Support Short for Regional Social Enterprise
Wednesday, 2nd July 2014 at 10:26 am
Tailored support and a fresh government approach is needed if Australia is to unlock the potential of social enterprise in rural and regional areas, writes Celia Hodson, Chief Executive Officer at the School for Social Entrepreneurs.
While it’s no surprise that the development of social enterprise is on the rapid increase in Australia, what is not so recognised is the need for regional social enterprise initiatives to also grow and be valued and nurtured with a new approach.
While the changing regional face of social enterprise is promising, setting up a social business anywhere can be a challenge yet isolation in remote Australia is an additional major hurdle and one of the biggest risks to success.
Research confirms that the primary barriers in establishing a social enterprise in regional, rural and remote communities is a lack of access to appropriate skills development, a lack of established and accessible networks, financing and community awareness of social enterprise.
Incubator programs must link international expertise with local knowledge to meet the unique needs of each community and offer the capacity building support for local social entrepreneurs that is so needed to bring big ideas for social change to life.
Communities all over Australia need to be treated differently. Creating a supportive network of like-minded community leaders and social entrepreneurs, working for a positive social or environmental change locally is the best way forward. This ensures that a legacy piece is created in each location, entrusting local partners to become the lead for social entrepreneurship development in their community.
In order for the movement to flourish remotely and regionally, all levels of the Australian Government must also come on board to play a key role in examining the resources, support and structures in place to support the development of regional social enterprise.
Taxation, finance and legal structures are just some of the issues that need a government focus, along with more assistance for procurement services which are designed to assist enterprising third sector organisations to successfully participate in tendering for public sector contracts.
The benefits to Australia are obvious. In Tasmania, 73 per cent of the 183 social enterprises are located outside of Hobart (Tasmanian Social Enterprise Study, Institute for Regional Development, University of Tasmania). Each of these enterprises are significant contributors to the economy and the community – they average 19 full-time staff and 8 part-time staff, as well as 23 volunteer workers.
Social enterprise provides a structure of financial, social and economic development that can help to redress the balance between a continual drive for global economic growth and the needs of the real economy – its people, families, community and society.
By creating an environment where individuals and organisations can access support and capital while drawing on the expertise and experiences of others, government can also create a new generation of social entrepreneurs – a generation of individuals who are looking for value driven careers and who recognise that economic growth must be environmentally sustainable and must contribute to the wider objectives of social well being.
Social enterprise will deliver on this triple bottom line but will only become the business model of the 21st century if government improves the quality and quantity of support tailored for social enterprises in all areas of Australia.
The potential is clear – social enterprise presents one of the greatest opportunities to regional, rural and remote Australia to create sustainable social and economic change.
About the Author: Celia Hodson is the Chief Executive Officer of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Australia and has a wealth of experience in supporting and advocating for social entrepreneurs, as a business person, entrepreneur and founder of one of the UK’s most successful social enterprise schools, The Eastern Enterprise Hub.
Hodson’s previous UK based roles included Deputy Chief Executive at Social Enterprise UK, Chief Executive Officer at Cambridge Co-operative Development Agency and Chief Executive of regional development agency Choose Suffolk. She has also held numerous board positions with UK based non-profits and social enterprises.