Hear from our alumni from their time on the programme.
Khoi is a lawyer in Melbourne, Australia, and is also involved in a community health organisation. He is interested in exploring multi-sector collaboration as a framework to identify solutions to issues occurring in the public sector.
“My name’s Khoi Cao-Lam. I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I’m a lawyer by background. And at the moment, I’m working in justice sector, social innovation, so in particular, how to reconfigure and improve the justice sector so that it’s able to help disadvantaged Victorians better.
“I’m also involved in a community health organisations, so looking at how primary health care can best meet the needs of disadvantaged Melburnians. I’m just interested in using technology. I’m interested in multi-sector collaboration, or what we call social extrapreneurship. And I’m also interested in using ideas like design thinking.
“I was at a particular point in my career where I’ve been working in social innovation, or what we describe as social innovation for a little while, but I’ve never really had the theoretical grounding or the opportunity to be able to understand the latest thinking, and a world sort of approach to some of the issues that I’m confronted in my work. And so particularly at the moment, I work in the public sector. And a lot of social innovation materials around focus on social entrepreneurs, social adventures, which have its place. But in terms of my personal experience, I was really looking for something that looked at how social innovation occurs in the public sector and to a lesser extent, but also equally important, the corporate sector. And so the master studies in social innovation really did have a more expansive view of social innovation.
“So I was looking at programmes in Australia, in the UK, and in the US. And this one stood out for me just because of the breadth of the programme, and also because of the part-time nature of the course just suited my personal circumstances. I mean, it lets me work. It let’s make it my base in Melbourne. My family’s in Melbourne. But it also gives me an opportunity to experience a bit of Cambridge life. So it sort of ticked all the boxes.
“At the most basic level, it’s given me a lot more confidence in being able to do my work. But it’s also given me a different perspective on how things occur. So we talk about in the course in a module 1 about how interactions shape the capacity to do social change. And I look at that in terms of my day-to-day work interactions with colleagues, how we manage meaning, how we influence, and how we shape problems. So on that level, I feel much more able to do my work in Melbourne. But secondly, I think it’s given me ideas for new projects, for new initiatives.
“I think I have a very inspiring group. I mean, there’s such diversity of people from teachers to people in finance, social entrepreneurs, people in the corporate sector, really experienced business people. And so it’s just learning from those individuals, talking to them about their work and how the course relates to their work and their ideas for the future.”
Aida was based in Berlin during the course of her studies, aimed to use the knowledge gained through the Master of Studies in Social Innovation to create a space where social innovation can be incubated and accelerated.
“My name’s Aida. I was born in Ethiopia. I grew up in the US. I now live in Berlin. And I have had several different experiences over the course of my career. I’ve worked in corporate philanthropy. I’ve worked in public education reform. And I’ve also worked for an international NGO.
“Well, I had actually been exploring different opportunities for where I could extend my knowledge and experiences in social innovation. And I’d come across the Business School here as having an entrepreneurship programme. And I looked at that and thought, that’s really interesting, but maybe perhaps it doesn’t really fit exactly what I want to do.
“And over time, the innovation programme popped up on the site. And I thought, wow, this is exactly the type of programme that would fit my particular interest given the fact that I don’t see myself necessarily as an entrepreneur. But I’ve always been very interested in the area of social entrepreneurship and social innovation. And I thought that this would probably fit and match my interest most effectively.
“As I think about what I might do next, I often consider the idea of creating some kind of whether you call it an incubator or some kind of centre, a place where social innovation can be enabled and accelerated. And so I see this programme as a platform for helping me to accomplish that.
“For me, what’s been fantastic is interacting with some of the other students on the course. And so they are coming from a very international, diverse set of perspectives. And the opportunity to hear what other people are doing and exchange ideas about not only what we’re studying together and the common experience that we’re having, but also hearing about what they’re facing and the challenges that they are doing, the problems that they’re tackling in their own communities and their own organisations, has been very informative and I think has helped to inform the way that I think about what I might do next.
“Also of course, the exposure to the faculty here at an institution like Cambridge and the benefits that you derive from being in an environment where there’s fantastic subject experts, practitioners, and people who are very knowledgeable actually in our day-to-day tackling the pressing social problems that we are talking about in our courses. So all of this combined I think has been a really fantastic impact– has had a fantastic impact on me thinking about what I’d like to do next and also helping to shape what I’d like to do next, which I think is very powerful.
“I think it’s a very dynamic group of people with a lot of opinions, and a lot of questions, and a lot of ideas and aspirations, which I find really inspiring.”
Jessica was the Director of Development at Cambridge Judge Business School. The programme helped her to gain a new perspective on how to utilise the corporate sector better to influence social change through philanthropy.
“So my name’s Jessica Rose. I am currently the Director of Development for the Business School. I’ve been in the role for three years here at the University, and before that, I was the manager of fundraising for an educational charity, Teach for Australia, back in Melbourne in Australia where I’m from.
“So I’ve spent most of my working life in the charity sector, and in philanthropy in particular. And that’s probably what has led me into doing this degree. I’ve always been really interested in the intersection between the government, the third sector, and the private sector in terms of how money gets moved around, because that’s the– working on the philanthropy and fundraising side, I’ve worked with a lot of corporates and with government in receiving money. And it’s always been a bit of a frustration for me that I think that it could be done a lot better. And I think if we utilise the corporate sector more, then we could have much more impact. So that’s what led me to doing the degree in the first place.
“It sort of opened my mind to looking at social innovation, as I knew it would, but it really has managed to do that, which has been great. Because of course, you have your own frame of reference, and it’s hard to think outside that frame until you’re pushed into a situation like this.
“It will be interesting to see how I feel at the end of it in terms of having made a whole bunch of new networks and looking at things in a different way. And the other thing is, what I’m trying to do is actually use the assignments and all the learning to think about what interests and excites me most. And funnily enough, it’s often not where I predicted at the start. So you might look at the module and think OK, we’re studying these four things, and I’m definitely going to love that one. But then as you get more into it, you find that you’re more interested or fascinated or challenged by something that you didn’t know much about beforehand.
“If I could use one word to describe our group– and that is a very difficult task to use one word– but it would be engaged. Every single person on our course is engaged in the idea, engaged in the group, and engaged in the learning. Everybody has a different style. I think the ones that have been the most enjoyable for me personally have been people that have a sense of humour and have brought that into it, some a bit more serious. And some of these very serious issues that we’re talking about, but other people have been extremely funny and quite lighthearted in the way that they’re talking about these serious issues. And I think that has come across very well for the class.”