Good news story: Social enterprise

Photo credit - Amador Loureiro on

Photo credit – Amador Loureiro on

Have you heard the term “social enterprise”? This concept is the basis of many good news stories, where business and community development come together. Here are some surprising statistics about social enterprise activity in Australia.

What are social enterprises?
Social enterprises are businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training, or help the environment.

In Australia, social enterprise organisations:

  • are driven by a public or community cause eg social, environmental, cultural or economic
  • derive most of their income from trade, not donations or grants
  • use at least 50% of their profits to work towards their social mission

Vital statistics
Here are some statistics sourced from Social Traders which indicate the importance of social enterprise in Australia.

  • There are approximately 20,000 social enterprises operating across all industry sectors.
    • 38% in operation for 10 years
    • 34% in operation for between 2-5 years
  • Company size:
    • small businesses – 73%
    • medium sized – 23%
    • large organisations – 4%
  • Beneficiaries:
    • people with disabilities – 35%
    • young people – 33%
    • disadvantaged women 28%

Good spenderEngaging with social enterprises
An organisation called Good Spender connects consumers who want to make a difference with social enterprises. Here are three examples of different businesses.

Streat comprises cafes, bakery, catering and coffee roasting businesses. They provide training and work Streatexperience for hundreds of disadvantaged young people. The revenue they generate runs their Youth Programs that provide pathways to sustainable livelihoods. The program provides life skills support, hospitality training, an accredited qualification and work-experience.

QArtQArt Studio & QArt Gallery fosters the talents of artists with intellectual disabilities. It provides the artists with employment, mentoring and training. The recognition the artists receive at QArt is important in giving them a sense of pride in themselves, their work and their contribution to the community. Their work is professional, creative and contemporary and can be purchased online or in store. QArt is a division of Endeavour Foundation.

Ngarinyman Bush Soaps are made from hand harvested traditional bush plants, with Ngarinyman bush soaphealing properties that have been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. Plants are infused in the soap, extracting the healing properties of the plant. The soaps are made by people of the Yarralin community in the Northern Territory. Income from the sale of their products goes to remote Aboriginal entrepreneurs, their families and communities. Profits are distributed to the soap makers (60%) and invested back in the business (40%).

What about you?
Do you or would you give you business to a social enterprise? I think these are examples of how business and community endeavours can come together. The value lies in the development opportunities provided to those needing support – giving them not a handout, but a hand up.

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