Finding arts based social enterprises in Australia

QArt Studio

Many social enterprises (SEs) in Australia have been cataloged by Social Traders (est. 2008) who are a social enterprise development organisation. Social Traders describe themselves as:

Australia’s leading social enterprise development organisation, we work to break the cycle of disadvantage and build resilience in Australian communities.  We believe business can do good and that social enterprise generates benefit by creating employment, providing access to services and strengthening local communities.  Using our expert knowledge and partnerships we help organisations of all shapes and sizes find better ways to achieve and contribute to sustainable social impact and change.

Our vision is a world where the market is used to deliver sustainable social outcomes. We achieve this by empowering social enterprises to transform communities throughout Australia.

Social Traders have participated in large scale research projects with Professor Jo Barraket, including the Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector (FASES) project (2010) – the first CENSUS of social enterprise in Australia. They recently released FASES 2016.

In 2009 Social Traders partnered with the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at Queensland University of Technology to define social enterprise and, for the first time in Australia, to identify and map the social enterprise sector: its scope, its variety of forms, its reasons for trading, its financial dimensions, and the individuals and communities social enterprises aim to benefit.

Led by Associate Professor Jo Barraket, Australia’s leading social enterprise academic, FASES produced its first report in June 2010. Since then the findings of this research have been downloaded over 15,000 times, and have played a critical role in supporting social enterprise development in Australia.

Social Traders’ online directory of almost 5,000 Australian SEs is called the ‘Social Enterprise Finder’. The aim of the SE finder is to connect buyers with SEs:

… The Finder enables consumers and procurement officers to easily locate and support businesses that benefit the community.

For social enterprise operators, The Finder is the gateway for entering the buyer markets that Social Traders is actively developing in the consumer, corporate and government sectors. It is also a free resource for raising awareness and increasing sales.

Upon registration, social enterprises are certified, which verifies that they exist for a social purpose, they earn the majority of their income through trade and they reinvest the majority of their profit in their social mission.

Certified social enterprises may be entered onto the Finder and subsequently invited to become part of Social Traders’ supplier network.

Using the Social Traders ‘Social Enterprise Finder’ we have compiled a list of arts based social enterprises that offer programs to young people in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The data base allows you to search each State by specific categories. We searched 5 different categories including: Arts and Culture; Clothing and Personal Services; Education and Training; Employment; Media and Communications; Printing and Publishing. SEs relevant to our project showed up mainly in the two first search categories: Arts and Culture; Clothing and Personal Services. The SEs we identified in these categories also showed up again in other category searches, particularly Education and Training, and Employment.

Throughout our search we found that:

  • Across the three States the Media and Communications search category showed many radio stations offering volunteering opportunities, but this was not necessarily linked to education and training. There were community organisations in this category, but none had a youth/arts focus with an attached training or educational program. 
  • We identified many social enterprise service organisations and businesses that aim to secure funding for SEs and assist with branding and advertising opportunities (see for instance, Futurekind). These are Social Enterprise intermediaries and don’t necessarily run training/education/work programs.

Victoria

  • Victoria had the most Arts Based Social Enterprises, followed by Sydney then Queensland. This fits with FASES findings which shows a strong concentration of SEs in Victoria:

    ‘Social enterprise locations’ (Barraket et al, 2016: 14).
  • The Arts and Culture category revealed the most ABSEs (8), while the Education and Training category showed 5 ABSEs.
  • Within the Printing and Publishing category the only ABSE was a creativity and literacy organisation called 100 Story Building. The rest were either commercial or charitable organisations that do not run training and education programs but donate proceeds to different causes, or develop their product in sustainable conditions.

New South Wales:

  • No ABSEs with training and education programs showed up in the Employment search category.
  • The Media and Communications category showed mostly radio stations along with a couple of universities (i.e. University of Newcastle). Some radio stations considered themselves community organisations and offered opportunities for volunteers.
  • Employment and training programs offered business skills training and skills thought to increase individuals ‘employability’, for instance processing mail and operating machinery.

Queensland

  • A search of the Employment category showed no arts based youth programs, but lots of hospitality training programs and employment/workforce service providers, service programs for differently abled people, and community organisations.
  • There were no ABSEs in the Media and Communications or Printing and Publishing categories.
  • Once again, Printing and Publishing showed mostly commercial or charitable organisations that do not run programs but donate proceeds to different causes, or their product in manufactured sustainably.

Although many ABSEs were categorised under ‘Arts’ this does not necessarily mean that they involve participation in creative processes. A SE may be thought of as creative if it is selling art products which have been sourced from countries around the world.

Many social enterprises stated that their mission was to turn people’s lives around whether this was through the program they offered or the business they operated. Many SEs do not offer particular education and training programs but train people on the job, this is the case for stores that stock ethically produced products (i.e. Just Earth) or recycled clothing. Or, for instance, Fitted for Work (via the Conscious Closet Organisation) train women to work in their shop and sell clothes, while offering the service of preparing women for work with mentoring and work appropriate clothes (and more…).

Many SEs are hopeful that their business model will become the norm in the years to come, and that their participation in the SE sector will alter the way people think about the production and consumption of goods and services. This logic of being a ‘change maker’ is expressed differently by different SEs – some focus on making a change in people’s lives, others focus on the broader project of social change. (In coming posts we will discuss the logic of SEs with the ideas of program logic and theory of change).

As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts  SE strategy documents produced recently by Victoria and Scotland strongly support the idea of growing SEs and pushing business toward ‘doing good’ or being good global citizens. The Social Enterprise Finder shows many Social Enterprises using different models to achieve their social missions, from dance and art studios offering programs and opportunities to perform and sell art works, to community radio stations and shops selling hand made ethical and fairtrade products.

Since the creation of the Social Enterprise Finder Barraket et al (2016) have identified 20,000 SEs in Australia. The recent report ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector’ is  joint authored by Jo Barraket, Chris Mason and Blake Blain (Swinburne University) and Social Traders. The report identifies major constraints on the development of the SE field, including:

A number of issues related to public policy and regulation were cited as barriers to
social enterprises growing and/or fulfilling their potential. Local government was
viewed as having a particular role to play in market development for social enterprise, and state and federal governments in providing enabling regulation, supporting organisational development, and stimulating innovation in policy design (2016b: 13).

We will pick up on these issues in our next post when we discuss the FASES 2016 report and analysis documents.

References

Barraket, J., M. O. Collyer,  and Anderson, H. (2010) ‘Finding Australia’s Social
Enterprise Sector: Final Report’, Social Traders and the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies June, 2010. Available from: http://www.socialtraders.com.au/about-social-enterprise/fases-and-other-research/social-enterprise-in-australia/

Barraket, J., Mason, C., and Blain, B. (2016) ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise
Sector 2016: Final Report’, Social Traders and the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne June, 2016. Available from: http://www.socialtraders.com.au/about-social-enterprise/fases-and-other-research/social-enterprise-in-australia/

 

 

 

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