You started your own social enterprise, how did you get there? Did you start the company directly after GLOCAL?
The idea to start a social enterprise can be traced back to 2015 when I visited the UK to conduct a research project. I discovered that a social enterprise is an innovative approach to solving problems that traditional NGOs face in Taiwan. Later, I continued to participate in many start-up competitions to sharpen my ideas. Eventually, I founded my social enterprise in 2020, a few months after graduating from GLOCAL. It all started with a circular economy case study that made me reflect on the meaning of “sustainability” and the current western dominant narratives in the field. I acknowledged the need for more discourses and identified solutions (see more in the article here). Meanwhile, with the pandemic going on, many friends who are working in social enterprises and NGOs faced operational challenges. To support them, I started to work on pro-bono consulting cases and strategic planning. These incidents led to the decision, “Why not start a social enterprise that supports local businesses and communities to implement sustainable strategies and generate social impact?”
What exactly are you doing at your current job?
I am currently working in two positions, as the founder of my own social enterprise “INFINITE VALUE-Innovative Thinking Lab” and as Community Engagement Manager with the UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA).
INFINITE VALUE is a social enterprise that researches and practices social innovation and sustainability. We help businesses and communities implement sustainable strategies and generate social impact through various methods. Our services include consulting, strategic planning, field research, project designing, case studies, and workshops. My role as the founder is to manage the enterprise and outreach to customers and partners, including INGOs, local cultural development companies, consulting firms, organic farms, communities, etc. Additionally, I also work as a consultant to implement projects, including “Research and Strategy of Plastic Packaging Reduction”, “Organic Farm Operation Planning and Nature Education”, “Rural Education in Sustainability and Culture”, and “Art and Sustainable Creation,” etc.
In the role with NICA, I am working on a project that is part of the UK-China Healthy Ageing Flagship Challenge Programme which is funded by Innovate UK, UKRI, and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. My job is to help develop a citizen insight community and project to manage the work in China and to understand citizen needs and gather insights both digitally and through offline workshops. Together with the UK team, I will also be developing and maintaining relationships with Chinese partners, KOLs, local residential communities, and other aging-related groups to support the development of the UK-China Ageing Innovation ecosystem.
Did you already know that you were interested in these fields during your GLOCAL studies?
Yes. I was involved in social innovation, social enterprise, and sustainable development before GLOCAL. I realized that global issues require local solutions, so I decided to pursue another master with GLOCAL to learn more about how local actors generate competitiveness under global conditions. Additionally, I wanted to visit more countries to discover how social enterprises evolve and compare their similarities and differences. Therefore, during the program, I self-organized several interviews with SEs and also participated in important conferences and training in these fields. Including Social Enterprise World Forum, Circular Economy Hotspot, Ellen MacArthur Foundation “From Linear to Circular” program, etc.
How are the topics you are working with connected with GLOCAL?
GLOCAL provided a base to explore my interest. Although we did not have courses directly on SE or social innovation, I still discovered related topics or chances and made the most use of them. For example, I worked as a Positive Impact Consultant with the Unite Students & National Union of Students and organized campaigns to advocate water conservation in 3 student dormitories while in Glasgow. Later on, I did a consultant project with “Sinèrgics: Social Return Co-working” to investigate the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in Barcelona. I think these experiences somehow influenced my later action and decision to start a SE that works on consulting and strategic planning. Additionally, the experience of studying and working with an international group during GLOCAL also equipped me with interpersonal skills to work with diverse groups and develop connections to gradually built a network.
What skills and experience are valued in candidates applying to work in social entrepreneurship and innovation?
I think having passion is much more important than skills and experience since you can always take time and effort to become more skillful once you have a clear goal. More specifically, it is important to understand why you want to work in social entrepreneurship and innovation and what social impact you aim to achieve through your work. Then depending on the different issues, themes, and roles to which you are applying, you can learn and develop specific knowledge and technique that may be required. Generally, I think analytical thinking and the ability to communicate concisely and work with diverse teams are essential. In addition, showing that you already have relevant volunteering, research or intern experience in these sectors is a way to present your commitment and effort.
Do you have any tips for current GLOCAL students for starting their own business after GLOCAL?
Buiding a Start-up is an ongoing journey with ups and downs. Sometimes everything seems to run smoothly, but there are also times when you feel lost, frustrated, and doubt your own decisions. I think the most important thing is to stick to the goals. Reflect and ask yourself why you want to start a business, what problems you want to solve, and if starting a business is the only way to achieve those goals. Then with an entrepreneurial mindset, keep trying, learning, exploring, and connecting. Enjoy the process and you will discover that everything you experienced becomes a part of you and leads to your further deams. I’m still on the way, so if you ever walk on the same “start-up” path. Please don’t hesitate to connect and share your thoughts.