Social Enterprise Strategy to Create Employment Opportunities for Disadvantaged
16 February 2017 at 3:24 pm
The Victorian government has released what it describes as Australia’s first-ever strategy for social enterprises to strengthen the sector and create more employment opportunities for disadvantaged Victorians.
Minister for Industry and Employment Wade Noonan launched the Social Enterprise Strategy on Thursday.
Noonan said Victoria was now home to Australia’s largest collection of social enterprises, with more than 5,000 operating statewide, employing more than 75,000 Victorians.
“They’re addressing the biggest social and economic challenges in our community by offering products, skills and training, and creating new jobs for disadvantaged Victorians,” Noonan said.
The Social Enterprise Strategy identified key areas for action including increasing the impact and innovation of social enterprise, building business capacity and skills, and improving market access.
Noonan said the government would spend $5 million to implement eight key initiatives including:
- establishing a new Social Enterprise Network across Victoria to better connect the sector
- building an online market to connect buyers with social enterprises
- training opportunities and support for more than 100 social enterprises to expand their business.
He said a new social procurement framework would also be developed to allow government contracts to purchase goods and services from social enterprises.
“The government has consulted with more than 160 social enterprises and stakeholders to ensure the strategy reflects the needs of the sector,” Noonan said.
“This is a landmark strategy that supports initiatives to grow jobs, boost market access and support the growth of social enterprises.
“Almost 50 per cent of social enterprises have emerged in the last three to five years which goes to show that the model is a success. What governments can do is be an enabler to support that growth.
“Never before have we had a strategy where we actually look at social enterprises and look at their potential from a whole of government point of view and look at the opportunity to grow jobs and obviously drive an economic and social inclusion approach to our investments.”
He said the strategy was a recognition that the government wanted to understand the social enterprise sector better.
“We want to do some research, we want to give recognition to social enterprise and we also want to grow and build the capacity of social enterprises,” he said.
“Many of them are small and medium sized businesses and they will benefit from a government providing support to help build their capacity. So if you look at the basic things like tendering for work and contracts, this is an area that the government can assist.”
He said the last area covered in the strategy was access to markets.
“How can we both in government work and non-government work assist social enterprises in terms of competing on an equal footing, not necessarily on price but on a people footing,” Noonan said.
“We are confident that with the sectors direction we will grow the social enterprise sector and that is something that will help change lives.”
National social enterprise development organisation Social Traders said the strategy was an exciting milestone for the future development and growth of social enterprise in Victoria and Australia.
Managing director David Brookes said the new strategy sees social enterprise being recognised as a legitimate and growing part of the Victorian economy.
“The strategy provides the framework for stronger growth of social enterprise by removing a big policy vacuum, that will enable social enterprises to start-up and operate within a far more positive and conducive environment and it commits to the development of a social procurement framework that will open up more contracts for social enterprise to purchase goods and services from government,” Brookes said.
Pro Bono Australia was launched in 2000 as a social enterprise (for-purpose business) to provide news and resources for the social sector to help activate good intentions. In 2016 its social impact was valued at $6.5 million with a social return on investment of 11:1, according to an analysis by global professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young).
The EY analysis found that Pro Bono Australia’s independent news service created the most value for the sector, estimated to be valued at $2.8 million followed by regular surveys at $2.5 million.