Social Entrepreneurs - 'Old Wine In New Bottles'
5 March 2001 at 12:03 pm
Last month’s inaugural conference in Sydney to discuss the emergence and acknowledgment of Social Entrepreneurship and to launch an Australian Network threw open issues and challenges to a vast new audience.
And the phrase that caught on over the two-day meeting was that the movement is “like old wine in new bottles”.
Guest speaker and a man who has become the public face of social entrepreneurship along with Noel Pearson in recent weeks is Fr. Nic Frances from the Brotherhood of St. Laurence.
He says social entrepreneurs have been around for a long time, but more recently they have a name and are often at the front of innovation taking welfare provision into the new millennium.
Fr. Frances says launching the Social Entrepreneurs Network at the conference, comprising social, community and business leaders set up an innovative alliance specifically created to develop and fund new programs to assist disadvantaged Australians.
Organisers expecting 150 participants were delighted by the registration of 500 people from business, government and community organisations ready to discuss the modern-day blurring of the lines in the relationship between the three sectors.
The launch of the Australian Social Entrepreneurs Network follows the establishment of similar organisations in Europe and the US. Last year British Prime Minister, Tony Blair showed his support for the emerging movement by giving the equivalent UK organisation (Community Action Network) a $250 million one-off millennium grant to fund programs around the country.
The Australian conference looked at seven case studies of social entrepreneurs and their work in Australia and New Zealand.
The case studies were: David Southwick from the Body Collection International in Victoria, Karen Backus from the award winning Euraba Paper Company in NSW, Bruce Hamilton from the Buller Community Development Company in New Zealand, Jan Owen from Create Foundation in Queensland, Andrew Mahar from Infoxchange in Victoria and Jacinta Amies from Get That Job in Queensland.
Louise Redmond from Positive Outcomes says there was an incredible sense of energy and excitement at the conference and while she found many social innovators rather than social entrepreneurs no one was about to split hairs!
Redmond says Australians are good at taking a small idea and growing it but are not necessarily good at the business side of it and this is an issue that still needs to be dealt with by the Network in future.
Pro Bono Australia’s Founder, Karen Mahlab, joined the delegates and met many e-Newsletter readers. She says the conference was timely because of the paradigms and changing roles of business/community/government partnerships. “Everyone there wanted to understand, debate and learn from other’s experience,” she said.
Participants were encouraged to join the Network and another conference is being organised for members in June.
You can obtain a membership form or find out more about the Network by visiting the web site at www.social-entrepreneurs.conf.au.