Norwegian-born Jon Andre Pedersen admits he was looking for change and inspiration after not making the most of his high school years. Australia loomed as the place he might find new direction, and Griffith University has played a vital part in the career that has ensued.
Since graduating in 2015 with a double degree in International Business and International Relations, Jon has pursued several business avenues – particularly startups and social ventures – in Asia. This has culminated in his role as co-founder and board member of the Hong Kong-based Foundation for Shared Impact (FSI), fostering social innovation and entrepreneurship.
“I’m curious about how the world really functions and for years had imagined myself working in a global context,” says Jon. “At FSI, we help talented, socially minded people get their big ideas off the ground, and we help scale existing social business. Overall, our goal is to create an ecosystem for social businesses to grow, so their impact can be maximised.”
Jon is a firm believer in the mantra ‘If it is to be, it is up to me’, a telling phrase comprised of words of no more than two letters: “I don’t want to look back one day and just see a bunch of ‘what ifs’. I want to try things, explore ideas and support others to do the same.
“That being said, I think confidence was mixed with a teaspoon of arrogance when I first started by myself. It requires a lot of work to start and build projects and companies from scratch. I have had my failures, some projects are on hold and some have succeeded. That’s all part of life’s learning process.”
A willingness to embrace opportunity was key to Jon’s time at Griffith. Arriving in 2012, he took advantage of domestic and international internships, was involved in the Griffith Honours College, sat on the Student Guild board and enjoyed an overseas exchange to Hong Kong.
“I really wanted to challenge myself after not really applying myself during high school at home in Norway. The dual degree at Griffith was perfect for me,” he says.
“My exchange was to University of Hong Kong in 2014. I just fell in love with the place and prolonged my exchange to a full year. I completed another internship to South Korea, finished my last semester at Griffith and then moved back to Hong Kong.”
Jon is revelling in life there — apart from the humidity — and says it is the ideal place from which to spread the FSI message of good ideas for good outcomes.
“We had been empowering youth and social entrepreneurs for years through the course I co-teach at the University of Hong Kong. We place 70-80 students each semester into internships for various social businesses and charities,” he says.
“Through this and related endeavours, we have learned and identified the main challenges that young social entrepreneurs are facing. Hence the creation of FSI. Not long ago we opened our first co-working space on Hong Kong island, and we have a lot of exciting plans ahead.”
Another of Jon’s plans is the world’s first MOOC on Fintech Ethics, scheduled to launch in May 2019 on the edX online course platform. Fintech is a rapidly developing practice within banking and finance that is entrenching different technologies into everyday financial use.
“FinTech and ethics are close to my heart,” says Jon. “As I see it, humanity stands on the edge of a massive shift in technology and productivity. This will fundamentally alter our lives.
“Humankind is facing, and will continue to face, immense challenges, opportunities, problems and benefits. Being able to work deeper within this field and educate people all around the world on the topic will be an exciting and purposeful project.”
Applying his own experience, Jon has some good advice for Griffith students and graduates to come.
“Make the most of your university experience; widen your horizons and try different things; get involved in extracurricular activities; soak up all the various opportunities offered by Griffith; and try to identify the things that you are really interested in,” he says.
“While theory is important, build your practical skills so that you have the tools, experience and know-how to excel in today’s global workplace. Importantly, be proactive and make sure you have no regrets after leaving university. Make it count.”