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IN Your Network - Josiane Smith

Josiane Smith FRSA is a final  year student at Bristol University and is already building an impressive portfolio of work in social enterprise. Find out what inspires her: 

1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?  
I've been running bespoke social entrepreneurship and social innovation projects and events. For the past three years, I've coordinated the Bristol Social Enterprise Conference. Last year, I co-created The Ignite Change Programme with a Bristol-based charity called Ablaze, which works with school pupils to create community-based enterprise ideas, following an Action Learning Set model to prototype them. Nowadays, I'm mainly a MakeSense Gangster and run the Bristol Hotspot. MakeSense is a global crowdsourcing initiative, providing accelerated strategy hackathons for social entrepreneurs. I am also designing an education hackathon weekend with TeachFirst's innovation division at the end of April. 

All of the above mirrors a learning journey I’m having about myself and my place in the world.

2) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship? 
I’m currently finishing my undergraduate at Bristol University in sociology. Sociologists are renowned for disturbing norms, exposing power dynamics and critiquing systems. I'd like to think that whatever capacity I take with the RSA and beyond, will in some way disturb the paradigms driving defunct social systems, and will build on or create innovative and sustainable alternatives. 

3) What would you change in society given the chance?
Isn't it always about a deep and wide attitude shift? In an ideal world, I'd like more people to ask more difficult questions, talk to different people, share more stories more openly, try new things, travel more widely, rest well and more regularly, read more broadly, buy more locally, eat more nutritiously, be more creative and resourceful with what they have. No doubt, missions beyond just me or my lifetime, but to start with, I'm exploring these all in more depth and gradually making the changes in my own life too. Also, if there were ways of helping people to find and connect their social purpose with a labour market value, that'd be a very empowering thing for a lot of dis-empowered people. 

4) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
I recently joined Twitter so my news feed is full to the brim with celebrations of sector successes, thought-provoking debates or articles, inspiring organisations, event invitations, networking opportunities... I’m constantly star struck and amazed at how accessible Twitter makes the whole world to me.

5) What did you learn last week? 
Following a light twitter debate with Ogunte founder, Servane Mouazane, I began to assess the rationale behind why there is greater success for women in social entrepreneurship compared to commercial business. The discourse can sometimes be very reductionist, one-sided and actually offensive, especially when it simplistically and uncritically suggests innate, sex-stereotypical qualities (of women as natural care-givers, for example) to explain why women are more successful in the social enterprise sector. A debate about female inclusion framed as ‘diversity’ assumes the white, male and middle-aged man as a default core, and women as peripheries. But I also learnt that there is a lot more to perceived gender equality in the social enterprise sector that doesn’t meet the eye.

6) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
Nathaniel Smith is my closest source of inspiration. He’s a systems re-thinker, critical researcher, sector advisor (and something like a self-appointed mentor to me). His background is in student wellbeing and mental health. Now he’s a Public Service Scholar at Hub Launchpad and is currently writing a book analysing different macro systems, assessing their individual social impact, and exploring what alternatives have been created on a systemic level. Remarkable stuff!

7) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? 
Once I graduate in summer 2014, I'll be planning my own storytelling trip around the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East: connecting with and mapping social entrepreneurs and initiatives, and mobilising their local communities to solve challenges for them. Any contacts, tips, or funds would be useful at this stage. 

Any Fellows doing something remotely interesting in education, youth engagement, female empowerment (incl. body image and aspirations), or social housing would also be warmly welcomed to get in contact.

Josiane Smith

Josiane Smith