Student Collaborations in Local Economic Development - a Win-Win!

As a small organisation with limited resources it is sometimes difficult to get the leverage to initiate and gain interest in a potential economic development project. Working with local councils, industry and others, how can we add value that will lead to project collaboration?


Over the past 12 months, RDA Sydney has engaged students as individuals or in groups to research and analyse specific areas that have economic development potential. Often, we have administered these students on behalf of a council, as we have the flexibility to do this easily. 


From a student perspective, the reason for engaging in these projects is obtain a mark as part of their coursework and/or to gain real project experience that they can include in their profiles to add to improve their job prospects.


RDA Sydney has engaged students from two different organisations:

  • Practera is an amazing edtech organisation that forms agreements with universities, governments, industry bodies and others to fund cohorts of both under-grad and post-grad university students based on experiential learning. For instance, Practera is currently running a Global Trade Accelerator program with UNSW and with the support of the Export Council of Australia, Global Trade Professionals Alliance and others. RDA Sydney is directly administering one team in this and has connected a Sydney company to the program.

  • The Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney is a unique educational program that focuses on innovation and creativity. RDA Sydney has utilised 2 separate students for projects with 2 council areas as well as 2 teams of students from this faculty. They have worked on action research of projects as diverse as urban agriculture and coworking opportunities.


An example of one project is coworking in Georges River Council area. Charged with the research question “Is coworking the solution to activating urban precincts”, a UTS student with no previous detailed knowledge of coworking spent 105 hours meeting with key stakeholders, in desktop research and in analytical discussions, producing a report that was then submitted to Council. 


While the project itself was about coworking, one specific aspect – entrepreneurship – was picked up by council as an area of focus they wanted to explore. Georges River Council, ANSTO, UTS and RDA Sydney formed a team to organise a Southern Sydney roundtable on regional innovation and entrepreneurship. This was very successful in attracting a targeted and high calibre group of participants that have subsequently supported an entrepreneurial ecosystem research project with UTS Transdisciplinary Innovation students. Commencing on 30 June, the students will investigate and map the entrepreneurial ecosystem across 5 Southern Sydney Council areas – Bayside, Canterbury-Bankstown, Georges River, Sutherland and Wollongong. 


For the students, all 50 of them, this is coursework and they will receive marks for their work. For RDA Sydney and other stakeholders, this is an initial step in a more in-depth project to analyse entrepreneurial ecosystems in Southern Sydney and identifying opportunities and steps to realising these.


This is a great example of how initial student research has started a discussion that has led to something much bigger, with RDA Sydney acting as the catalyst. 

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