Brenton Wright Scholarship — no. 1

I decided to write this series of posts to make public some of the work that I have been doing for the past month. Sharing this content has mainly three purposes. The first one is to open up the conversation and learn best practices. The second one is to keep track of my work and reflect back on it later. The third one is to exercise my writing muscle and keeping it fit.

What’s the work I’m talking about? I will try to make the story short by breaking it down in two episodes. Four years ago I co-founded Nova Smart Solutions (Nova), a social-outcomes-driven business. Earlier this year I was awarded a scholarship named after Brenton Wright to do research on Social Impact Investing in South Australia (an initiative by the Social Impact Investment Network SA — SIINSA).

These seem to be two separate stories but they are connected into one. Thanks to Nova, I have been able to make valuable connections and learn from people and organisations in the social sector what are some of the most challenging social issues in Australia — from a programmatic and systemic perspective. And, the Brenton Wright Scholarship will allow me to use the learnings collected from Nova to explore what is happening in Australia when a market-based perspective is brought into the social sector.

The scholarship’s aim is to capture insights around Social Impact Investing in South Australia. Basically, my job is to gather stories, evidence, and research to address three main goals:

  • to demonstrate the social and economic value of impact investing to SA,
  • to establish metrics to stimulate social investment and,
  • to identify case examples to demonstrate the potential of social investment in SA and stimulate the supply of capital.

To be honest, I feel these goals are a good compass to lead my research but I feel that I will stumble across insights that might lead me elsewhere.

My approach to completing this assignment is based on three elements: field research, desktop research, and graphic design.

Field research includes interviewing people from organisations in the private, public and not-for-profit sector to understand the initiatives that are happening around social impact investing. This could be policy or service design, pathways to attract private capital into the not-for-profit dance floor, or design new services that challenge the status-quo.

Desktop research is a component that will support my findings with evidence. I have been using documents, papers, and websites to inform what questions to ask next, connect insights from interviews and to visualise what my research might look like (content and design wise).

The third element is the graphic design. This has been so far the most challenging one in terms of being able to use it as a channel to capture insights and to translate them into visually appealing content. Trying to include this component from the beginning poses questions like, how can I make my research visually attractive and what is my audience expecting to learn/understand? — fortunately, I have the support of my brothers, two great visual designers who are on top of it!

So, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post I would like to share this to open up the conversation and learn what you (yes you! the reader) have to say about: social impact investing, research techniques and tools, infographics, interviews (remote and face-to-face). Also, I invite you to follow this series of posts to learn about and from my progress.

I feel honoured to have been awarded this scholarship because I know that doing this pays tribute to Brenton Wright (whom I intend to learn more from) and this also acknowledges the work I have been doing with Nova over the past years.

Finally, I want to share a photo with Jane Arnott, SIINSA’s board Chair. This was the day that SIINSA made public the announcement of the scholarship at an EY conference.

Thanks, Jane for that contagious laughter!!