzwords, Alexandra Gall wasn’t quite sure what the terms looked like in action. But, when the opportunity to be part of UNSW Business School’s Social Entrepreneurship Practicum came up, Alexandra grabbed the chance.

“I knew social enterprises were businesses that aim to meet social, environmental or community goals, rather than purely maximise private profit. But, beyond that, I knew I had a lot of learning to do.”

Alexandra Gall

​Impact investing is when people invest with the intention of generating a measurable social and environmental impact, as well as a financial return. A lot of people don’t think it’s possible, but it absolutely is.

Alexandra Gall

Investing for impact

In a group with six other students, Alexandra was part of a project designed to connect impact investors with opportunities.

“Impact investing is when people invest with the intention of generating a measurable social and environmental impact, as well as a financial return,” she says. “A lot of people don’t think it’s possible, but it absolutely is.”

Thinking like an entrepreneur

With her group, Alexandra built a website and used mapping technology to see how the website information was connected, while also learning how to run email campaigns.

“I’d never done anything like it before,” she says. “I learnt so many new practical skills, as well as dramatically increasing my understanding about investing for social impact and social entrepreneurship.”

During the practicum, Alexandra started to adopt the attitude of an entrepreneur.

“I learnt to manage my time better, just like entrepreneurs do, because time is money,” she says.

“Another key takeaway for me was the importance of networks. We were creating an impact investing hub, so reaching out to people and connecting with them was key to project success.”

Dulana Jayawardena

From my consultant role, I learnt how to strategise and analyse data. While in the marketing role, I learnt how to manage relationships with partners and promote the consultancy.

Dulana Jayawardena

Career ready

Dulana Jayawardena also learnt the power of social entrepreneurship during his placement at pro bono consulting firm the Global Consulting Group, where he worked as a project consultant and marketing officer. The economics and accounting major wanted to contribute to a social initiative but also get pre-work experience as a consultant.

“I worked on a nature conservation project where I developed a stakeholder engagement plan and built a strategy around crowdfunding,” he says. “It’s been great for my career prospects because I’ve developed hands-on consulting experience.”

He also learnt new skills. "From my consultant role, I learnt how to strategise and analyse data. While in the marketing role, I learnt how to manage relationships with partners and promote the consultancy."

Dulana credits his success in finding his new graduate role to his placement with the Global Consulting Group.

“It rounded off my university study with real-life experience,” Dulana says. “In interviews for positions that involved project management I was able to showcase my knowledge. I could see that employers really valued my experiences.”

The entrepreneurial future is bright

Alexandra was surprised by the potential social entrepreneurship has.

“The opportunities in this space really amaze me,” she says. “In Australia, it’s still quite small, but social entrepreneurship is building rapidly and that’s exciting.”

Ultimately, the practicum has changed Alexandra’s career perspective.

“This is definitely an area that I want to explore in the future,” she says. “I love that you can have a great career, while still helping people and making a social difference.”

Learn more about the Social Entrepreneurship Practicum course