Field Study: Australia

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Australia. Based in Melbourne during fall, I was able to work remotely, relive many Australian experiences from an earlier life (Tim Tams, the best skinny flat white I will ever have, smashed avocado for every breakfast, wild koalas, and many many more). The most exciting part of the trip, however, was diving deep into their social enterprise sector.

Social Enterprises in Australia

Social Enterprises in Australia, FASES 2016, p.10-11

When I lived down-under five years earlier, I had dipped my toes into the space doing some pro-bono project work for Social Ventures Australia in Brisbane. Little did I know how varied and progressive Australia’s support sector for social entrepreneurs had become. The entire stay went by in a blur, between work, a two-day trip to Brisbane (that took me another two days to recover from) and a weekend by the Great Ocean Road, I managed to visit six support organizations and learn how they do things down there.

Social enterprises:

  • Are led by an economic, social, cultural or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit
  • Trade to fulfill their mission
  • Derive a substantial portion of their income from trade
  • Reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus in the fulfillment of their mission (FASES 2016, p. 5)

One of these organizations, Social Traders, located in Melbourne is deeply committed to the data behind social enterprise in Australia to inform not only their advocacy work but increase visibility of the sector at large. To get you warmed up for what you are about to learn from all these supporters, here are some highlights from their most recent report Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector Analysis: 2016.

  • SCOPE There are an estimated 20,000 social enterprises operating across all industry sectors 
  • COMPANY SIZE – 73% are small businesses, 23% are medium sized and 4% are large organisations
  • MATURITY – 38% have been in operation for 10 years and 34% in operation for between 2-5 years
  • LEGAL FORM – 33% are incorporated associations, 32% are companies limited by guarantee and 18% are proprietary limited (PTY LTD) companies
  • INDUSTRY – 68% are in the services sector, of which 24% are in retail and 23% in healthcare
  • PURPOSE – 34% exist to create meaningful employment opportunities for people from a specific group, and 34% exist to develop new solutions to social, cultural, economic or environmental problems
  • BENEFICIARIES – 35% target people with disabilities, 33% target young people and 28% target disadvantaged women (FASES 2016, p. 9)

I have devoured both the short version and full report about social enterprise in Australia and I only recommend you do the same! Be sure to check out their advice on policy, ecosystem building, financial and impact measurement tools!  

I can’t wait to got back in 2017!

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