Life in Aberdeen and internship at EuroBiotix CIC

4 august 2016


As a third year pre-medicine student who is the chief executive of his own startup, I have had the privilege of being selected by the British Council to attend a ten week internship through their Students for Social Impact program this year. My internship at EuroBiotix CIC has been and continues to be an invaluable and lucrative entrepreneurial experience not only due to the number of impressive individuals I have meet, such as my mentors Mr. James McIlroy and Dr. Alan Feighery as well as Mr. Vimal Subramanian and Dr. Marcus Thompson, but also due to the lessons I have learned and continue to learn about ensuring your startup’s success and what it takes to be that very entrepreneur that changes the lives of many people if not the world.

EuroBiotix is a community interest company that aims to make Faecal Microbiota Transplantation more accessible to those that suffer from the harmful clostridium difficile (c. difficile) bacteria. Mr. James McIlroy (my primary mentor), who is both an accomplished health professional and impressive entrepreneur, has managed to not only obtain a fellowship with the Royal Society of Edinburgh, but also to obtain tens and thousands of dollars in grants and fundings through the numerous competitions he has participated at. I have had the opportunity of meeting him regularly for the past 6 weeks or so with each week being dedicated to discussions on various objective both for his startup and YouSeeClear. As a pioneer in the field of social enterprises, Mr. McIlroy has provided me with a significant number of resources that has helped me get a better grasp of what a startup needs to succeed. As an Afghan who was born and raised during the darkest periods of my country when the Taliban had the prominent hand in leading, I dream to become Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Health and as such I spoke with Mr. McIlroy about the possibility of meeting his networks at the Ministry of Public Health in Scotland. Very fortunately, he organized a meeting with the Scottish Minister for Mental Health her excellency Maureen Watt during which we had the opportunity to hear about her experience and challenges as Scotland’s former Minister of Public Health and current Minister for Mental Health.

Among the many objectives that I have worked on during the past six weeks are a series of documents for YouSeeClear that I believe are crucial in obtaining grants and funds at various scenarios, lessons on marketing tactics and strategies from Dr. Marcus Thompson, and meeting with other leaders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Aberdeen. As one of the co-founders of YouSeeClear, I have also been in talks with our partners in the United States and in Afghanistan to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure for our launch in the April of 2017. In the four weeks to come, I have a series of other objectives with the primary one being the preparations for the Students for Social Impact Program’s showcase that is being held at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on August 29-31. Meanwhile, I am ecstatic to have been sponsored by Carleton University to attend the One Young World summit in Ottawa to represent not only Carleton University as one of North America’s most prestigious universities, my country Afghanistan, and last but not least my home Canada!

About You See Clear
You See Clear is a Canadian social enterprise in the process of launching internationally to meet the demand for low-cost eyewear in developing countries beginning in Afghanistan in Spring 2017. Find out more information on our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

(SSIM student 2016) #SSIMexchange


Summer in Oxford

18 JULY 2016

Hello everybody I would be sharing my experience in Oxford here so stay tuned. The place where I am interning in Oxford is called the Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership which was co-founded by the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University and Student Hubs. I have now been here for about 3 weeks now and the amount of knowledge and inspiration I have gained so far is admirable. During the first week of my internship I was introduced to all the different centres of working at Oxford Brookes University, the Oxford Launchpad at Said Business School, the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Office at the University of Oxford and Student Hubs to support me in developing my own social venture idea.

My first day in Oxford was actually followed by a training session about Storytelling. This taught me an important aspect of how to present your business venture in a way that is influential, understandable and yet powerful. Storytelling is a kind of art that makes people interested in what you have to present. During the first few days of my internship I was able to attend an annual conference called Venturefest where all types of organizations in and around Oxford come together and engage with the help of investors and by sharing their skill set to work and establish a better ecosystem for the greater social good. After getting acquainted to Oxford and working here I learnt all aspects of event planning and in depth about the movements taking place in the social enterprise world. I was able to coordinate a national conference where universities and organizations came together to address the local problems and discuss the future prospects of social innovation with how the future awaits for all social entrepreneurs and innovators out there.

