From PhD to Social Enterprise

How might we create positive social impact beyond graduate research into purpose-driven careers?

Client: Monash University Graduate Program
Project: Social Change With Purpose Workshops

Like so many fields, the world of academia is rapidly changing. While a doctorate degree was once considered an automatic entry into academia, today the reality is that only one in ten PhD graduates will go on to attain academic tenure.

In early 2016, White Light was invited to facilitate a two-and-a-half hour workshop entitled ‘Social Change with Purpose’ for PhD students as part of the Monash Graduate Program.

The purpose of the workshop is to inspire participants to think creatively about their potential for creating positive social impact beyond their graduate research into purpose-driven careers.

This workshop combines a design thinking process with the paradigms underpinning the social enterprise movement based on the following activities:

  • Short presentation around “purpose” and social enterprise
  • Identifying what ignites “fierce compassion” in the way we perceive the world
  • Identifying one “wicked problem” affecting a particular demographic
  • Exploring why this issue exists and matters to us
  • Identifying the optimistic opportunity inherent in solving this problem
  • Generating a broad range of ideas for how we might solve this problem
  • Selecting one ambitious idea to test, rapidly prototype and ‘pitch’ to others
  • Committing to one action to progress the selected idea further in reality
  • Reflection on the session

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants have greater clarity on their purpose, have developed an understanding of the paradigms driving social enterprises and applied the basic principles of design thinking to create and pitch a prototype for their own social enterprise.


Based on the success of the first workshop in 2016, White Light has continued to deliver this workshop to students regularly throughout 2016 and 2017, while also speaking and facilitating sessions at other Graduate Program events including the inaugural Monash Graduate Conference in 2017.

Christian delivers high quality training in the application of design thinking for social good. Our PhD students have found the workshops engaging and useful as they seek to use their expertise to tackle difficult and important issues.

Jeremiah Byrnes

Director of Graduate Student Experience, Monash University


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