A manifesto for social enterprises has been launched this week by the Social Innovation Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Alliance, a coalition of 15 social enterprise incubators and consultants. The report calls for a thriving social economy by 2020, stating the nation needs new approaches to doing business to overcome the economic and social challenges facing Australians. David Brookes is the managing director of Social Traders, an accelerator for social enterprises. He told StartupSmart the manifesto was needed to raise the level of understanding and conversation both in the social enterprise community and beyond. “The manifesto is a blueprint for the sector in the medium term that calls for a beyond business as usual approach to tackling our current and future challenges,” Brookes says. Social Traders estimates there are 20,000 social enterprises currently operating in Australia. Key levers for growth to develop a thriving ecosystem of businesses trying to create social good are listed in the manifesto. These are resourcing effective capacity and building support; opening markets and procurement channels; enabling funding, finance and investment across the business lifecycle; and investing in research, benchmarking and impact measurement. The alliance intends to use the manifesto to communicate the opportunities and challenges for the sector to the government, the philanthropic sector and social investors. School of Social Entrepreneurs chief executive Celia Hodson has been in Australia for 18 months after playing a key role in the United Kingdom’s social enterprise movement. “It feels the social enterprise sector is coming of age in Australia. I remember when the social enterprise got behind a similar manifesto in the UK and started to really lobby for this approach to become a mainstream way of doing business,” she says. She adds while they will use the manifesto to engage government and business, the manifesto is primarily a discussion piece for the movement itself. The manifesto is supported by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, Sefa Innovative Lending, Social Enterprises Sydney, Desert Peoples Centre, Social Business Australia and Employee Share Ownership Australia and New Zealand.
Social enterprise coaching group the School for Social Entrepreneurs has opened applications for its 2013 incubator program. The nine-month program is seeking 20 to 25 applicants in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne who have ideas for social or environmental start-ups. SSE chief executive Celia Hodson told StartupSmart what they’re really looking for is the social entrepreneur’s passion. “It’s more about the individual than their idea. They may not be able to fully articulate their idea at this stage, but we’re looking for the people with passion to drive and make change,” Hodson says. “These guys are dreamers, they’ve got very early stage ideas and a burning passion but they’re not really sure what that looks like and if the market’s ready.” Hodson says they’re hearing a lot of ideas around education, community cohesion and the environment. The program provides access to mentoring networks and events, as well as one-on-one mentoring with experienced entrepreneurs from social enterprises and businesses. Students pitch to a panel of mentors on their first day and are paired up with a mentor throughout the nine-month program. “We know a lot of social entrepreneurs tend to get quite lonely. People in the program often say things like ‘I’ve found my tribe, and they don’t think I’m completely crazy’. It’s about coming home,” Hodson says, adding many don’t have a business network or background and the program is designed to address that. The program will take place in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and applicants need to be able to attend all 13 study days in the nine-month period. SSE works with students to develop crowdfunding campaigns to fund their trips to each state. “Access to funding for start-ups is quite hard in Australia, so getting our students to ask for cash is important. They need to be real about that, and this helps them think about money and becoming sustainable,” Hodson says, adding there are social benefits to crowd funding and the multi-state study program. “We do this to grow a community that’s bigger than the sum of its parts, to keep reconnecting with our alumni and mentors and networks to create a collegiate network of people supporting each other,” he says. The program will begin November 2013. Applications close August 30.
Entrepreneurs with a social mission are the target of a new crowdfunding platform called Dreamstarter, created by a partnership between ING Direct and StartSomeGood. StartSomeGood, launched last year by Tom Dawkins, is a crowdfunding platform for social innovation. Dawkins has described it as “Kickstarter but for social change”. And it seems the platform is living up to its name, launching a new initiative called Dreamstarter in partnership with financial services firm ING Direct in a bid to boost Australia’s social enterprise sector. Much like StartSomeGood, Dreamstarter enables Australian entrepreneurs to raise funds for social change projects, chosen by the Dreamstarter panel. The panel, which will review submissions once a month, is made up of representatives from StartSomeGood, ING Direct and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Each project will only receive support funding if it reaches its “tipping point”, and it’s up to the panel to decide the funding amount. The first projects received an average of $2000. The tipping point is the minimum amount needed for the project to kick off. The initial round of applicants were all graduates of SSE, which runs learning programs for entrepreneurs who have an idea or start-up venture with a social or environmental benefit. A total of 10 ventures led by SSE graduates will launch in the initial round of fundraising through the Dreamstarter program. These ventures include connecting remote Aboriginal entrepreneurs to new markets via an online store, and an initiative to help rural communities in Malawi achieve greater self-sufficiency. According to Dawkins, the partnership breaks new ground in the “corporate social responsibility sector”. “Crowdfunding is a participatory model that democratises corporate philanthropy. The projects that will succeed are those that have a genuine mandate from the community,” Dawkins says. Similarly, SSE chief executive Celia Hodson said in a statement initiatives like Dreamstarter are breaking down the barriers social entrepreneurs face when attracting support for their ventures. “The Dreamstarter campaign is a fantastic way for start-up social ventures to raise their profile, attract critical seed funding and inspire others to create change in their communities,” she said. The news comes on the back of an announcement Thankyou Water founder Daniel Flynn has been named Victorian Young Achiever of the Year. Thankyou Water is a Melbourne-based social enterprise that sells bottled water in Australia in order to fund water projects in developing nations. Flynn founded the business when he was 19. All profits go towards funding safe water projects, with each bottle of water sold providing at least one month’s worth of safe water for someone in need. The business has seen strong growth over the past 12 months, almost quadrupling its turnover from the previous year. To date, it has funded 52 safe water projects in Cambodia, Myanmar, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Timor-Leste, assisting more than 33,000 people. “The whole reason behind what I do is to change lives through the provision of safe water,” Flynn said in a statement. “By constantly improving how we do things in our organisation, especially through innovation in the digital and technological space, we can spread the word to more people about our cause.”