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Social Entrepreneurs Graduate from NDIS Accelerator Program

18 June 2015 at 12:06 pm
Xavier Smerdon
The first batch of students in the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ inaugural NDIS Accelerator program have graduated in Sydney overnight.

Xavier Smerdon | 18 June 2015 at 12:06 pm


Social Entrepreneurs Graduate from NDIS Accelerator Program
18 June 2015 at 12:06 pm

The first batch of students in the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ inaugural NDIS Accelerator program have graduated in Sydney overnight.

Eighteen students were among those to graduate from the program which has been heralded as  Australia’s first enterprise-based learning program for the disability services sector.

SSE board member and former senator for New South Wales, Ursula Stephens, congratulated the students on their commitment over the last four months which included participating in face-to-face workshops, hearing from leading entrepreneurs, government representatives and disability sector leaders from Australia and the UK on setting up effective disability enterprises, and working with mentors.

“Nowhere is this more significant than in the dramatic reforms taking place in the disability services sector. This [the NDIS] is the transformational social policy of our generation –  we know it has its hiccups – but it has so many champions and advocates for change,” Stephens said.

“For service providers big and small, the biggest challenges come in supporting people living with a disability as they aspire to reaching their potential.

“This is a big adjustment for the sector – in tight timeframes that require nifty thinking, innovative care models – much, much more than rebranding current practices – the NDIS is daring you, as it does your clients – to be different.”

The first round of graduates came from diverse backgrounds with innovative social enterprise ideas ranging from Fighting Chance, which exists to create vocational post–school opportunities for people with severe and profound disability to Clickability, a customer review website which will allow people who use disability support services to rate and review them, creating peer–generated information and helping others make informed choices.

Laura O’Reilly from Fighting Chance said the sector’s biggest hurdle to overcome with the rollout of the NDIS related to innovation.

“I think we run the risk of service providers continuing to offer the same sorts of programs well into the future, which in turn will limit the options newly empowered people with disability get to choose between,” O’Reilly said.

“I think social entrepreneurs carry a responsibility in the coming years to get in and build completely different service models; not repackaged old models, but real innovation which truly meets customer need.”

Sean Willenberg, founder of Gig Buddies, a project that pairs people with or without disabilities as friends to go to events together, said the course provided him with the knowledge to better position themselves within the industry.

“The course directly affected our plans as we changed our idea of scalability and were able to create a plan that would allow us to scale our enterprise nationally with a later expansion to an overseas market,” he said.

Ursula Stephens spoke of the numerous challenges the NDIS roll out poses to organisations and service providers.

“There are philosophical challenges – many providers feel challenged about commodifying personal care; there are practical and financial challenges – how do organisations manage without the block funding that has been part of their financial model for decades? There are market challenges and there are workforce challenges – the intersection of the disability and aged services sectors, changing needs, a lifetime care profile… All big calls under this NDIS funding model,” she said.

“These challenges all point to the need for a strong community of practice and shared learning –  collaboration and peer encouragement.”  

SSE says the NDIS Accelerator is a unique learning program designed to build organisational capability to meet NDIS objectives using global best practice and teaching students to develop skills and tools to apply into current business models or to actively develop new enterprises in response to the opportunities that the NDIS presents.

SSE Board Chair, Paul Bide, said the program had been so successful that the school would be launching a second NDIS Accelerator program in October.

The program provides unprecedented access to leading corporate, government and community expertise and networks from Australia and the UK, to rapidly develop business models and enterprises within the sector.

“The future of the NDIS is in the hands of those who are willing to transform their organisational culture to adopt innovation at all levels,” Bide said.

“These are the people we are celebrating today.”

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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