Furthermore I have had opportunities where I witnessed interviews of students presenting their social venture and being able to give my opinion as well as hear feedback. This practice helped me a lot to understand what various stakeholders look into a business idea. Another essential thing I love about my internship here is the fact that my colleagues and supervisors actually ask for my opinions and give me feedback accordingly. I have found that is a highly motivated tool for learning. This is all for now I will be back with more specific personal and professional encounters to share.

(SSIM student 2016) #SSIMexchange

Let the SSIM race begin 

In April 2016 eight talented Canadian and British students were shortlisted to be part of Students for Social Impact (SSIM) 2016. This year the work-study programme received applications from young social innovators who wanted to spend the summer developing their social venture ideas, contributing to life-changing social enterprises in Canada or the UK, and connecting with other young leaders.

Art and disabilities, artisans in rural areas, local economic development, education and equality, Alzheimer’s, water aid and renewable energy, and vision impairment are the themes addressed by our social innovators, who decided to take the challenge and develop their social venture ideas.

Skill and endurance training
The SSIM race has begun for our entrepreneurs Babur, Sabrina, Hien, Kanan, Maria, Andrea, Hope and Matthew, and who have a distance to run - only 10 weeks until they pitch their social venture for investment at the end of the summer.

Here are the students with their social venture business model canvas.

As any athlete would, they trained for their competition. The SSIM Launchpad pre-departure training at the University of New Brunswick was the first part of their preparation. Over the course of two days, the students developed skills in business planning, communications, and personal development. They also took part in a series of curated site visits, learning about the rich social enterprise ecosystem in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Then the SSIM students travelled to Lowell, Massachusetts, to participate in the Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. The students presented their social venture ideas in a Student Showcase, networked with business and academic leaders, and visited start-up incubators at MIT and Harvard.

SSSIM students at their induction programme 

 On your marks, get set, go!
The SSIM students are ready for their race; they have been allocated to their lanes in the UK and Canada. They have been paired with skilled and experienced mentors who will coach them along the way. The SSIM students will spend 10 weeks working in a social enterprise and developing their social venture idea.

As with any good athlete, they will need to develop and improve their techniques, they’ll need to listen to their coaches; they cannot slow down their pace, they need to observe and take advantage of their circumstances, so they can sprint at the right moment.

Let the race begin
Our eight athletes have heard the sound of the starter pistol, the competition has commenced. Throughout the summer they are immersing themselves in a social enterprise ecosystem overseas, developing their social venture ideas, and preparing to pitch for social investment. Stay tuned as they make progress towards the finish line.


By: British council canada
(SSIM student 2016) #SSIMexchange

From Fredericton to Aberdeen: The story of an adventurous journey

Since 2015, the British Council has annually collaborated with the J.W McConnell Foundation and the Trico Charitable Foundation to select ten young entrepreneurs from across Canada and the United Kingdom for its Students for Social Impact program. The program subsequently finds matches for both the British and Canadian students as potential mentors with whom they intern for ten weeks to help lift their amateur social ventures off the ground. This year, as the Founding Chief Executive of You See Clear ®, I was chosen to participate in an internship with EuroBiotix CIC, which is a Scotland based social enterprise that aims to address and tackle the issue of access to faecal microbiota transplantation around the world and specifically in Europe and North America.

Along with my other fellow interns, we were first invited to an orientation/LaunchPad organized at the University of New Brunswick in the historic city of Fredericton and in the province of New Brunswick in Canada and specifically at the Pond-Deshpande Centre where we had the opportunity to navigate through and oversee the works of many Fredericton-based local entrepreneurs who had helped make the city better in their individual ways. As the only incubator at the University of New Brunswick, the Pond-Deshpande centre serves as a home to the students from the university and individuals from the community who are passionate about social innovation and entrepreneurship, but do not have a stimulating entrepreneurial ecosystem to support them in their lonely journey. While at the Pond-Deshpande Centre, we attended various workshops that were coordinated by prominent community leaders and members of the Pond-Deshpande center at the university of New Brunswick. The workshops not only included conversations with local entrepreneurs about their challenges, but also involved a number of activities that helped us grasp a better idea of what our challenges are and what we could do to come up with effective resolutions.

