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Shaping Future Changemakers: Lessons from the Catalyst Fund

entrepreneur entrepreneurship mentoring May 15, 2024

Yesterday, I had the immense privilege of participating as a judge at the Catalyst Fund Judging Meeting, organised by Homerton Changemakers. I was joined by fellow esteemed judges Dr Alison Wood, founding Academic Director of Homerton Changemakers; Gary Peckham, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Student Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU); Stewart McTavish, Executive Director of the Centre for Better Futures; and Dave Robert, Digital Transformation Coach and Innovation Consultant. Under the skilful facilitation of Dr Soraya Jones, Director of  Engagement & Operations of Homerton Changemakers, we delved into the inspiring world of entrepreneurship and evaluated competition applications submitted by the rising stars of Homerton College and ARU.

As judges, our role was multifaceted: we provided constructive feedback to enhance the applicants' critical thinking abilities and offered guidance on business modelling, scalability, and preparation for expansion. We also emphasised the importance of considering and leveraging technology to enhance their unique value proposition and to facilitate these processes.

A key piece of advice for any budding entrepreneur is to remain agile—be ready to pivot and adapt based on feedback and market demands. This adaptability, combined with a solid understanding of your business model and the effective use of technology, is critical in scaling any venture successfully.

The Power of Mentorship

One of the most striking aspects of the meeting was the clear impact of mentorship. Over the past decade, my involvement in mentorship has taught me that guidance from experienced professionals is invaluable in transforming young potentials into tomorrow’s leaders. The Catalyst Fund Judging Meeting was a testament to this belief. Each student presentation displayed not just knowledge and creativity, but a burning passion to make a real difference—a passion that is nurtured through continuous support and belief in their capabilities.

Driving Innovation and Social Impact

The projects tackled a range of issues, from environmental sustainability to social equality, each driven by a deep commitment to the betterment of society. It was evident that these students were not just preparing for their careers; they were gearing up to be the changemakers of tomorrow. The role of institutions like Homerton College and ARU in fostering this kind of environment cannot be overstated—they are not just centres of learning but incubators of the next generation’s leaders.

The Role of a Judge and Mentor

Serving as a judge in this context was profoundly enriching, as it extended well beyond mere assessment. Each proposal presented a unique lens through which to view the world, and an opportunity to significantly contribute to a student's journey. This experience underscored the dual role of a judge as both an evaluator and a mentor, emphasising the important impact we can have on the development of the next generation of innovators.

Reflection and Commitment

Reflecting on the judging session, I am reminded of the critical importance of our commitment to nurturing young minds. Our feedback can steer a project towards success, while our encouragement can inspire students to pursue purposeful lives. The simple act of affirming their selection can instil in them a strong belief in their potential, fueling their momentum and resilience during challenging times. The enthusiasm and determination displayed by the students were truly contagious, reaffirming my dedication to mentorship and ongoing support for future entrepreneurs.



As I left the Catalyst Fund Judging Meeting, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. We are not just educating students; we are equipping the future leaders of our society. The role of education in this process is crucial, but the role of personal mentorship and genuine support is perhaps even more so. It is these elements that transform potential into reality, ideas into actions, and students into leaders.

In closing, let us all embrace our role as mentors and supporters. By guiding these young innovators today, we are not just shaping their futures—we are shaping the future of our world.


About Lily Cheng

Lily Cheng is an entrepreneur, community builder, and change catalyst, with a background in marketing and a profound dedication to mental health and wellness. Rooted in a family heritage steeped in traditional Chinese medicine, Lily's holistic approach to life, health, and wellbeing is deeply ingrained in her ethos.

As the Founder and CEO of the Rising Network, Lily is on a mission to create a more inclusive world. She is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusivity, fostering dynamic communities that prioritise the well-being of individuals. Under her leadership, the Rising Network has become a beacon of empowerment and inspiration, offering vibrant events and initiatives designed to ignite positive change, including the Rising Festival, a festival for inspiration and growth.

Lily is renowned as a passionate mentor, dedicated to shaping future leaders and nurturing emerging talents. Leveraging her expertise and experience, she strives to make a meaningful impact as an inclusive community builder, empowering individuals to reach their full potential and being a catalyst of change making world inclusive for all.

Throughout her career, Lily has delivered exceptional results in brand creation, execution, and management, demonstrating a proven track record in driving positive change. For media enquiries or further information, contact Lily Cheng, Founder & CEO of the Rising Network, at [email protected].

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