Business Alumni Update | 2015

$650K in scholarships and grants awarded

Pank Prize to social entrepreneur, Sharon Zivkovic

Sharon Zickovic

Scholarships and awards totalling $650,000 were awarded to 131 students at the University’s 2015 Scholarships and Grants Ceremony held on 18 June.

Thirteen new scholarships and grants were awarded at the Ceremony, hosted by Nigel Relph, UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor.

This year’s $15,000 Pank/University of South Australia School of Management Prize for Entrepreneurship was awarded to Sharon Zivkovic, owner of Community Capacity Builders, Co-founder of Wicked Software and PhD candidate at UniSA.

Sharon’s first-hand experience of social disadvantage, coupled with her entrepreneurial spirit, have underpinned her career in social entrepreneurship and finding ways to equip communities for change.

Sharon left school at 14 and spent many years on welfare and living in Housing Trust homes. In her mid 20s she decided to go back to school.

"I was the only mature aged student in the school. I was accepted for Science at Adelaide University but during the Christmas break I changed to accounting, as I thought it would be easier to get a job with an accounting degree," says Sharon. She has a Graduate Certificate in Research Commercialisation, a Graduate Diploma Education (Education and Training of Adults) and Bachelor of Accountancy from UniSA.

A strong entrepreneurial theme runs through Sharon’s career, who won the ‘Enterprising Woman of the Year Award’ from the Enterprising Women Association (SA) in 2001. She was inspired by Body Shop founderAnita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, who “demonstrated that it was possible for an international business to be socially and environmentally responsible and still be profitable.”

In 2008 Sharon began her PhD at UniSA with a thesis topic ‘Determining the influence and increasing the social impact of an active citizenship education program’.

During her PhD she developed a model based on complexity theory — now increasingly recognised as the most appropriate for addressing complex problems - which in the social purpose sector are commonly known as ‘wicked problems’.

‘Wicked problems’ have many interconnected root causes and are influenced by unique contextual factors, so they are difficult to resolve because they are unable to be successfully treated with traditional linear, analytical approaches.

One of Sharon’s proudest achievements is having her PhD research recognised as having societal benefits.

“A paper describing how the model could be used for addressing complex community problems is described as a must-read for Councils on the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government website. Four South Australian Councils have offered to be involved in turning the model from my PhD into computer software that will assist practitioners to address complex social policy problems,” she says.

Sharon and Emily Humphreys are establishing their company Wicked Software to develop computer software that can be used to address wicked problems.

“The software is targeted to addressing problems such as place-based disadvantage, obesity, climate change and ageing populations. To address wicked problems, practitioners need to build the adaptive capacity of communities, enable communities to take coherent action, and assist governments to create the enabling conditions required for this type of approach. Our software assists practitioners with these roles,” says Sharon.

Sharon says she and Emily will use the Pank Prize funds to develop a minimal viable product for the software that will satisfy early adopter customers.

“We will then work with these customers to design and develop the final, complete set of features for our software."

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