Among the many inspiring social ventures and startups that we had the privilege of visiting was Fredericton's own “The Ville Cooperative”. By taking a holistic approach, the Ville aims to provide the community with progressive, health-related opportunities. Their goal is to create a supportive facility for use by recreational organizations, educational groups, sustainability practices, arts and culture programs, and many more. By partnering with like-minded individuals, as well as fostering a safe space for the community, the Ville is ultimately working towards the emergence of societal structures that provide security, wisdom, and encourage both responsibility and success in all.Jeff MacFarlane’s struggles in his journey to make his vision of the Ville come true as its executive director were a living example of how hard work and persistence is the key to success when it comes to implementing a new and unprecedented idea in a community that poses various challenges to such ideas.

Another outstanding startup we learned about was don’t dis-my-ability incorporated by Shawn Smith, a Fredericton based entrepreneur who struggled as a kid through every level of the public education system with high school mathematics being the most challenging. Shawn’s struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and how he completed high school in four years instead of the regular three years were yet again a reminder that perseverance and positive attitude as well as optimism are what entrepreneurs use as the primary ingredients of their recipe to success.

After the LaunchPad's end, we embarked on a four day long journey to the city of Lowell in Massachusetts to not only participate in the Deshpande symposium, but also oversee the works of some local social enterprises. On our first day in Lowell, we visited “Urban Farm Mill City Grows” which is a community garden that rents farming beds for as low as $20 per season to encourage the community in Lowell to grow their vegetables and fruits locally. The farm’s co-founder and and director Francey Slater indicated that they initially struggled to engage people with their cause when they launched in 2013, but as the word about its significant cause travelled around the city they now have more than five community gardens around Lowell and approximately 300 Lowell residents on their waitlist. Another inspiring startup that we had the privilege of visiting was Catie’s Closet which has evolved from a family-sponsored project into a social enterprise. The project began as a tribute to Catie Bisson, a graduate of Lowell High School who was passionate about the power of education. Catie was a sophomore at Bridgewater University when she passed away at the age of 20 due to a connective tissue disorder. Her dream was to be a writer and author. Catie felt strongly that education should not be a privilege and so her family sought to honour her memory by helping kids succeed in school. They opened the first Catie’s Closet in a single school and now have equipped 25 schools with clothing that serves more than 12,500 students in Lowell.

Co-founded by the Deshpande Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2012, the Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education brings together academics, policy planners and practitioners to discuss best practices in integrating entrepreneurship throughout their college and university communities. This annual conference, held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, draws together national speakers and those at the forefront of innovative strategies in higher education.

What began as a small gathering now boasts a powerhouse lineup drawing from all facets of where the worlds of academia and business intersect. Past speakers have included entrepreneurship visionaries such as University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, who has co-chaired the national Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Professor Vladimir Bulovic, an entrepreneur and associate dean for innovation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT professor Donald Sadoway, who was named one of Time magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World”, Dr. Subra Suresh, President of Carnegie Mellon University and Jeff Hoffman, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Priceline.

This past year’s event offered over twenty-eight panel discussions and drew hundreds of faculty, administrators, students and business people to discuss an array of topics, including entrepreneurial culture and ecosystems, innovative entrepreneurship curricula, research commercialization, startups and emerging trends.

Leaders from universities, business incubators, foundations and other organizations including the UNC Chapel Hill, MIT, UMass, Carnegie Mellon University, California Institute of Technology, Arizona State University and the National Science Foundation have convened at the Symposium to explore ways to foster a culture of innovation, embed entrepreneurship in the curriculum, accelerate technology commercialization and establish partnerships with businesses and the community.

Organizations such as VentureWell, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, Cengage, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, ASU, Babson College and the University of Massachusetts President’s Office have provided financial support for the event in past years.

