Last July, I embarked on a new journey as a student at CQUniversity. When I first came to the Melbourne campus at the beginning of the new term, I saw a poster of The Big Idea competition on the campus announcement board, “Got the idea to create the next social enterprise?” It caught my attention. It was then that I first learned about The Big Issue and later discovered that it is Australia’s most successful social enterprise that develops solutions to help the homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged, positively changing their lives.
The Big Idea is a competition organised by The Big Issue to invite university students across Australia to participate in a unique social enterprise competition. Basically, students are set with a challenge, to explore an area of disadvantage and propose a business case for a social enterprise or social business. The idea can be designed to work as a start-up or in conjunction with an existing non-profit organization.
“Everyone has a story. And we can help these homeless people to write a better story.”
A few weeks later, I was approached by one of our university’s students, Goutham, who told me that he just formed a team earlier and asked if I would be interested in being part of his team. He found out that I was studying the Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation and thought probably I could contribute my experience and knowledge in this area. I gladly accepted the invitation and, hence, my journey with The Big Idea began.
Our team had 6 members from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, bringing different experiences and expertise to the table. After a few rounds of intense brainstorming and consulting with our mentors (CQUniversity Social Innovation Office team led by Lara Carton), we finally landed on the idea of ‘GreenRoos’. I know, the name may sound a little ‘funny’, but it’s not a typo – it represents the nature of our venture like Kangaroos, hopping from building to building to green the rooftops.
We were inspired by 2015’s The Big Idea winner’s project from our University, The Garden of Earthly Delights, which looks at responses to homelessness that were applicable to Melbourne’s urban landscape.
GreenRoos is a social enterprise that creates and offers low-skill job opportunities for the homeless people by setting up rooftop gardens in the CBD of Melbourne. GreenRoos’ model is to be the ‘transition-hub’ to support and help the homeless people to transition from social exclusion to social inclusion, from prospect employment to having a home.
We managed to get into the semi-final and our team was honoured to pitch our idea to a judging panel of some Australian influential business leaders and high-level executives. It was indeed an amazing experience. The judging panelists had also given us some very valuable, practical and insightful feedback.
My ‘Big idea’ improvements
Throughout the process of participating in The Big Idea competition, I have improved in these areas:
- Research skills
- Teamwork and communication skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Pitching and presentation skills
- Leadership skills
- Business plan writing skills
Apart from that, I’ve also gained new perspectives on the homelessness issue in Australia, specifically in Melbourne, and learnt of the various initiatives and projects carried out by the government and the non-profit sector in trying to tackle this complex issue.
I was impressed that The Big Issue provides great support drawing from their rich expertise of management and networks. We were also offered a series of useful resources designed to benefit students at many levels, including exposure to business planning ideas and the access to social enterprise experts and high-profile business innovators. Students are inspired to grow in both personal and professional development.
I truly appreciate this opportunity and was delighted to be a part of this competition. It has enhanced my experience and exposure and I’ve benefited significantly from it. I would like to encourage our students to take part in the competition this year. It’s not good enough just to be inspired; this is the opportunity to move from inspiration to ideation to implementation.