2023 has been another strong year for Southampton in the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards, with winners and finalists in several of the national finals.
Asmaa Kamel, MSc Global Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, won the Business and Innovation category at the national ceremony in Egypt. We spoke to Asmaa about her work and how her time at the University helped set her on her current path.
“I currently work as a social enterprise consultant, working with non-profits transitioning to social enterprise, which is a real challenge. I also evaluate social enterprise support projects and work directly with social enterprises to improve their business models.
I work part time on a regional project in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon to strengthen the social enterprise ecosystem at large, working with enterprises founded by or providing jobs to migrants or local community members.
It’s a very new approach, especially in Egypt. The project is a prototype to understand whether social enterprise can be used as a model to support these groups. We’ve found that the answer is ‘yes’. Due to the way that social enterprises run, they are inclusive by nature and strive to achieve a balance between social and economic impact.
I’m now taking a step into impact investment. I’ve always been on the technical side, but I’ve learned that social enterprises really need finance and investment to succeed.
In search of impact
I studied engineering in Egypt and worked in the field for a few years, but, as a woman in a male-dominated career, I found it difficult to achieve the impact I aspired to.
I decided to make a shift to business innovation and started to volunteer with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and soon started to notice that businesses were doing well but they lacked something, and NGOs are doing well but they don’t focus on efficiency and effectiveness. That’s when I discovered the field of social entrepreneurship. I was particularly interested in understanding how non-profits make the transition to become social enterprises. The UK was the place to study this as a global leader in the field.
Southampton and social entrepreneurship
Southampton was one of the best places to study this subject. The academic side was great but there were also extracurricular programmes related to social entrepreneurship, and I loved the city too.
The course was practical; we looked at so many case studies, and it was interesting to see how a social enterprise starts and analyse why some work out and some don’t and the tension between profit and impact.
For my dissertation, I did a comparative study of social enterprises between the UK and Egypt at different stages of their social entrepreneurship journey. It was so eye opening and prepared me for my career now.
I was a Chevening Scholar, which has really opened doors for me. At Southampton, it gave me a chance to meet other scholars and create a network. I’ve even been invited to speak on social entrepreneurship at international conferences by fellow Chevening scholars from Southampton. Chevening provided me with a community of likeminded people to connect with and learn from.
To anyone thinking of studying social entrepreneurship at Southampton, I would say do it! The course is so well thought out – it’s broad, but at the same time, you get to know the specifics of social entrepreneurship. The research modules are invaluable – they provide such a solid foundation and gave me confidence, which serves me to this day. There is such a great social enterprise ecosystem at Southampton and so much to get involved in, from the Social Impact Lab to volunteering at local organisations.”
The Study UK Alumni Awards are open to alumni who graduated since 2008 and are living internationally. Find out more and to nominate yourself.
Nominations are open until 22nd October 2023.