Social and business enterprises boost wellbeing

Issue: Volume 98, Number 11

Posted: 27 June 2019
Reference #: 1H9vXk

Students from St John’s College in Hastings have received a slew of awards, media coverage and considerable learning from their involvement in the college’s social enterprise programme promoting wellbeing in their school and community.

Developed over the past three years, an extracurricular programme at St John’s College in Hastings includes community and commercial partnerships in which students in Years 11 to 13 must address a societal issue. 

As part of developing a social enterprise model, any profit or prize money is donated to the community partners, says David Ivory, the college’s Director of Social Enterprise + Special Projects and Head of Commerce. 

“We started with the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), which was taught outside the curriculum. This fits in with the school’s special character, in that making money and profit wasn’t enough for the college – genuine community engagement was required.  

“The class is about putting into practice real-time social enterprise. The outcomes were about not just making money but about doing other difficult stuff in the community,” he says.

St John’s College Principal Paul Melloy says that students at the school are asked to become the best possible versions of themselves and demonstrate this through actions, rather than words. 

“Under David Ivory’s astute leadership and guidance, YES has tackled issues that would not normally be part of secondary schooling; things such as working with young incarcerated youth and people with mental health and/or homelessness problems,” he says.

Whatever it Takes 

In 2018 the Social Enterprise extracurricular cohort of Years 11–13 students chose to reach out to people in the community with mental health issues. Seven students volunteered at Whatever it Takes (WiT), the largest provider of mental health services in Hawke’s Bay.

“Last year three students visited house residents each day. They talked. They shared stories, cooked food and developed a rapport,” says David. 

Each student developed their own ways of establishing connections with residents. One student, who was studying music, played the piano during his visits. 

One regular user of WiT’s facilities says he particularly enjoyed playing music with the boys and found their visits refreshing.  

“It’s uplifting seeing young men who want to be here, caring and enjoying their time with us,” he says. “I see their spirit and their light shines.”

Caroline Lampp, General Manager of WiT, says the students made very positive contributions. 

“Students from St John’s College came to the Lighthouse in Hastings for two years. They interacted with our mental health clients, joining them in activities and generally making a very positive contribution to their time together,” she says. 

“At WiT we believe there is a great deal of mutual benefit for both groups – the students have learnt a lot about the struggles of those with mental health difficulties and our WiT clients really enjoyed the interaction with a great group of young people.” 

David says that mental health was the school’s focus for community engagement last year, but the college is also into sustainability, especially of relationships.

“This year, we have a few Year 12 students who have now left school but continue to engage regularly with and serve those with mental illness – continuing the relationship,” he says.

Water detector to alleviate stress 

In addition to being involved in the community-focused aspect of WiT, students were required to design, create, and sell a commercial product.

Five students from the programme designed ‘GEORGE’, a low-cost water detector for rainwater and flooding. Housed in widely available PVC plastic piping, the device uses a student-built computer programme that texts early warning information to a mobile phone. Farming cooperative Ravensdown agreed to support the product.

Students had the collective view that providing an early-warning, low-cost, and robust flooding and rain detection unit would alleviate some of the stresses associated with farming in a climate of weather uncertainty. 

Ravensdown provided product feedback and suggestions during the development phase and hosted the product launch. GEORGE has sold 15 units at $300 each – and it’s still selling.  

WiT staff and clients attended the product launch and all profits made from sales of GEORGE were donated back to WiT to support its work. 

This year… concrete and camaraderie

Student, Ben and business mentor/engineer Michael Finlayson make concrete pavers with different permutations including coconut husk, apple pulp, and recycled plastic from drink bottles.

In 2019, this year’s social enterprise students have devised a business venture called Environ-Crete.

The students are developing two blends of concrete – one from recycled plastic and apples for domestic use in New Zealand and another using coconut husk and plastic for Samoa. Their key focus is to release an affordable building material onto the market and, secondly, to create a more resilient and environmentally friendly product.

One of the directors of this year’s YES team, Alex Finlayson, says the group identified the ways waste products and carbon emissions affect the environment and investigated using these as a way of reinforcing concrete pavers so they can be made thinner, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

“To begin with, we researched on the internet, but we couldn’t find any detailed information into how effective waste plastic, apple
pulp/fibre and coconut fibre would be at reinforcing concrete pavers. We had to do our own experimental programme and we think we have come up with something truly innovative. 

“The next step is to do an official strength test at a certified lab. Then we will make our first batch of saleable prototype pavers,” says Alex.

The students have had good feedback from some concrete and construction companies and Mitre 10. National General Manager of Trade for Mitre 10, Derek Heard, says the building materials industry in New Zealand craves innovative solutions which use waste streams to create environmental
high-performing products. 

“We applaud the bold thinking of the team at St John’s College and look forward to seeing their progress,” he says.  

The students have also partnered with Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme workers and are playing football and sharing food together to help the workers feel part of the community.

Te reo Māori team

The school’s first te reo Māori-based social enterprise team, Te Tuitui Mātauranga (The Binding of Knowledge), has partnered with Plant and Food Research and PGG Wrightson Seeds to research and develop drought-resistant seeds for sustainable growth in arid climates. While the nature of the product is under wraps during the development stage, the team’s enterprise, ‘Āwhina Seeds’, is currently trialling 100 seeds.

In May one of the project’s directors, Kupa Pohe, learnt that he is one of eight New Zealand students selected from more than 100 applications, who will represent YES at the Latin American Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence in Buenos Aires, Argentina later in 2019.

Student reflections about WiT

“Early in the morning, the setting was very quiet and not many clients had arrived but after 11am there were well over 30 clients who were all talking amongst each other. I found people there were very welcoming, and a few came up to me straight away and introduced themselves. This has been a great experience and I look forward to my next session.” Shea, Year 13

“This made me think about how what we are doing can help these people and shine a positive light on mental health… We are all walking wounded but the clients at WiT are actively seeking help and support and I am glad to be part of this journey.” Jack, Year 13

Awards won by St John’s College social enterprise students

  • National Gallagher Group Award for Smart Technology – December 2018.
  • AUT Award for Innovative and Sustainable Product Design – December 2018.
  • Winner of Ministry of Social Development Youth National Award Business and Entrepreneurship 2018.
  • National finalist in the NZI National Business Sustainability Awards 2018.
  • UNESCO New Zealand – Global Awards – St John’s College highly commended. 

Behind-bars venture wins award

In 2017, St John’s College’s YES team formed a company called BRUTHAS with a group of prisoners aged between 17 and 18 from the Tirohanga (Youth) unit at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. The company designed a product called ‘Just Boards’, an interlocking rimu platter, symbolising a waka. 

“In the beginning, they were very nervous, as were their parents, and that’s understandable. I think now they’re so comfortable, they’re greeting each other, they hongi each other. I think it’s fantastic,” says Principal Paul Melloy. 

The business venture provided new perspectives for the young prisoners on what their futures could be when they leave prison. 

“I want to be a young entrepreneur. I’ll probably be the first one from my whānau, so yeah, that’s my ultimate goal,” says one of the prisoners involved in BRUTHAS. 

BRUTHAS was one of 50 teams from Hawke’s Bay to enter the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme. St John’s College’s Jake Dunn, the CEO of BRUTHAS, won the CEO of the Year award, sponsored by the Australian-NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants. See Jake being interviewed on the night of the awards(external link)

Profits from Just Boards were donated to youth prisoners at Hawke’s Bay Prison for other inmate programmes.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:47 am, 27 June 2019

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