The symposium also provided my fellow interns and I the opportunity to showcase our startups to more than 300 participants of the symposium who represented more than 21 universities from across North America. Furthermore, the symposium acted as a strong means of networking as well since there were professionals not only from Harvard University and MIT, but also other universities, such as the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Wooster College, Queen’s University and many more. On our third day in Lowell, we also were at the premier of the Millennial dreams, a new film by Hemmings House Pictures in Saint John that explores what small cities can do to attract and maintain millennials. The Saint John company points out the values important to the millennial generation in the film and issues, such as outmigration, student loans, and employment uncertainty and their impact on the quality of our lives.

After the symposium reached its end, my fellow interns and I boarded on a ten weeks long internship at our corresponding matches with mine being EuroBiotix CIC in the city of Aberdeen in Scotland. My internship began with a series of meetings with not only James McIlroy the founding CEO of EuroBiotix, but also Alan Feighery the Enterprise advisor at the University of Aberdeen, Marcus Thompson who is a prominent marketing instructor teaching more than three marketing courses, and also other local entrepreneurs who have already rolled their sleeves up to help make You See Clear’s launch very smooth and well-thought. In my first meeting with James as my primary mentor, we went over and decided the top ten most important points that we want to invest our time on in the next ten weeks or so.

Living in Aberdeen and specifically having networks at the University of Aberdeen means that I will have numerous opportunities to go the city of Edinburgh best known as the Makkah of innovation and entrepreneurship as well home to the vast majority of enterprises in Scotland. I am extremely excited for what the ten weeks ahead holds for me and i am sure that the end results will be extraordinary.

By: Babur Jahid
(SSIM student 2016) #SSIMexchange

The landing and LaunchPad

What happens when a group of students and aspiring social entrepreneurs come together for the first time? Community and change were the topics of the day.

18 – 19 June – Eighteen students participating in the Students for Social Impact (SSIM) pilot programme landed in Toronto, Ontario to join the SSIM LaunchPad pre-departure training and officially kick start their overseas placements. Over the course of two days, students from across Canada and the UK explored concepts around community, communication, social entrepreneurship and social change. Organised by the British Council and Schools for Social Entrepreneurs Ontario (SSEO), LaunchPad prepared the first cohort of SSIM students for the ten weeks ahead of them.

What did you leave behind?

The students touched down in Toronto to meet one another for the first time after months of virtual correspondence. Each was asked to reflect on the life they were temporarily leaving behind.
“I leave behind my mother’s birthday… my sister’s wedding…”
“I leave behind my friends, my family, my boyfriend, my home…”
They also looked forward to the challenges they would face moving to a new country and taking up their SSIM placement. LaunchPad enabled the students to weave around them a strong and reliable web of support.

Creating a community

Led by SSEO learning specialists, Renee Devereaux and Chryssa Koulis, and Managing Director, Marjorie Brans, the students were encouraged to view one another not just as acquaintances who fell into the same programme, but as companions who shared a unique experience, strong passion, drive and ambition.

On the first day of LaunchPad, the students gave their attention to discussions and workshops by prominent speakers from across Canada. Chad Lubelsky, Program Lead of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s RECODE project, provided insight on how social enterprises could be agents for social change. Dan Overall, Director of Collaboration & Innovation at the TRICO Charitable Foundation, showcased the Social EnterPrize winners while providing knowledge on the social entrepreneurial landscape across Canada.

On the second day, the students negotiated real-time culture shock in Rafá Rafá, a role-playing activity which pushed the students to engage in self-reflection and learning. The students then participated in a storytelling workshop from spoken word artist and motivational coach, Tuggs.t.a.r. They were challenged to tell their stories as SSIM placement students, through the medium of their unique personality and empowered voice.

Launching into the future

In the final hours, there were pauses in the conversation and laughter as the students hurriedly tried to capture every avenue of contact from one another and freeze their shared moments in a photograph, or ten. Equipped with new relationships, resources, support networks and a newfound in-depth knowledge on the world of social entrepreneurship, the young change agents bristled with excitement as LaunchPad came to a close and their placements were soon to start. Their part of the story is about to begin…