Last October in 2019, I was invited by the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and British Council Malaysia to join the E-Nation Symposium. On 31st October in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, I spoke about the topic “How Does Education Institutions Play a Role in Entrepreneurship Education and the Cultivation of Entrepreneurs?” focusing on “Social Entrepreneurship” education.

In this post, I would like to share some of my talking points.

Visualization of my talking points at E-Nations by Signpost

From a Student to a Social Enterprise Researcher & Educator

First, I would like to share a bit more about myself and how I became involved in the social entrepreneurship field. I started my journey as an undergraduate student who was interested in international human rights and development issues. I knew nothing about social enterprise and social entrepreneurship until coming across the concepts of fair-trade and microfinance in one of my modules. After learning about these concepts, I began to understand that business can also serve other purposes outside of maximizing profit and shareholder value.

I decided to study different models of social enterprises and how social enterprises actually work. I wanted to help people who wanted to start their own enterprises, which led to my doctoral research on how different sustainable social enterprise models created. 

My experience starting as a student with an interest in social enterprise to now serving as an assistant professor with an expertise in business entrepreneurship led me to my latest project – #SISERTL (Social Innovation and Social Enterprise Research and Teaching Landscape) with the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact. This project is funded by the British Council and examines social innovation and social enterprise research and teaching landscape at higher education institutions (HEIs) in 5 Asian countries, including South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. I look forward to sharing the results of this project in April 2020 when the research is completed. Presently, I am also teaching undergraduate social enterprise modules at the University of Northampton and supervising a PhD student who is investigating the social enterprise ecosystem in England.

The Role of University in Cultivating Social Entrepreneurs

Throughout my career in the social entrepreneurship education sector, I learned that the role of the university is crucial in cultivating social entrepreneurs. Here, I would like to emphasize four key roles of universities can play in creating social entrepreneurs. 

1. Broadening Students’ Perspectives on Society

Universities can broaden students’ perspectives on society and their community. This can help students identify social problems. Teaching social entrepreneurship is about teaching how to identify social problems around us and how to solve these social problems in an innovative way. In many cases, students need help to recognize social problems because oftentimes, these social problems are hidden problems.

I was also one of those students who didn’t see the existing social problems until my professor introduced social enterprise cases and asked us to investigate how social enterprises contribute to solving social problems. The lecturers’ role is crucial to not only introduce cases of social enterprise, but also to help the students see the world from a different perspective that can help solve these social problems.

2. Universities as a Networking and Recourse Centre of a Local Community

Universities can also work as a networking and resource centre of a local community. Social entrepreneurship education should embed practice-based learning. To develop and teach practice-based educational programs, collaborating with local social entrepreneurs, accelerators, and incubators is crucial as they can bring field-level knowledge and experience to the classroom. Universities can also create internship or job placement opportunities based on agreements with local social enterprises. In doing so, universities can create a symbiotic relationship where students can work for local social enterprises while learning about the issues their local community faces.

3. Universities as a Test Bed of Social Entrepreneurial Ideas

Universities should provide a safe place for students to test out their social entrepreneurial ideas. This place could be an incubation centre, a degree or non-degree program, or even a classroom at a smaller level. In this space, we need to encourage our students to discuss their ideas freely with their classmates, lecturers and entrepreneurs. This allows students to realize their ideas and to see how their ideas work in reality. In this process, they might fail, overcome obstacles, or succeed. Here, the most important point is to give students an opportunity to face challenges and teach them it is ok to fail. We need to cultivate resilient social entrepreneurs.

Even if the students do not pursue a social entrepreneur career, this experience of failing and overcoming challenges will enable them to work more proactively in any professional setting. 

4. Linking Research to Teaching

Lastly, the importance of research should be emphasized. There are many active fields of research in social entrepreneurship. One field seeks to understand how social entrepreneurship is taught in universities. Another area attempts to measure the effectiveness of social entrepreneurship education. Yet another field endeavours to create social entrepreneurship teaching techniques. These research streams can be used to increase the impact of social entrepreneurship as well as improve the quality of social entrepreneurship education.


Overall, there are many roles that universities can play in cultivating social entrepreneurs. Universities can broaden students’ perspectives on society, provide opportunities for local social entrepreneurs to bring field-level knowledge and experience to classrooms, educate resilient future social entrepreneurs, and facilitate research that can measure and improve the quality of teaching. 

Interested in discussing this topic more? Please join us at International Social Innovation Research Conference Stream: “Universities as Global Enabling Social Innovation Agents“!

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