Current Projects of the Social Impact Hub:

Developing sustainable design and impact investment models to support Cambodian communities

RAW Impact spearheads sustainable development initiatives in various regions of Cambodia with a focus on lifting communities out of poverty through a hand-up model. Collaborative Future Cambodia is a collaboration between RAW Impact, UNSW students and the construction industry to design and build infrastructure and sustainable energy initiatives for the communities with which RAW Impact works in Cambodia. The aim is to improve the lives of the local people and transfer the skills and knowledge needed to take advantage of the technologies. RAW Impact is also considering how its business model can be made more sustainable.

This project contains two components:

1. Social Impact Hub students work with an interdisciplinary student team at UNSW with Collaborative Future Cambodia. The teams design a sustainable school building and appropriate active energy solutions within a small remote village in the Kampong Speu Province, 1.5 hours south-west of Phnom Penh. Social Impact Hub students contribute their business and/or law perspectives to this design project. At the end of the course the client and ‘panel’ select a winning design. Collaborative Future Cambodia will then gather a team of volunteers, fundraises, and commences building in the community.

2. Students develop an impact investing model/strategy for RAW Impact to ensure the sustainability and scalability of their work. Students will evaluate three possible social enterprises that could be suitable for impact investment, and develop a business model for the enterprise that is likely to be most successful. Students will also create a pitch deck to seek impact investment to fund the enterprise.

Nurturing intercultural understanding through action on food sustainability

FoodFaith combines fostering interfaith connections and understandings and action on food sustainability to contribute to the dual outcomes of social cohesion and environmental sustainability.

The Planting Seeds Project is a cornerstone initiative of the FoodFaith program. The project will bring together interfaith youth to grow and tend an edible garden.
The aim is to create an inclusive space for young people to engage in dialogue on climate change and sustainability, while facilitating a shared experience, deeper understanding and empathy among interfaith youth.

Students will develop a comprehensive strategic plan to guide the design and implementation of the Planting Seeds pilot project. Students will consider which project design models will support the aims of the project and allow for the project to be replicated and scaled in the future.

This involves conducting desk and action-based research to develop a framework for measuring the impact of the project, and to develop a communications plan and social media strategy. Research and modelling will consider all areas needed to make the project a reality, including land, horticultural needs, partners, timing, youth participants, and funding strategy.

Engaging young Australians in workplace giving

A common pillar of many corporate social responsibility programs is ‘workplace giving’ – where employees make small, regular donations to charity through their pre-tax pay. Many businesses enhance the collective impact of their workplace giving program through donation matching, workplace fundraising, volunteering, skill sharing and in-kind support. Formal workplace giving programs in Australia became more popular after 2003 when the Federal Government and Australian Tax
Commissioner created the regulatory structure through which employers could deduct charitable donations from staff pre-tax pay, meaning that the worker would receive an instant tax deduction for the donation, instead of waiting until the end of the financial year. Since then, numerous Australian workplaces have rolled-out in-house programs and non-profit bodies like the Australian Charities Fund (ACF), have worked to educate and promote this simple and effective mechanism for organisations and their staff to support social causes. According to ACF, workplace giving contributes around $9 m a year to the charity sector.

However, statistics show that maintaining staff participation and organisational engagement with workplace giving programs has plateaued over time. Specifically, effectively engaging younger workers requires a different approach to older workers, especially given the macro-trends of technology and social media.

The purpose of this research project is to find out how young Australians want to engage with workplace giving. Students will be involved in:

1) Developing the methodology for the research in conjunction with ACF and Seek
2) Conducting the research (including designing an electronic survey, conducting interviews with young staff members);
3) Analysing the results to write the report and develop recommendations to engage younger workers;
4) Developing a communications plan to launch the research.

Building a pipeline of investible, scalable social enterprises

Christian Super has a commitment to invest at least 10% of its funds under management in impact investments. Of this, at least 7% is earmarked for largescale projects, and up to 3% for smaller scale enterprises, with an investment size ranging from $1 million to $5 million. It is challenging for Christian Super to find scalable social enterprises in Australia that require $1 million of funding. Hence
Christian Super has realised that they need to invest in building the pipeline of investible, scalable social enterprises and this is the philosophy underpinning this project.

This project aims to create a strategy for Christian Super to build a pipeline of scalable, investible enterprises, as well as identify how other superannuation funds might contribute to this goal.

