I meet a lot of PhD students who want to do something to change the world. This post features a few UofG PGRs who are out there attempting to do exactly that, setting up social enterprises or NGOs to tackle a particular issue in society. The skills needed for a PhD have a lot in common with those required to start a new organisation (whether that’s a business or a charity). You have to have a vision, tenacity, self-management skills and passion for what you do. Although their initiatives aren’t all directly related to their PhD, we asked our inspiring entreprenuers what motivated them to start their organisation, and how they’ve been able to apply their skills from their PhD.
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Audrey, a PGR in the Adam Smith business school, is researching community entrepreneurship (watch her 3MT film). During her research, she recognised a need for support, friendship and empathy for elderly people living in their own homes. She had attended the University’s social enterprise workshop earlier in her PhD (‘Business beyond the bottom line‘) and successfully applied to Firstport for funding to start a social enterprise in Glasgow. This year, she came back to Business beyond the bottom line to share her advice for researchers thinking about a social enterprise:
1. Understand that all businesses have hurdles and overcoming one challenge is just a sign that you can overcome the next. This quote sums up Audrey’s approach: ‘mathematics may not teach us how to add happiness or how to minus sadness but it does teach us one important thing. ‘Every problem has a solution’.
2. Getting the right team as well as the right mix in your board for your organisation is key – find people with the right skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and networks to help you succeed.
3. Be clear on your mission – this means that every time you hit a conflict, you can ask the question ‘how is this helping us with our mission?’
After taking the Research Ventures course in 2016, Jumai realised she had a flair for pitching ideas: ‘I knew that there was more to me than rationally engineering proteins in a tiny white lab coat’. Jumai’s PhD focuses on designing a new strategy for ‘curing’ HIV-I using scientific tools from a new field called synthetic biology. Reaching here was not easy though– she spent many years of secondary school and University in Nigeria without a chair to sit on in class, let alone proper lab equipment. So, elated about her newfound ability, she started the Initiative for Advancement of Education in Africa, to promote STEM engagement and unique strategies for building quality education in Africa. She hopes this will help to bring about greater numbers of young Africans doing life-changing research within Africa.
After taking the ‘Research Ventures’ course in May 2016, I realized how easily I could pitch business ideas; that there was more to me than rationally engineering proteins in a tiny white lab coat.
My PhD research focuses on designing a new strategy for ‘curing’ HIV-I using scientific tools from a new field called synthetic biology. Reaching here was not easy though– you see I spent many years of secondary school and university in Nigeria without a chair to sit on in class, let alone proper lab equipment.
So, elated about my newfound ability, I started the initiative for advancement of education in Africa, iaeAfrica to promote STEM engagement and unique strategies for building quality education in Africa (see www.iaeafrica.org). I hope that because of this, the next few years will see young Africans doing life-changing research within Africa.
Carla’s PhD background is in the use of novel protein antibiotics to treat chronic inflammatory disease of the gut. With a passion for science communication, she designed the card game and app Bacteria Combat, to teach kids about antibiotic resistance. Since then, her social enterprise (Game Dr) has grown to include projects relating to bowel health and the amazing world of fungi. The past few years have been a whirlwind of activity as Carla passed her viva, won the Biology prize for Science Magazine’s ‘Dance your PhD’ competition (for short film Antibiotic apocalypse) and was recruited by Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia to design a gaming app to educate on HIV infection. This year, Carla was also listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s top ’30 under 30’ in the field of healthcare in Europe.
Come along to one of our workshops, think about entering Converge Challenge or you’ll catch Audrey at the University’s Charity and Volunteer Fair on 7th March. It’s also worth taking a look at the opportunities to develop your skills and ‘get outside the West End bubble’ with the Student Volunteer Service