Zhihan Chen, MSc Management student, shares her experience of visiting the University of Cape Town Graduate School Of Business (UCT GSB) and finding out more about innovation and social entrepreneurship in South Africa.
Innovation and social entrepreneurship
Whilst studying for my Economics degree at the University of Warwick, I had the opportunity to study some WBS modules as part of my course. I really enjoyed the teaching style and content of the modules I studied at WBS which inspired me to study my Masters degree here. As part of my course, I had the opportunity to participate in a study week to South Africa to understand more about innovation and social entrepreneurship in South Africa.
Innovative finance and social impact
The first day of the trip started with a lecture on South Africa’s political and economic landscape. This helped us to understand more about South Africa’s history and it set the tone with regards to our learning for the rest of the week. We then visited Bo-Kaap which is famous for its colourful houses. During the walking tour, I learnt that the homeowners paint their houses in bright colours to express their freedom. On day two we had a lecture on South Africa’s national culture and how it influenced working cultures in various organisations. Followed by a lecture on innovative finance and social impact, during the lecture we had to use our creative skills to come up with potential revenue streams for our chosen social enterprises.
Local social enterprises
On our third day, we visited three very different local social enterprises. During our visits, I understand more about social enterprises, and how there is much more to a business than profit maximisation. We then travelled to another campus that is located inside a township on day four. In the morning we had to pitch our own township-related enterprise to the rest of the class and hear their feedback. During the afternoon we met with two local start-ups who shared their experiences with us, from creating a business plan to implementing it. In the evening we had a farewell dinner in a local South African restaurant, where we had the opportunity to play the African drums which were really enjoyable. On day five we learnt about the growing culture of Chinese investment in Africa and visited Hisense’s factory. We learnt that Hisense have grown their network to export their products both nationally and internationally placing a high emphasis on creating innovative and high-quality products.
Exploring Cape Town
My key takeaway from the study trip encouraged me to not only think about the economic value that a company can have but also how a company can positively impact society through environmental and social values. I really enjoyed our visit to the clothing bank on our third day, where we had the opportunity to explore the environment that other people work in. As we walked into the clothing bank, the workers started singing ‘Never Give Up’ which really touched me as I truly felt their happiness and enjoyment. Besides studying and visiting different enterprises throughout the trip, we also found time to enjoy the natural landscape of South Africa which is amazing. We travelled to Signal Hill to enjoy the view of South Africa during sunset, and some of us took the time to climb up Lion’s Head. We also took a cable car to enjoy the unforgettable night time view from the top of Table Mountain. On our final day, before we flew back to the UK we travelled to the Cape of Good Hope which is the most south-western point of the African continent and we got to see penguins on Boulder’s Beach, baboons and ostriches which was a once in a lifetime experience.
Creating a positive impact
My favourite part of my study trip was when we visited the ‘I Love Coffee Shop’ on day three, which is a coffee chain that offers people from the deaf community a place to work and find their confidence. It was very inspiring to see how enterprises can help bring a positive impact to individuals, I also had the opportunity to learn to speak latte, cappuccino and tea in sign language! I would definitely recommend that all future MSc Management students participate in a study trip. It is a fascinating opportunity to visit a variety of innovative enterprises whilst learning how countries political, economic and cultural landscapes have helped shape businesses enterprises to become what they are today.
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