How can we practice the social economy on campus?

By | November 23, 2013

The social economy in higher education project is seeking to enhance the study and practice of the social economy on university campuses. The ‘practice’ aspect of this includes the promotion of best practice of enterprise incubators for graduates to start businesses and which are tuned to the particular demands of social enterprises which seek to meet community needs.

It also potentially encompasses all aspects of the university-related economy. For example:

procurement decisions and other dealings with outside agencies, including recycling. Does any of this business go to social enterprises? 

One of the organisations connected with the lead university in the project, York St John, UK, is the York Community Furniture Store (CFS), a registered charity and limited company. The CFS collects unwanted furniture and sells it at reasonable prices, giving further discounts to people out of work or on low incomes. They also provide work experience in restoring the furniture at the companion store in Selby. From their website:

Last year we saved more than 160 metric tonnes from being added to the landfill mountain and helped several thousand people furnish their homes.  The more donors and customers we have, the greater the recycling we can achieve.



This contact is a win-win situation. CFS will collect unwanted student furniture at the end of the academic year. Previously, this had gone into a skip and been thrown away at the expense of the University and unnecessarily high environmental cost. The University’s chaplain, Lukas Njenga, has recently joined the CFS Board of Directors and has set up this contact. Perfectly good furniture can now be recycled instead of discarded; people on low incomes (including students) get access to furniture at reasonable prices; and the CFS gets more business to expand its socially and environmentally-driven aims.

It’s important to share these ideas so universities can get ideas and learn from each other. Please let us know of examples of the social economy in practice on your own campus or at other universities. Please either post a reply, or


Twitter: @YSJSocialEcon

Photo from Community Furniture Store website