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The ‘Grandfather’ of Social Enterprise, Steve Lawrence Dies

23 May 2012 at 10:26 am
Staff Reporter
The man described as the the grandfather of social enterprise in Australia, Steve Lawrence has died after a long battle with cancer aged 60.

Staff Reporter | 23 May 2012 at 10:26 am


The ‘Grandfather’ of Social Enterprise, Steve Lawrence Dies
23 May 2012 at 10:26 am

The man described as the the grandfather of social enterprise in Australia, Steve Lawrence has died after a long battle with cancer aged 60.

Steve Lawrence was a mentor, an inspiration, and a guide to many involved in social enterprise and social innovation in Australia as the founding chief executive of WorkVentures for 29 years and more recently the chief executive of Australia Social Innovation eXchange (ASIX).

His passing comes just days after he took part in a special interview with the Centre for Social Impact’s (CSI) on line Yakety Yak video series. (Watch the video here)

Lawrence was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2007. After years of treatment, Steve’s doctors recently told him that his time was short. At the suggestion of one of Steve’s close friends, CSI asked Steve whether he’d like to participate in an interview to capture and share some of his life’s stories and learnings, and Steve very graciously agreed. Filmed with some close colleagues and families in attendance, this video is the result.

Some of his friends also recently launched the Steve Lawrence Social Innovation Sub-Fund with the Australian Communities Foundation to further develop a number of initiatives he has been working on in recent years. (Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund can go do so here.)

WorkVentures is an entrepreneurial Not for Profit organisation based in Sydney with an annual revenue of around $16 million, employing 150 staff and places hundreds of unemployed Australians in jobs each year.

Over the last 30 years Lawrence has also been part of creating 13 new Not for Profit organisations including JOB futures, United Way Sydney, Jobs Australia and Social Ventures Australia.

Lawrence has lectured regularly on social enterprise, local economic development and Not for Profit management and he is the co-author of ‘Nonprofits in Business’ (1995). In 2004 Lawrence received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award for Social Enterprise for NSW & ACT.

In 2005 WorkVentures and Microsoft won the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership Longevity Award for their 20 year collaboration to bring technology resources and skills to disadvantaged Australians.

Lawrence was the Chair of Bonnyrigg Management Pty Ltd and Newleaf Community Renewal; companies created to manage the social renewal and development integration of the Bonnyrigg public housing community in SW Sydney.

He was a Founding Partner of the Australian School for Social Entrepreneurs.

In January 2010, Lawrence was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia for ‘service to the community through leadership roles in the development and implementation of Not for Profit ventures to create social change particularly for youth and the long-term unemployed’.

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One comment

  • Ursula Stephens says:

    The sector has lost an important friend and advocate.

    I have never thought of Steve as other than a vital fountain of wonderful ideas and someone with enormous capacity for service to others.

    I relished the intellectual conversations we had, the way in which he challenged, probed and pushed for policy reform, and the extent to which his networks and connections transversed political parties, media, nfps and business.

    Let’s celebrate Steve’s extraordinary legacy to the sector and to Australia. The video is just one example of legacy- ready to share his experiences right to the end – but to those whose lives he has touched in his wonderful life, there is so much more.

    Bless you Steve – rest in peace.

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