The value of social enterprise

Light bulb on chalk board

During the afternoon of Saturday 22 September, we were pleased to host the first THA Symposium on the theme of social entrepreneurship. Students, postdocs and alumni presented a range of topics on this theme. It was particularly pleasing to see one of our former THA award winners, Catriona, talk about her experiences. The aim was to give the Trinity Hall community an insight into life today both within and beyond the College’s walls.

The speakers were excellent. Philipp Verpoort (2016) on Citizens’ assemblies as a modern tool for fair and democratic decision making; Catriona McGill (2010) on Solutions to the water crisis: Solar Desalination; Dr Stephanie Höhn on Can a legal physic-biologist become an entrepreneur; and, Georgia Ware (2012) on Can students change the world?

Every paper sparked questions from the floor of a well-filled Graham Storey Room. After a short break the format switched to a panel discussion expertly chaired by Jennifer Howard Grenville from the Judge Business School with fellow panellists alumni Jonathan Cornwell (1992), Pieter Knook (1977) and Alister Ross Russell (1983).

Jennifer opened by explaining the value of social enterprise: “The opportunities for social entrepreneurship, which creates social value alongside economic value, are abundant. Our earth’s resources and systems are stressed and the need to decouple economic growth and development from environmental impact is urgent. At the same time, aspects of social inequality, for example, as measured by wealth distribution, are increasing rather than decreasing. Further, the technologies that will shape how we interact, learn, and maintain our wellbeing come with their own promises and unforeseen consequences. The challenges for social entrepreneurs – or indeed any entrepreneurs – include tackling some of these trends while remaining aware of their inherently complex nature. Colleges, with their rich multidisciplinary basis, can be important breeding grounds for the novel thinking that will spark to thinking and innovation necessary to address societal grand challenges.” Questions then surrounded the interdisciplinary of colleges and how this might promote entrepreneurship; advice for those thinking of joining a start-up and lessons our panel have learnt through their journey.

The audience contributed alongside the speakers. The resulting picture was not so much a snapshot of 2018 but a long exposure over many decades; and yet in its way this picture was more interesting, highlighting the timeless features of the College. Here we could glimpse the heart of a place of learning, more diverse now than it has ever been before. This is a picture Bishop Bateman would still recognise; here too is the image Denis Avery (1980), benefactor to the THA, was so keen to preserve and perpetuate.

The event also marked the launch of the Trinity Hall Entrepreneurs Network (THEN).