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Dr Joanne Zhang wins Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award for Queen Mary Social Venture Fund

Dr Joanne Zhang from Queen Mary’s School of Business and Management has won the Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award at the 2022 European Triple E Awards.

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At a ceremony in Florence, Dr Zhang was recognised for her work launching the Queen Mary Social Venture Fund (QMSVF) in 2020 and its impact since. Led by students, the scheme invests in student-led social enterprises, taking start-ups of all shapes and sizes to tackle the challenges in our society today. It was the first scheme of its kind in the UK when launched.

The initiative aims to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs and investors from diverse backgrounds. Despite only running for two years, the scheme has already delivered some notable success stories. Student investors have reached out to over 200 social ventures, organising events and forums with nearly 600 attendees. One investee, a company called Biophilica that turns green waste into leather-like materials, has recently raised £1.2m in early-stage funding.

In keeping with Queen Mary’s unrivalled commitment to inclusivity and social justice, the QMSVF empowers students and recent graduates from diverse backgrounds. This is especially important as those from diverse backgrounds are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to succeeding in the world of start-ups.

Over three quarters (77%) of the QMSVF’s student investors are from ethnic minorities and 38% are women. The Fund has, to-date, invested in and supported four social ventures, all founded and co-founded by female entrepreneurs.

The QMSVF is part of Queen Mary’s Student Knowledge Exchange Through Community Hubs (SKETCH) programme in which students provide pro bono consultancy and venture capital services to East London local communities, start-ups, third sector organisations and beyond.

Dr Joanne Zhang, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Deputy Director of Education in Queen Mary’s School of Business and Management, said: “I am truly humbled and honoured by the award. Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’. QMSVF simulates a real-life social venture fund, adopting an authentical learning approach; I am thrilled to see that the programme helps cultivate students’ entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and mindsets regardless of their career paths in future.”

Former students involved with the QMSVF have since spoken of the skills they gained and how it helped prepare them for life after education. Katherine Toledo Macedo, a former Business and Management student, said: “I received job offers and had many examples from QMSVF to share with recruiters regarding my knowledge and skills. I applied for one graduate job and one internship and got both! One of the offers I received was from a QMSVF external partner, who I worked with during my time on the programme.”

The Triple E Awards is one of very few for entrepreneurship and engagement within higher education. It is a global recognition of these efforts, with fierce competition for awards from universities around the world.

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