I’ve always liked to think of myself as a bit of a maverick. Whilst I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for new knowledge and experiences, I’ve gone about acquiring these in my own way. When I was in my late teens, rather than going straight to university, I decided to move to Barcelona to learn Spanish, work and gain some experience. A few months later, after saving some money I ended up in Latin America backpacking alone. Whilst in Bolivia, a chance encounter with a Chinese mining entrepreneur got me thinking about China and its growing importance in both international business and affairs. This brief but enlightening encounter set my imagination on fire and inspired my decision to travel to China to learn Mandarin Chinese. One year later, with little money to my name, I set off across Russia aboard the Trans Siberian Railway to pursue my ‘China Dream’. I spent the next ten years between the UK and China, initially studying in China and then working as a shipbroker and commodities trader, leveraging on my knowledge of both the Chinese language and culture to build a strong network of international clients. I am now studying full-time for an MBA at Warwick Business School and ESADE Business and Law School, Barcelona.
My first encounter with COINS was when founder Larry Sullivan came to Warwick Business School to give my MBA class a guest lecture during an entrepreneurship module. The talk was inspiring, not only because we gained insight into some of Larry’s interesting commercial ventures, but I also found the socially motivated projects that the organisation is involved with hugely fascinating. I’ve always been interested in the social aspect of entrepreneurship and wasn’t expecting it to be covered in very much depth during this particular module. Larry discussed both for-profit and social or not-for-profit entrepreneurship, conveying a clear sense of how the two are very much interlinked and can even be complimentary. That is to say, why can’t an aspiring entrepreneur aim to set up a business that is both profitable whilst at the same time drive towards bringing about social impact? This might not necessarily have been Larry’s intention but nevertheless the concept made an impression and stayed with me over the following months, eventually inspiring my dissertation topic. The key focus of this essentially explores and assesses the blurring line between conventional, and social-entrepreneurship and the associated future implications for business.
I decided to approach the research for my dissertation project through a combination of reviewing the prevailing academic literature on the subject in addition to selecting a group of experienced professionals for interview. When selecting interview participants, it was important for my research objectives to strike a balance in terms of sector and role experience. This would facilitate for much richer insight and hopefully would allow for less ambiguous conclusions. In addition to interviewing Larry Sullivan, founder of COINS, I was also privileged to interview a number of other pioneering individuals working in or, involved with social entrepreneurship. Some other participants include: Lord (John) Bird, founder of The Big Issue and now a crossbencher in The House of Lords seeking to dismantle the root causes of poverty in the UK; Cristoph von Toggenburg, head of social engagement at The World Economic Forum; Josh Littlejohn MBE, co-founder of Social Bite a not-for-profit business that provides both employment and food for homeless and disenfranchised individuals; and others.
I hope that the conclusions drawn as a result of my dissertation research will provide me with valuable information so that when the time comes for me to found my own socially motivated enterprise I have the insight to make it a success and ultimately, make an impact.