You’re creating tomorrow’s research leaders

Malu Villela Garcia, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, explains how being funded philanthropically has enabled her to carry out her research into the growth of mission-led businesses.

I’m trying to find ways to address the inequalities we are facing in society across the globe, having been inspired by my previous research with the Friends of the Amazon Network in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This work focused on establishing and maintaining sustainable economies in the Amazon and was part of a multi-stakeholder network approach. We’ve come to a point where the planet is already at its limit and the gap between rich and poor is reaching an unprecedented scale. We urgently need to work towards sustainability and inclusion. As part of my work at Bristol, as a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, I’m trying to make sense of these challenges and make a positive contribution towards addressing them.

As the lines between sectors are becoming increasingly blurred, we can see new organisational models emerging. These organisations are trying to bring social and environmental goals to the core of their operations. The objectives of these new models are to make a more meaningful contribution to society, one that goes beyond mere profit generation. There are already a large number of companies – such as Patagonia and Natura, as well as a lot of small and medium enterprises – embracing this ethos. My current research looks at how social networks are influencing the growth of these mission-led businesses and social enterprises.

I’m examining these influencing networks on a city level. Bristol has an existing business ethics community that is discussing how to work with local producers and practitioners. The city is an innovation hub as well as a creative one, the first social enterprise city in the UK, and a former European Green Capital. Bristol also won the Global Smart City Award in 2018, beating competition from the likes of Barcelona, Dubai, New York and Singapore. There are also two big universities here as well as leadership in hightech developments. This combination of factors makes Bristol an ideal place for me to conduct my research.

It really wouldn’t have been possible for me to come to Bristol and make the most of this Vice-Chancellor’s Fellowship without the help of donations from alumni and friends. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Donors have taken a leap of faith placing their trust in my research and demonstrating belief in my potential. Ensuring a diversity of views and thoughts will be essential to generating innovative solutions to our global challenges.

These Fellowships were established to help early career researchers like me advance their careers and to address society’s grand challenges. I’m so proud to be part of the first cohort, as these Fellowships highlight the spirit of innovation and collaboration that Bristol is renowned for and that’s taking us into the future. I truly encourage donors to keep giving, because it enables outstanding young researchers from all backgrounds and parts of the world to pursue their own specialist areas of research. What better way to help keep Bristol a vibrant, diverse academic community and a worldclass university?

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