Victoria Gets Australia’s First Social Enterprise Strategy

By Andrew Heaton

(image via Lord Somers Camp and Powerhouse)

A network for social enterprises, a whole of government procurement framework and skills development have emerged as key themes in what the Victorian government says is the first state-wide strategy for social enterprise development in Australia.

Releasing an eight-point Social Enterprise Strategy, Minister for Industry and Employment Wade Noonan said the plan would strengthen the social enterprise sector and create more opportunities for disadvantaged Victorians.

“This is a landmark strategy that supports initiatives to grow jobs, boost market access and support the growth of social enterprises,” Wade said.

Under the plan, the government will create a state-wide network through which social enterprises will be able to connect with government, intermediaries, buyers and each other.

The government will also develop a whole-of-government procurement framework to leverage public investment in social outcomes and will facilitate the creation of a skills development program for social enterprise.

Currently, Australia has around 20,000 social enterprises which make up around 2-3 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

Such enterprises are considered to be critical as community driven responses to address issues which impact young people, people with disabilities, the homeless, indigenous Australians, recently arrived immigrants and those with lower literacy and numeracy skills.

The plan draws upon critical lessons from an international perspective.

Scotland for example, has a thriving social enterprise sector in which the government has made small, targeted investments and is in the process of establishing a ten-year social enterprise strategy.

In Canada, meanwhile, jurisdictions foster business capabilities of social enterprise through better access to training, business support and access to government services.

Finance Minister Robin Scott said greater access to government was a critical part of the plan.

“We want to encourage more social enterprises into the market by giving the Government greater access to their goods and services,” Scott said.

At a Glance

Under the eight critical action points, the government will:

  • Create a state-wide network through which social enterprises will be able to connect with government, intermediaries, buyers and each other.
  • Develop a whole-of- government procurement framework to leverage public investment in social outcomes.
  • Facilitate the creation of a skills development program for social enterprise.
  • Conduct an in-depth study and mapping of social enterprises throughout the state to better understand their demographic and impact.
  • Provide pilot funding to test new initiatives and to support the development of an intermediary sector to provide business advice, support and mentoring.
  • Facilitate the development of an online partnering platform to link government and corporate buyers with social enterprise.
  • Support the development of a recognition scheme which will act as a directory-like source of information to assist buyers in identifying social enterprises from which to purchase goods and services
  • Ensure government doors are open to social enterprise, including by updating relevant information on websites and in program guidelines and training government staff about social enterprise.

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