Social entrepreneurship at UQ Business School

8 Jul 2009
Seven UQ Business School students learnt a valuable entrepreneurship lesson this semester—business isn't just about making money, it's about improving peoples' quality of life. The postgraduate students changed the lives of Maria Bruckner and her 12-year-old daughter Claudia, who has cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, when they raised over $7000 so a machine able to weigh Claudia and other students at Woody Point Special School could be purchased. Lecturer Dr Lance Newey said it was the first time an innovative learning experience like Project Claudia had been undertaken as part of the TIMS7301 course, and following its success, a similar project will be launched next semester. "Project Claudia was born when I perceived the intersection of two different sets of needs. As a local resident, I knew that the Woody Point Special School needed community support to obtain vital equipment for their kids, and at the same time, every semester I deal with talented, imaginative and energetic students looking for opportunities to put theory into practice," he said. "It was about taking the learning out of the classroom and into the community, providing a chance for students to construct a not-for-profit project and learn how to manage it in real time with real customers." Because Claudia is wheelchair-bound and her treatment regime depends on weight measurements being collected regularly, Maria had to travel from the Redcliffe Peninsula to the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane every week so Claudia's weight could be monitored. In addition to the four students on the fundraising team, the remaining students formed Maria's 'emotional support team', and helped with Claudia's hospital visits and anything else Maria and Claudia required, including technological support. "It's been amazing. I'm hopeless with technology, and the girls have come in and set up a laptop with a camera so Claudia can talk to her nieces in Townsville over the internet. These are things that are really beneficial for kids like Claudia," Ms Bruckner said. "The honour has really been mine and Claudia's. I have really enjoyed my time with this project. I keep bragging about them all, and hope they can spread the philanthropy on." Dr Newey said this taught the team that impacting peoples' quality-of-life involves more than just money. They really had to learn about their 'customer', values and the different ways that projects are deemed 'successful'. "As a result of this experience the students are now better equipped to have an intelligent community conversation about the role of values in business," he said. Woody Point Special School principal Jan Baildon and Claudia's classroom teacher Julianne Grice both noted the enormous impact Dr Newey and students Millie Yin, Ko-Sheng Yong, Faizan Khan, Aida Yusop, Lindsay Morrison, Fei Xue and Joanne Lee made. "The whole thing has just worked out so well, and they're a marvellous group of young people," Ms Baildon said. "It's been a wonderful opportunity to have a partnership with the UQ Business School, and I'm certainly hoping it can continue on." "A lot of the kids here have trouble communicating, and can't tell us if they're feeling unwell, so being able to weigh them really helps us judge how healthy they are," Ms Grice said. The students all agreed the project was a great idea, and allowed them to learn in a meaningful way that will shape their future business ventures. "If it wasn't for Lance, we wouldn't have been involved in this project and made a difference," Ms Yin said. "What is the point of sitting in class learning about profit when we're not making a difference? Instead we've had this wonderful experience," Ms Xue said.