Queen Elizabeth Scholars at UTech, Jamaica host Social Enterprise Workshop

Queen Elizabeth Scholars Erica Davis, (left) and Meredith Drost (right) make their presentation on Social Enterprise at the Shift in Business Forum held on Thursday, July 26, 2018 at the Technology Innovation Centre, Papine Campus.

The University of Technology, Jamaica as part of its MoU partnership with Saint Mary’s University (SMU), Halifax, Canada is currently hosting three Queen Elizabeth Scholars from SMU who have joined the University for three months from May to August 2018 on a period of student exchange. 

The scholars who are all Social Entrepreneurs are Miss Meredith Drost, 4th year Bachelor of Commerce student majoring in Global Business Management and Marketing, Miss Erica Davis,  4th year Bachelor  of Commerce student majoring in Marketing with a minor in Psychology and  Mr. Andreas Robinson, 4th year Bachelor of Commerce student with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Marketing.  

Andreas Robinson, Queen Elizabeth Scholar, led a session titled “Find Your Passion”

In collaboration with the Office of the President, The Queen Elizabeth Scholars on July 26, 2018 conducted a successful forum and workshop on social enterprise and its relevance to attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The students developed the proposal for the forum and secured speakers and other resources for their presentation aptly dubbed, “The Shift in Business,” which was held at the Technology Innovation Centre, UTech, Jamaica Papine campus.  The forum attracted several budding student entrepreneurs, members of academic and administrative staff.

The presentation was chaired by Dr. Claire Sutherland, Senior Director, International and Institutional Linkages who has also been guiding and facilitating the scholars based on the programmes for their social enterprise research, self-directed studies and internship at UTech, Jamaica. 

Dr. Claire Sutherland, Senior Director, International and Institutional Linkages delivers opening remarks.

Dr. Sutherland who is Director of the Queen Elizabeth Scholars Project with SMU, in her welcome explained the objectives of the conversational forum focused on the three thematic questions -  what, and how can we learn together about social enterprise? What can we do together to boost social enterprise in our communities and societies and across Jamaica and Canada? And how can we support each other and build lasting bonds for social enterprise, now and in the future?

Dr. Sutherland noted further that the aim of the Queen Elizabeth Scholars Program is to develop the next generation of leaders in the Commonwealth and for them to engage the community with their ideas and work. UTech, Jamaica has had three Queen Elizabeth Scholars at Saint Mary’s University pursuing Master’s degrees, two of whom have subsequently fulfilled the requirement to re-join UTech, Jamaica as lecturers after completion of their scholarships.

The three  Queen Elizabeth Scholars from SMU are attached to the Faculty of Engineering and Computing (FENC) in the School of Computing and Information Technology  (SCIT) under the supervision of Dr. Sean Thorpe, Head of School who is Co-Director of the Program.

Professor Colin Gyles, Deputy President, UTech, Jamaica welcomes Queen Elizabeth Scholars  at the Shift in Business Forum.

Professor Colin Gyles, Deputy President also welcomed the Queen Elizabeth Scholars and thanked them for coming to share their experiences of social enterprise in Canada. He noted that through social enterprises, communities can be impacted and young people in particular can find many opportunities in the growing sector.

Social Enterprise for Change

Drost and Davis in their main presentation examined how social enterprise differs from the traditional business model.  Drost explained that the main focus of a social enterprise is to be a competitor in the market while creating social change.  The Scholar noted that in social enterprise, “social advocates for change use business to create change in our community … and profits are invested into the business so that the business can create a greater change in the community.”  She noted that “the social impact can usually be seen through people they hire or in the community or through opportunities created by the sale of a product or service.”

The Queen Elizabeth Scholars provided an overview of the business model, challenges and successes of the social enterprise named Square Roots with which they are involved at SMU.  The Square Roots project aims to reduce food waste by redirecting good vegetable produce that would otherwise be thrown away by farmers, supermarkets and restaurants, into homes in several  communities. The business model for Square Roots now includes franchises, and is being implemented through Enactus, a global organization involving 72,000 students on 1,730 university campuses in entrepreneurial action to improve the world.

Queen Elizabeth Scholar Andreas Robinson who is Founder and President of the social enterprise Infinitus Academy, in his presentation titled “Find your Passion” spoke of his mission and passion to empower individuals.  The Academy’s enrichment programmes seek to empower young persons through partnerships with community/volunteer organizations and local businesses in a variety of ways including through coaching, workshops, mental well-being and leadership training.  Robinson engaged the forum participants on finding and pursuing their own passions for social enterprise.

Other speakers at the forum were Miss Natalie Doyen, Incubator Manager, TIC and Mr. Blake Widmer, Co-Founder of Deaf Can! Café.

Widmer shared the inspirational story of the genesis and remarkable growth of the Deaf Can! brand which has blossomed from a small coffee roasting project at Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Kingston in 2015 to now operating a full-fledged café and training centre at the school and a mobile coffee and catering service for events.  Widmer in highlighting how the flourishing business has empowered young deaf persons, businesses, and society to believe in their abilities rather than their perceived disabilities, encouraged social entrepreneurs to use an “asset-based” approach to doing business rather than one that starts with a concept of a “lack” of something.

Mr. Blake Widmer, Co-Founder of Deaf Can! Café gave a presentation on empowering deaf persons through social enterprise.

Miss Doyen provided the audience with an overview of the services and benefits of the TIC business incubator for start-up tech-based companies, which she noted is keenly focused on helping clients to reduce risks.  Miss Doyen said that the TIC also welcomes non-profit enterprises which have as their key mission “to do good.”

Miss Natalie Doyen, Incubator Manager, Technology Innovation Centre.

A student group discussion on Social Enterprise concepts.



Michelle Beckford (Mrs.)
Corporate Communications Manager
University of Technology, Jamaica
Telephone: 970-5299
Email: mbeckford@utech.edu.jm