School of Arts students don't Sweat It with a winning Big Idea

A team of students from ACU’s School of Arts has come up with an idea that can help. They want to run outdoor exercise classes where paying customers underwrite free passes, which would be provided to clients through mental health services.

Humanities students Luke Bell, Siena Lethbridge, Daniel Pennacchia, Jake Santitto and Natasha Siara are members of the Sweat It team, which will represent ACU in the National Final of the Big Idea competition at PwC in Melbourne in December.

The competition, run by the Big Issue, challenges students to identify an area of disadvantage in the community and develop a business case for a social enterprise or social business. One of the key objectives of the competition is to encourage students to develop a deep and empathetic understanding of disadvantage. Through this process, ACU School of Arts students will have engaged in real and meaningful ways with ACU’s commitment to have ‘impact through empathy’ beyond the walls of the university.

Big Idea participants receive mentoring from industry experts and the winning team receives a professional development day at the Big Issue.

In ACU’s Bachelor of Arts, students can develop a pitch as an assignment for HUMA331 – Big Ideas: Social Enterprise and Innovation. They research the market, develop a budget, create contingencies for potential risks and write a marketing plan. They have opportunities to meet successful social entrepreneurs, ‘thought leaders’ and industry professionals across a range of sectors, and to gain ‘real world’ advice on how to effect positive change in diverse communities.

This year, three student teams in Arts competed to represent ACU in the National Final of the Big Idea Competition.

The Sunshine Group proposed a social business which would provide corporate training, using visual arts, and then use the profits to underwrite art therapy programs for the homeless.

CompAust pitched a social business that would collect organic waste from businesses and schools and turn it into compost for sale, employing long-term unemployed workers as well as providing environmental benefits and encourage ongoing sustainability in their community.

Sweat It won the internal competition with a simple, practical idea that the judges felt had the best chance of being implemented in a short time period with minimal resources. In their pitch, the team said that their plan was to run three outdoor exercise classes per week, offering 10 places per class at $10 per class, or $20 per week marketing towards university students. Then 10 places per class would be free passes which would be given out through mental health services. The business would aim to build community and provide social support to young people.

ACU Pro Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Academic Culture) Professor Michael Ondaatje said all three teams had great ideas which were well-researched and passionately presented. “I encourage you all to pursue these ideas, given your obvious passion for them, and to be agents of change in your communities” he told the teams.

Professor Ondaatje said participating in the Big Idea Competition was one of the many ways in which a humanities education stimulated enterprising thinking and initiative in ACU students, and prepared them for life and work beyond the University.

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