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Innovative social enterprise hub is on the right track

1 September 2020 at 6:40 pm
Wendy Williams
The initiative has the potential to generate $4.6 million in social value in its first year

Wendy Williams | 1 September 2020 at 6:40 pm


Innovative social enterprise hub is on the right track
1 September 2020 at 6:40 pm

The initiative has the potential to generate $4.6 million in social value in its first year

An ambitious plan to build a social enterprise hub in shipping containers under one of Melbourne’s railway lines is seeking philanthropic support to ensure the project stays on track to launch early next year.

The Good Cycles Social Enterprise Hub aims to transform an area of dead-space under the railway tracks on Flinders Street in central Melbourne with 16 shipping containers that would house offices, shops and a cycle repair shop.

By bringing together a complementary group of social enterprises – that includes Outlook, STREAT, fruit2work, Community Grocer and ACRE – the project hopes to amplify the social impact beyond the sum of the individual organisations.

At the centre of the initiative, led by social enterprise Good Cycles, is a mission to provide real jobs to disadvantaged Victorians.

Good Cycles CEO Jaison Hoernel told Pro Bono News after looking at the site for a number of years, it was exciting to see the project progress

“I think what was really exciting for us was how could we turn what was a very strange piece of real estate in the middle of the city into something that not only created employment opportunities in social enterprise, but also brought a group of social enterprises together to create a broader collective value,” Hoernel said. 

“We were also excited about taking a site that has never been used and trying to do something in it that helps with what the future of the city looks like, and working with young people on that.”

The project is supported by the City of Melbourne, who approved the planning permit for the hub in May, and detailed design is now underway with the support of construction and design partners.

The budget for the hub is $1.2 million, with 56 per cent of funding already secured thanks to philanthropy, government funding and corporate backing.

To stay on track for a launch in early 2021, the initiative is seeking philanthropic support to the tune of $530,000.

Hoernel said he encouraged anyone who was interested to get in touch.

“We’ve got enough funding to get things going but we’re hoping between now and the next three months that we can raise the majority of that final leg and then we’ll definitely be all systems go for early next year,” he said.

As part of the project, Think Impact has been engaged to develop a social value framework that will predict and measure the social value created across employment, collaboration and more.  

Based on preliminary reporting, the hub has the potential to generate $4.6 million in social value in the first year alone across four domains: jobs, social enterprise profile, place activation, and sustainable transport and logistics. 

Jobs represents the largest potential with 75 employment opportunities in year one, increasing to 140 jobs by year eight. 

The idea is for the hub to unlock more jobs as a collective than as co-located singular social enterprises, offering participants expanded choices in transitional and supported employment pathways. 

Hoernel said for people experiencing significant barriers to employment, these options increase the likelihood of finding a suitable and sustainable pathway.

“The social enterprises that we have in the hub are coming in with their own pathways for employment for people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we know what works well is when you have people with different challenges but also different skills and opportunities coming together, so that is really exciting,” he said.

“Giving new job seekers and young people the opportunity to be exposed to a few different things is really, really valuable.”

He said there were also benefits for the social enterprises involved, who typically do a lot of things in isolation and stand to gain economies of scale, efficiencies in resource use and increased visibility by working in a cluster.

“It is not necessarily just about sharing ideas but it’s actually about sharing functions,” Hoernel said.

In light of COVID-19, Hoernel said the project was even more critical, both in terms of the contribution it can make to the recovery of Melbourne, and for youth unemployment.

“We started this project before COVID, and we always looked at it as a way of revitalising and adding to what was going on in the city. Now we look at it as something that’s going to be really important as part of the rejuvenation post-COVID,” he said.

“The projections for where youth unemployment will be post-COVID mean that the project is really critical.” 

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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