Social Enterprise Centres can contribute in developing innovative ideas among the youth of Pakistan



Shaigan Rana
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Social Enterprise Centres teach skills and provide resources to help people build a social enterprise. And a social enterprise is an entity which operates to maximize social improvements. Using commercial strategies, it revolves around the greater good for human and environmental welfare. It can choose to be for profit or non-profit. In US, such an organization is loosely explained as ‘doing charity by doing trade’. Such an enterprise stems from a desire to carry out social objectives whilst still being financially profitable. Two birds with one stone. Although they have been around for a while, Social Enterprises are slowly increasing in popularity. Even the renowned Harvard Business School is strongly dedicated in promoting this form of enterprise. They take great pride in trying to help individuals to take on society’s problems through the use of education, inspiration and a strong support line. So far they have had great success.

And now they have reached Pakistan. The British Council takes great pleasure in announcing the opening of Social Enterprise Centres. Where people can come and learn more about how to operate this entity. The British Council is eager to integrate this concept actively into universities across Pakistan. And why the emphasis in Pakistani universities you may ask? Well, the British Council has a good answer.

The population of Pakistan as it stands is around 190 million. Did you know that approximately 60% of that figure relates to Pakistanis under 30 years old. Only one other country can be in the same situation, Yemen. Furthermore, the study revealed that one in three Pakistanis are around the age of 14. So essentially, this means there is a huge youth who are going through the education system and not receiving much support taking into consideration the unemployment shows no sign of slowing down. And this is a problem which will not go away anytime soon. If such a huge population is so young, the numbers are only likely to increase. That is why British Council is eager for Pakistani universities to welcome on Social Enterprise Centres.

From these centres, the British Council hopes that this growing youth population can find a way to put all that energy and motivation and channel it into something productive as well as providing them with a source of income. Formerly, students would go through the education system only to come out with no opportunities of growth or even self-sustenance. A Social Enterprise Centre is a stepping stone to help these students to apply their skills which can benefit the society on a whole. As the society becomes better, the cycle continues.

Zeenia Faraz from the British Council, who is responsible for the Social Enterprise program has been quoted, ‘social enterprise presents an ideal mechanism to enlist young people in Pakistan in developing their innovative ideas into businesses that deliver social and economic impact, address key development issues and contribute positively to society.’

Rather than jumping the gun, the British Council has set up a pilot programme with six renowned universities; Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, University of Agriculture Faislabad, University of Gujrat, Bahria University Karachi and University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar.

End of January this year, a five day training programme was set up to teach selected students a range of academic disciplines. For the first two days, students were familiarized with the term social enterprise. How it operates, its history and structure, etc. The next three days, students were encouraged to develop their own ideas. They were asked to brainstorm and come up with a social enterprise concept which could operate in Pakistan. They were then given tools to develop their idea further through business plans and organizational strategies. All ideas were presented in the Dragon’s Den format.

But the British Council will not just stop here. It plans to introduce these Social Enterprise Centres to 50 universities by 2018. Furthermore, through university partnerships, the British Council is looking to provide support and training to over 250 social enterprise start-ups with the hopes that 50 will be sustainable and solid operating organizations. So all in all, an exciting time of hope and opportunity. Now the question is, can the intelligent Pakistani youth tip the balance of the society’s status in Pakistan? We can all hope so.

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