COVID-19 not all doom and gloom for social enterprise sector
27 March 2020 at 5:03 pm
The social enterprise sector is uniting to get through the pandemic together
Social enterprise advocates are optimistic the industry can survive the coronavirus pandemic, and will use the crisis to strengthen collaboration across the sector.
On Thursday, an online Social Enterprise Sector Forum was held to discuss the challenges and opportunities the COVID-19 outbreak presents for organisations.
Nicholas Verginis, CEO of Social Enterprise Network Victoria, said it was a moment for the sector to take stock and recognise there were still opportunities to accelerate the movement in Australia.
“The main takeaway was that there’s actually a real level of optimism, and an immense spirit of generosity,” Verginis told Pro Bono News.
“We sense that there is an opportunity for us to really transform the economy and make social enterprise a really powerful force in the new systems that will develop moving forward.
“So I came away quite thrilled and excited for this spirit of collaboration at a new national level.”
Verginis also used the forum to discuss #thegoodnessgap, an impact measurement initiative which captures the impacts of the virus on the sector and collects data to present to government.
He said social enterprises may miss out on government support during the crisis, as organisations fall into the gap between coronavirus programs aimed at for-profit small businesses and those aimed at the charity sector.
“What has become clear during the crisis is that governments still think of the distinction between business and charities in a very traditional sense,” he said.
“So that triggered the need for us to campaign and advocate in a way that we haven’t done before. And the website will allow us to do a pulse check of the sector that reveals how the pandemic is affecting businesses.”
Verginis urged social enterprises to share the job cuts, income losses and event cancellations that were hurting the sector.
He said given many social enterprises employed people in at-risk groups, they would be especially affected by the economic downturn in coming months.
“Social enterprises are being forced to stand down vulnerable people because of the crisis. And they will be forced to join the long Centrelink queues when many are already struggling,” he said.
Creating new expectations for businesses in Australia
Verginis also noted that the pandemic was exacerbating the level of economic inequality that has been growing year after year.
He said sharing the stories of what social enterprises do has the ability to transform expectations of what businesses can achieve.
“The thing with social enterprises that makes them unique is the way they are genuinely purpose driven, and not in a superficial marketing way,” he said.
“So if there is one thing that might happen in the coming months, while we’re all stuck inside, it’s that we recognise the great work social enterprises do.
“This way we can transform the way businesses are judged and promote social enterprises as a champion of community building.”