Jeffrey Lai: Social Entrepreneurship in Action
Written by Charan Naidoo
Wondering what social entrepreneurship looks like in action? Look no further than former Consultant and Team Leader from 180 Degrees Consulting, Jeffrey Lai.
Jeffrey grew up in Melbourne’s Outer West and was fortunate to attend a selective entry high school. However, he was concerned that many of the friends that he had grown up with would not have the same opportunities he did.
And he decided to do something about it.
In 2015, he founded his own social enterprise, ‘Equal Ed’. Beginning with just a few passionate volunteers, Equal Ed has now positively impacted more than 400 disadvantaged high school students from the Outer West through their Communities programs.
His social enterprise offers VCE revision lectures, educational workshops, mentoring and tutoring. Equal Ed was initially financed by grants from their partners, including local councils and Not-for-profits (NFP). However, as the organisation grew, Jeffrey realised that they needed to adopt a more independent funding model.
By solidifying Equal Ed’s image as a social enterprise rather than an NFP, Equal Ed won contracts from local councils for community development projects and began working with other clients in the education sector. This has given Equal Ed the ability to disburse funding where it is needed most, and further expand its free services. It has also allowed them to hire paid staff, balancing a passion for social impact with financial sustainability.
180 Degrees Consulting
Jeffrey credits his ability to analyse and breakdown problems to training from 180 Degrees Consulting’s world-leading consultancy partners. He also greatly benefited from their mentoring and insight into how effective consultants think. Jeffrey frequently calls upon the analytical frameworks that he was taught at 180 Degrees Consulting.
By giving him the opportunity to lead a team, 180 Degrees Consulting gave him a taste of what leading a group of consultants felt like in a real-world setting. This is something that others may only have the chance to experience two or three years into their careers.
In his time at 180 Degrees Consulting, Jeffrey learnt that he loved facilitating team discussions and working closely with clients to develop innovative solutions to their most challenging problems. This was a major reason why he decided to transition from part-time to full-time for Equal Ed.
More than anything else, Jeffrey’s passion for social impact blossomed during his time at 180 Degrees Consulting. It was at 180 Degrees Consulting that Jeffrey fostered his passion for NFP’s and their positive impact on disadvantaged communities.
He looks forward to growing his organisation and magnifying its positive impact on disadvantaged students in Melbourne’s Outer West.