Student teams from six Pakistain universities pitched their social enterprise start-up ideas in a Dragon's Den-style competition

Pakistan is currently facing a demographic youth bulge with a majority of the population under the age of 30.  With unemployment levels on the rise, the economic prospects for this generation are bleak. It is imperative to find ways of unleashing the potential of Pakistan’s youth by creating opportunities for them to develop their skills and channel their talents and ideas into innovative solutions.

According to Zeenia Faraz, who runs the British Council’s social enterprise programme in Pakistan, 'Social enterprise presents an ideal mechanism to enlist young people in Pakistan in developing their innovative ideas into businesses that deliver social and economic impact, address key development issues and contribute positively to society.'    

A central component of the British Council’s social enterprise programme in Pakistan is the integration of social enterprise within the higher education sector in collaboration with local and UK social enterprise organisations. Universities are an ideal place to introduce social enterprise and support young people to develop innovative business ideas with a community and society focus. 

With that in mind, the British Council has launched a pilot programme on social enterprise in six universities across Pakistan. Delivered in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, the programme aims to develop the capacity of student social entrepreneurs and create an enabling environment within universities for the student-led social enterprise start-ups to take off. 

The partner universities in Pakistan that are developing these social enterprise incubation centres are the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, University of Agriculture Faislabad, University of Gujrat, Bahria University Karachi and University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar.  

The first phase of the programme kicked off with a five-day training of select students from the six universities studying a range of academic disciplines.  The training was delivered by the UK’s Social Enterprise Academy (SEA) from 24 to 28 January in Karachi. 

SEA developed customised training content based on UK best practices for undergraduate university students in Pakistan. The first two days of the training were titled ‘Exploring Your Social Enterprise Ideas’ and focused on understanding the basic concepts of social entrepreneurship. Students learned about the history of social enterprise movement, explored definitions, and structures of social enterprises; and studied successful example of social enterprises operating in a range of countries. 

The next three days of training focused on ‘Evolving Your Social Enterprise Ideas’ and explored more advanced topics. Here, the students learned the importance of planning, stakeholder management, finance, marketing, and measuring social impact. Students were also introduced to a business plan template as well as a social business model canvas and using these tools they were asked to develop pitches for their ideas which were presented in the Dragons’ Den format.

As the next step in the social enterprise programme, university staff will be cascading these trainings in their respective institutions. The British Council, with the help of its local partner, SEED, will help build the capacity of the university incubation centres in order to help them nurture start-up ideas generated from these social enterprise trainings.

The British Council plans to roll out the programme in 50 universities across Pakistan by the end of 2018. 'In partnership with the universities, we expect to provide support and training to over 250 social enterprises start-ups through the incubation centres, and expect that 50 of these will become sustainable and successful businesses,' said the British Council’s Zeenia Faraz.