Students will identify and map the existing initiatives that are focused on developing a pipeline of scalable, investible enterprises; identify gaps in the existing ecosystem that could be filled by superannuation funds; and develop a series of strategic options for Christian Super, culminating in prioritised recommendations.

Amplifying the empathy movement through measuring the social and cultural impact of empathy

Empathy is increasingly being recognised by social and cultural thought leaders as a vital tool for social change. Over the last decade, and in the last 2-3 years in particular, there has been a surge in the number of organisations and projects – notably across Australia, the UK, the US and Canada – dedicated to growing empathy. A common theme of this work is the role of empathy not only in individual wellbeing and behaviour, but critically, on the question of what empathy might mean on a collective scale, as applied across communities, in policy-making and in social institutions.

A collective empathy deficit is uncovered as a root cause of the spectrum of societies’ most pressing social issues, including social cohesion, exclusion and inequality. There exist several psychological tools for measuring the level, and changes in levels, of empathy in individuals. However, as a pioneering social change strategy, the sector lacks a comprehensive measurement framework to measure and demonstrate the tangible, often long-term social and cultural impact of empathy-based projects, beyond individual change. There is a need to develop a shared empathy measurement framework to ensure project rigour and impact, buy-in from key investor, community and government stakeholders, and ultimately amplify the social impact of the empathy movement.

Students will develop a first-of-its-kind empathy measurement framework. This will involve mapping the concept of empathy and mapping key actors in the empathy space; interviewing leading empathy practitioners on key measurement challenges and practices; conducting research on comparable measurement frameworks (including in the areas of happiness and wellbeing); and critically analysing and synthesising the research and interviews to develop the measurement framework.

Advocating for the rights of urban women globally

ActionAid supports women living in poverty to stand up and claim their human rights by collectively confronting the injustices they face. They do this by supporting women to understand their rights, reflect on the people and systems that oppress them, and harness their power to act with others to change their lives and positions in society. ActionAid Australia is part of a global organisation in 45 countries around the world.

ActionAid launched a global campaign in May 2015 called Safe Cities for Women.
The campaign is about reducing women’s fear and experience of sexual violence in urban and public spaces.

Students will develop a series of research findings to drive ActionAid’s national and global advocacy in the Safe Cities for Women campaign. The research will focus on the experiences of urban women in Australia, Kenya, Liberia, DRC, Cambodia,
Bangladesh, Brazil and the UK, and outline governments’ responsibilities to protect women and end instances of violence against women in cities.

In their research, students will liaise with ActionAid’s in-country partners and networks to collect relevant data and also prepare case studies to incorporate local women’s voices on what safe cities mean to them. Students will then define what essential public services are needed by women to create a safe city, and research the cost for each country to provide these services and how much money they actually spend on providing quality public services for women. This will result in a scorecard that enables local advocacy campaigns to hold their government to account.

Supporting a cultural shift towards family friendly workplaces

Established in 2013, The Parenthood is a campaign and advocacy platform that provides parents with the opportunity to campaign on issues that matter to them and their children. The Parenthood currently relies on funding provided by likeminded organisations for specific campaigns, and is aware of the need to strengthen its revenue model.

In 2015, The Parenthood is seeking to spearhead a family friendly workplace index to amplify their social and cultural impact and to serve as a significant and sustainable revenue stream for the organisation.

Students will produce a comprehensive report making the business case, impact case, and operational case for developing a family friendly workplace index. The report will support The Parenthood to engage with an investor audience. To develop the report, students will review existing family friendly workplace indices and programs globally, identify and analyse options for revenue models to commercialise a corporate index, map the process and costs of operationalising The Parenthood’s index, and prepare an action plan to implement the index.

Building an innovation network

There are a significant number of incubation hubs already providing support to start-ups. There are also a number of large corporates that are involved in the start-up ecosystem, and there are some examples of successful partnerships with universities. Despite numerous attempts at collaboration, the ecosystem generally remains fragmented with little co-operation across sectors. There is a need for a Innovation Network, with the principal goal of improving the collaboration of existing innovators with a supportive ecosystem of corporates, universities, government and incubators.

Students will conduct research to map the current Australian innovation landscape, including mapping corporates involved in the start-up ecosystem, university and government initiatives, venture capital funders, and start-up incubators. Students will then help to build a website that shares this information publicly on an online platform.

Jessica RothProjects