Jump Start

Since I started Social Venturers, I have had many discussions about when a good time is to introduce social entrepreneurship to young people. Ed Freeman at the University of Virginia explained to me that while he wants PhDs and MBAs to dive into social entrepreneurship as part of their higher education, “Students at that stage want to start earning some money. They invested so many years and student debt into getting to that point in their career. They are unlikely to start a social enterprise and continue to live such a frugal lifestyle to experiment with social entrepreneurship.”

Susan Cohen, professor of entrepreneurship at University of Richmond, is finding ways to introduce social entrepreneurship early on in her undergraduate classes, “Students should learn from the jump that there is a different way of being a successful entrepreneur. It’s not all about Silicon Valley and becoming wealthy quickly by launching another tech startup.”


Imagine how thrilled I was to meet Tom Allen of Seven Positive on a sunny afternoon in Brisbane! Tom runs the Jump Start project, teaching design thinking and social entrepreneurship to students of Pimpama State Secondary College in Queensland. As we were sipping iced coffee in the courtyard of the Queensland Library cafe, Tom told me about Jump Start’s beginnings: “I was between guest lecturing and tutoring at Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University and other projects when I met Adam Jefford – Head of the Department of Creative Industries at PSSC. Adam was initially interested in having me participate in a workshop at the school. This lead to more conversations about how we could collaborate on further design thinking projects in the school. We applied for an Arts Queensland grant to run a pilot project and were successful. It was great assistance in getting Jump Start up and running. We were keen on taking design thinking one step farther. I wanted to introduce the concept of social entrepreneurship to make sure the course outcomes were translatable into real-life projects after the course. I wanted to bring startup mentality to the classroom.”

Social innovation in the classroom

Social innovation in the classroom

In 2015, Jump Start ran as a 12 week intensive program for 15 Year 10 students (check out their outcomes!). Thanks to the pilot’s success and feedback from students, teachers and parents, in 2016 Tom and Adam were able to expand Jump Start’s reach and worked with over 115 students from Years 7, 8 and 9. In 2017 the program will continue to grow. The 12 weeks are now stretched out over the entire school year with content integrated into their Design Excellence classes instead of being run as a stand-alone program. Jump Start covers three key elements:

  1. Understanding: developing a strong understanding of self & surroundings and capability to confront personal, group and community challenges confidently.
  2. Design thinking: They then learn how to use design thinking to empathise strongly with their target demographic, research, observe and understand the problem they’re tackling. This leads to a redefinition of the problem. Students then develop a multitude of ideas on how to tackle the issue. They go through various quick learning loops of prototyping, testing and iteration until they find a solution that sticks.
  3. Social entrepreneurship: Last but not least students learn a range of social startup skills to transform their solutions into environmentally and socially responsible business ventures.

Tom explains: “It’s important to ignite a passion in the students. I see great value in helping students understand what success means to them (setting goals and completing them, taking risks and being rewarded when it works out). I set them up to embrace risk and failure. My role is to lead them through these projects, to teach them the tools to work on them, and bring in role models from industry and academia. This is crucial. At their age, many don’t know what’s possible. But by inviting industry experts, academics and university students that are passionate about tackling wicked problems, we give them inspiring people and case studies they can relate to.”

Aspiring social entrepreneurs at work

Aspiring social entrepreneurs at work

Throughout this conversation all I could do was vigorously nod my head in agreement and repeat “Yes! Yes! You’re so right!” I felt like Tom had not only recognized but acted upon an obvious gap in nurturing the next gap of changemakers. The question is not how many social enterprises come out Jump Start. The greater value created is the breeding and nurturing of mindsets in young people that recognize and rethink social issues, develop human-centered solutions through a lean process, ask the right questions, are not afraid to fail but tackle issues with a healthy attitude towards testing and iterating until they get it right! In Tom’s words: “If we can send a multitude of students out there with the mindset of a social entrepreneur and experience in using design thinking, it opens up an incredible pool of possibilities to create an enormous amount positive social impact!”

Jump Start recently won an Australian Good Design Award in the Education Services category – one of Australia’s most prestigious design awards. Way to go!



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