Dr Linh Nguyen, who teaches both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels of the SEP courses, talks about what students and partners can expect from the course, and her educational philosophy that insists on coupling action with learning.

What can students expect to learn in your courses?

In SEP courses, students will learn by doing. They learn to apply their knowledge and build essential business and leadership skills in the social entrepreneurship field. The course's dynamic environment will help students adapt to different situations, preparing them to tackle real-world challenges. Students will work with social enterprises gaining valuable experience while learning about concepts and theories in social entrepreneurship. By taking on hands-on projects, students will hone their problem-solving, innovation, and collaboration skills, addressing real issues faced by social enterprises.

‘There can be no learning without action and no action without learning’

What is your teaching philosophy/methodology?

As an educator my goal is to ignite impactful change through teaching and research. Inspired by the principles of action learning, I firmly believe in the inseparable connection between learning and action, as famously stated by Professor Reginald Revans: "There can be no learning without action and no action without learning" (Revans, 1998).

My pedagogical philosophy revolves around experiential learning and practical application, emphasising the transformative power of hands-on experience. This holistic approach integrates classroom instruction, mentorship, and collaborations with industry partners, particularly social enterprises, to provide students with a deep understanding of social entrepreneurship and equip them with essential skills to drive positive societal change. I am a firm advocate that education goes beyond mere knowledge expansion – it should empower students to creatively apply their learning to real-world scenarios and make a tangible impact. Guided by an inquiry-based learning framework, my teaching strategy bridges theory with practice, enabling students to address real-world issues through innovative solutions.

How can your course help students develop their careers in social impact?

In terms of career development in social impact, our course adopts a work-integrated learning model. This means that students have the opportunity to put theoretical concepts into practice in real-world settings. By collaborating with social enterprises like Circle Paints, Reverse Garbage, or Life Dance Community, students gain invaluable hands-on experience and a profound understanding of the social impact sector. This practical exposure equips them with the necessary skills, networks, and confidence to pursue meaningful careers in social entrepreneurship and drive sustainable change.

Why is it good for industry to partner with UNSW CSI at the educational level?

Partnering with UNSW CSI at the educational level offers numerous advantages for industry partners.

Access to fresh and diverse perspectives from motivated students: The collaboration will enable industry partners to engage with motivated students who are dedicated to catalysing social change. Through student-led consulting and action research projects, social enterprises can leverage diverse perspectives and skills to develop recommended solutions that drive sustainable growth and scale their impact.

Community engagement & organisation’s visibility within the social impact ecosystem: CSI UNSW collaborates with government, not-for-profit organisations, businesses, and communities to develop innovative solutions to social issues. The Centre is also recognised for its publications, and events that contribute to advancing the field of social impact both in Australia and internationally. Collaborating with UNSW CSI students fosters community engagement and promotes the organisation's visibility within the social impact ecosystem. This can potentially lead to networking opportunities, partnerships, and increased support from other stakeholders.

Leverage social enterprises’ societal impact: Social enterprises can contribute to the development of future leaders and changemakers in the field of social entrepreneurship. Collaborating with CSI UNSW enables social enterprises to nurture future leaders and changemakers in the realm of social entrepreneurship. By working with students who are passionate about effecting positive change, social enterprises can inspire and empower the next generation of social innovators and entrepreneurs, benefiting from their energy, creativity, and dedication.

Industry partner and Circle Paints founder Jocelyn Bell was a recent guest speaker sharing with students of the Social Entrepreneurship Practicum course the challenges and opportunities of running a for-purpose business.

How and why did you decide to start a circular economy social enterprise?

Architectural and decorative paint has a surprisingly large carbon footprint – significantly worse than steel and concrete – and paint is not currently recycled in Australia. I decided to start Circle Paints because I saw it as a scalable way to address climate change, and nobody else seemed ready and willing to tackle Australia's paint waste problem. I could see from a scan of overseas enterprises that collecting and selling waste paint was a financially viable proposition.

What are the benefits to industry in partnering with UNSW CSI at the educational level?

We are hopeful that great insights and ideas will come from having 200 clever minds focused on addressing the current business challenges of Circle Paints. The students have already put forward some interesting ideas, particularly around marketing, about how we can connect with other organisations that will promote our enterprise.