Out with project funding and in with social entrepreneurship
Universities will be better able to secure funding by being socially enterprising, argues Nick Petford
In June this year, the University of Northampton unveiled its new strategy that commits the whole institution to developing social entrepreneurs and social enterprises. It is a very ambitious strategy, involving whole organisation change and huge investments of expertise and capital in setting up new social enterprises, designed to directly improve the lives of people – socially, economically, environmentally and culturally. We have deliberately not sought project funding to help us deliver our mission.
Social enterprises are businesses. They are different from normal businesses in that they have a social purpose and aim to deliver social impact. But they are a business and, unless they are led by customer focused, hard-working, creative, dynamic and flexible entrepreneurs, they go bust. If social enterprises go bust, they can't do good. What Northampton needs to be a successful, high-impact, socially enterprising university is just about the opposite of what you often get with funded projects.
We will be seeking investment in some of our new social enterprise ventures, but we will be seeking it from the market. Who needs project funding? Not the socially enterprising University.
Professor Nick Petford is vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton.