Close Search

Get more stories like this


One comment

  • Don Palmer says:

    As a graduate of an intensive course for social entrepreneurs and director of a charity, I found it sobering that of the twenty students, all of whom had great skills and wonderful ideas, that twelve months later none have been able to create a sustainable organisation or even a full paid job. Everyone is still looking for government seed funding, on-going government funding or the golden fleece of a large corporation. They have sacrificed careers, mortgages and even put their relationships under considerable stress to fuel their dream. They are heroic human beings on any reckoning.

    The need for concerned citizens and communities to find fresh ways of engagement to fund un-met needs in communities remains unabated. For all the multitude of charities (700,000 in Australia alone, including more than 70 responding to the needs of people with breast cancer in New South Wales alone) the social needs of the marginalised and disenfranchised have been largely unaltered in my lifetime. So much effort and to what end, some ask.

    People outside government have invariably been best placed to identify cracks in the social fabric that need attention. They are often the most creative in the way they construct projects and programs to address social disadvantage at a personal and policy level. There is more innovation outside the machinery of government. But in the end social entrepreneurs mostly look to attracting either government funding or unleashing the intensely sought after corporate social responsibility dollar. Without these traditional props that major and minor charities have relied on since the dawn of time very few social enterprises could exist.

    Sustainability, an income stream, is at the heart of things. A new approach to generating an income stream is said to be combining social programs with business skills. An example might be a church group who set up a coffee shop to train disengaged young people in hospitality skills. Very laudable. But if they set up next to a coffee shop established purely as a business then they have the capacity to drive that business to the wall. If the social enterprise, usually by way of a charismatic leader, has attracted financial backing in the form of donations and gifts, if they secure their premises by finding someone who considers them a good cause, or if they underwrite their business model by bringing in volunteers from the corporate sector to teach skills, manage the books or construct web sites, then they have effectively cut the ground under the next door business.

    I hope that the powerful dreams of people, not least Gen Y, are given a reality check at the very beginning so that when things get tough, and they will, that they do not lose hope. But I still can’t see how the new model of social change agents is significantly different from the old fashioned charity model. I would love to be convinced otherwise.


Balancing the tension of social purpose and commercial viability

Felicity Green

Wednesday, 29th March 2023 at 12:35 pm

Social enterprise sector failing Indigenous businesses

Ruby Kraner-Tucci

Monday, 20th March 2023 at 2:37 pm

Using community power to drive EV uptake

Danielle Kutchel

Monday, 20th March 2023 at 10:35 am

Social enterprise: What’s in a name?

Tara Anderson

Wednesday, 1st February 2023 at 5:33 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook