This blog is part of a series sharing lessons and stories from Western Sydney University’s first enterprise internship program in Lebanon. This was an initiative between the Bank of Beirut (BoB), Western Sydney University (WSU) and the World Patriarchal Maronite Foundation for Integral Development (WPMF).
This is the fourth blog in the series about the Bank of Beirut (BoB) internship program. The first blog includes background information about the program, discussion of work-based learning in international contexts and specifics about the process of piloting such a program in an area that is considered inaccessible due to risk and funding factors. The second blog discusses the range of benefits experienced by students undertaking the BoB internship program. In the third blog, the benefits are explored again but this time from the perspective of the industry partner and its various stakeholders. In this blog, we consider the benefits of the program to the broader host community, particularly the unplanned and unexpected benefits arising from a social intervention project.
Students give back to youth in host community
As this was the program’s pilot year, there were various unplanned and unexpected elements that arose over the four weeks. While some of these presented challenges, others were so valuable that they will become a vital part of future programs. One such element was the social intervention undertaken by the student interns. A presentation was made, by representative from the World Patriarchal Maronite Fund (WPMF) to the students in Lebanon, about the importance of establishing a partnership and connection with the country and its community that would go beyond the one-month period they spent training in country. The students were invited to leave a footprint and make a contribution to Lebanon that would endure even after they returned home. The students decided to focus on a youth organisation and chose to support Cenacle de la Lumiere (CDLL), a non-profit organisation working on community awareness, development and prevention relating to youth drug and alcohol issues, as well as operating a rehabilitation centre for young people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Unplanned element of ‘social impact’ becomes a highlight
With guidance from CDLL about their priority areas, the students made a plan to provide immediate in-country support in the form of volunteer labour, as well as making a commitment to undertake fundraising once back home in Australia. The students visited the CDLL rehabilitation centre and spent the day painting the interiors alongside the residents. This gave the students an opportunity to get to know the people there and to better understand their circumstances, as well as to see first-hand the value of CDLL’s work. Some of the students and the academic coordinator were also invited to discuss their experiences with the program as part of a broadcast with Charity TV. The students agreed that in addition to their time volunteering they would fundraise to build a roof to cover the outside gym and provide new gym equipment. The students have been busy organising a fundraising dinner on 18 October 2019 in Sydney to raise $35,000 AUD to donate to the centre. Although unplanned, this element of delivering ‘social impact’ as part of the program experience was one of the highlights for the interns. This will become a core component of the program and future interns will be expected to take on a cause as part of their participation in the program.
Enterprise internship program reflects Millennial values of ‘social enterprise’
Embedding a component of social good in the enterprise internship program is reflective of the developing culture of ‘social responsibility’ as core to the values of the Millennial workforce. This isn’t just the idea of ‘corporate social responsibility’ at the level of the institution or company but an individual orientation towards valuing socially-conscious enterprise, both as a worker and a consumer. The trend towards ‘social enterprise’ is recognised in Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Report as business that considers and evaluates its actions according to social impacts, not just the bottom line. This report highlights that the social component is vital to the perception of business ‘success’, particularly amongst younger generations, with 86% of surveyed millennials reporting that measurements of success should account for more than just the financial performance of a business. In their 2019 annual Global Millennial Survey, Deloitte reports that millennials surveyed across 42 countries translate their values about social good into their decisions and relationships with businesses as workers and consumers. In the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, 44% of surveyed business leaders said social enterprise issues hold more importance for their company than three years ago and 56% expect that, in three years, they will be even more important. This is obviously a bi-directional phenomenon, as these young people shape the agenda of business from the same vantage points as workers and consumers. The closing insights of this year’s survey make this clear: “Millennials and Gen Zs are not just the future, they are the present; making up half the world’s population and most of the workforce”.
Students ‘Pay it Forward’ – creating opportunity from opportunity
It is clear that having an element of social intervention and giving back to the host community is not at odds but aligned with the shifting culture of business practice as well as the students’ own values. By allowing them to connect with people in their host community that are less fortunate, the students can make a social impact and see beyond just their own professional and personal development. It connects them to a core value of social responsibility, one that is increasingly embedded in the kinds of enterprise environments they may enter at the completion of their business and finance degree studies. By establishing this precedent of ‘paying it forward’ in which they create opportunities for others as a part of honouring the opportunities they have been given, these students are seeding positive impacts that will endure long after they have left the country. This is social impact in action and it contributes to the well-rounded education of students in the program, allowing them to see themselves as part of a broader community, both locally and globally. The benefits to the students and the host community are then more of a reciprocal exchange that can continue long after the month-long program is over.