Canberra boosts social enterprise efforts to tackle social disadvantage

Posted on 09 Apr 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Impact investing

The Albanese government has announced an $11.6 million funding boost to support and strengthen social enterprises.

Canberra said it established the social enterprise development initiative (SEDI) to strengthen the social enterprise sector’s important role in supporting communities to tackle entrenched disadvantage.

The new funding includes:

  • grants totalling $6 million to help the build capability of social enterprises in critical areas such as business planning, financial management, contract negotiations and access to investment loans and capital
  • $3 million to establish a new hub to provide educational tools and resources for the sector.

The government estimates there are more than 12,000 social enterprises in Australia employing more than 206,000 people.

Ranging from mobile laundry services for the homeless such as Orange Sky to cafés that provide training for disadvantaged youth, social enterprises contribute more than $21.3 billion to the Australian economy.

Announced in the 2023–24 federal budget, SEDI is part of a government package targeting entrenched disadvantaged.

Social Enterprise Australia (SEA) has been appointed as the SEDI program education and mentoring co-ordinator and will manage the online industry hub, while Impact Investing Australia (IIA) will administer the grants program.

Social enterprises will be able to apply for capability building grants (of up to $120,000) via the IIA website from June 2024.

Social Enterprise Australia CEO Jess Moore welcomed the new funding, which she said would help build opportunities across the whole sector.

“We’re thrilled about this launch,” said Ms Moore, who paid tribute to the federal government for engaging social enterprises to help design the SEDI program.

“We’re excited to be a delivery partner on what comes next; to connect social enterprises, capability builders, social impact investors and others, and to provide pathways to capability-building opportunities.”

Impact Investing Australia CEO David Hetherington described SEDI as an excellent initiative that built on the federal governments social impact investing trials.

He said it would allow social enterprises to further scale their efforts to support Australians facing disadvantage

“Social enterprises play a critical role in the broader impact investing market and we’re so excited about this opportunity to help them grow.”

Orange Sky laundry
The federal government said social enterprises such as homeless-friendly mobile laundry service Orange Sky play an important role in helping disadvantaged Australians.
“We want all Australians and communities – no matter the postcode – to have the best opportunity to thrive, and social enterprises offer innovative and tailored solutions to help tackle entrenched and intergenerational disadvantage.”
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth.

The State of Social Impact Report released late last year by the Impact Institute found the pursuit of a more equitable and socially responsible society has never been more critical.

“Australians are increasingly aware of rising inequalities, social disadvantage and ineffective systems that harm people and communities – and they want change,” the report said.

It said there was a collective expectation in the community that organisations of all descriptions would address shared social challenges and the community wanted more radical and meaningful action from government.

“Within this context, social impact is emerging as a concept to understand and frame all initiatives designed to address social inequalities, foster human rights and improve the lives of all Australians.”

The federal Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the government funding would help social enterprises work more effectively with vulnerable individuals and communities across the nation.

“We want all Australians and communities – no matter the postcode – to have the best opportunity to thrive, and social enterprises offer innovative and tailored solutions to help tackle entrenched and intergenerational disadvantage.”

Ms Rishworth said the investment of taxpayers’ dollars would help social enterprises to grow and attract more capital to help them prosper.

“By investing in these organisations to build on their capability, we can ensure that more Australians in need can access support to build better lives for themselves and their communities.”

More information

New report identifies the scale of the social impact challenge

Bridging the gap between insight and impact

Community Directors Intelligence: the social enterprise edition

Our Community: a social enterprise before the term was coined

Guide dogs show the way at social impact measurement awards

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