Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector – FASES

Social enterprises are organisations that:

  • Are led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit;
  • Trade to fulfil their mission;
  • Derive a substantial portion of their income from trade;
  • and Reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus in the fulfilment of their mission (Barraket et al, 2016a: 3).

In this post we have a look at the Social Traders and Swinburne University reports on the ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector’ (FASES) research project. As we mentioned in our previous post there are a number of factors that support and limit the growth of the social enterprise (SE) sector in Australia, and the development and impact of SEs. The following summary from the 2016 FASES report provides a good snapshot of what’s going on in the Australian SE sector: 

Overall findings

(Barraket et al, 2016b: 9).

In their 2010 FASES report Barraket et al (2010: 8) argued that little was known about Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector due in part to a lack of self-identifying among SEs; not all SEs operating as such labelled themselves as such. They said:

… it is clear that the language of social enterprise does not yet have distinct meaning for many civil society organisations and businesses in this country; more than 150 organisations commenced the survey and were filtered out on the basis that they were either not for profits that did not trade or profit maximising businesses that were not led by public or community benefit (Barraket et al, 2010: 36).

SEs also take many different forms and operate under different legal structures which means they are not always visible in the same ways as businesses in the private sector. Since 2010 the FASES project has identified a number of key facts and defining qualities illuminating the SE sector.

According to the 2010 and 2016 Full Reports (Barraket et al, 2010: 3 and Barraket et al, 2016a: 3) there are more than 20,000 SE operating in Australia with diverse missions and beneficiaries. The most popular mission identified in the report was:

… creating meaningful employment opportunities for people from a specific group, and developing new solutions to social, cultural, economic or environmental problems.

Interestingly, this is different from the 2010 report findings which identified ‘creating opportunities for people to participate in their community’ as the most popular mission (Barraket et al, 2016a: 5). The growing interest in employment is no surprise given the growing unemployment rate in Australia, which particularly affects young people. The Trading Economics website reports a decrease in the youth unemployment rate between May and April of 2017, however young people are enduring the unwanted effects and consequences of a lack of employment options and meaningful full time work.

Almost one-third of Australian young people are unemployed or underemployed, the highest level in 40 years, according to a report released on Monday.

The rate of underemployment – now at 18% – has become an entrenched feature of the youth labour market, according to the Generation Stalled report, commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (Davidson, 2017 March).

And…

A lack of full-time job prospects and an increasingly tense world has left a generation of Australia’s young people feeling bleak about their future (Clarke, 2017 February).

SEs reflect social and economic concerns as they operate mostly in local and regional markets with the aim of fulfilling missions that resonate at local and regional levels. There are fewer SEs that operate in international markets or aim to address international issues (Barraket et al, 2016a: 4). This finding was reflected in our own modest search of Arts based social enterprises in Australia. We found that when SEs do focus their attention on international issues, they often adopt a ‘Fair Trade’ ethic and source or support the import of handcrafted goods to be sold in Australia. Rarely were there programs (i.e. Transitional Labour Market Programs) attached to these SEs.

Similarly to 2010, and mirroring the mainstream economy, the sector includes small, medium and large enterprises, with the majority in our sample being small. The 2016 study again finds social enterprises are involved in all forms of economic production, including retail, wholesale, and manufacturing. However, they operate primarily within the service economy, with 68% of the sample providing services for a fee (Barraket et al, 2016a: 4).

In 2010 organisations participating in the FASES research project were asked to report on their income and expenditure (for the 2007-2008 financial year). The reported annual turnover ranged from zero to $68 million (with a total reported turnover within the sample of 168 organisations of $477 193 850). In 2016 that annual turnover ranged from zero to $199 million (from a sample of 189 enterprises) (Barraket et ala, 2016: 22).

In terms of growth and development opportunities, the FASES 2016 data shows a growth in ‘new entrants to the field, with 33.8% of the study’s sample being between two and five years old’. While development opportunities lie in: ‘social procurement; quasi-market development; and opportunities to grow impacts through supply chain development’ (Barraket et al, 2016a: 3). These modes of development are supported by the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy which gives particular attention to social procurement and the ways in which SEs can contribute to and fit into the market economy. We discussed our concerns with this trend in earlier posts

Finally, they identified a number external and internal factors constraining the growth of social business and impact in Australia. Limiting external factors include:

  1. a patchy ecosystem for social enterprise start-up and growth, including limited geographic spread of intermediaries and insufficient opportunities for peer to peer learning and development;
  2. the continuing piecemeal awareness of and support for social enterprise development by Australian governments;
  3. and, limited public awareness of social enterprises and their work.
  4. the lack of suitable funding for SEs at different stages of development (Barraket et al, 2016a: 5).

In terms of internal constraints the 2016 report identified:

  1. organisational governance as both a key enabler and a key inhibitor
    of social enterprise performance.
  2. Accessing suitably skilled staff and adapting workforce profiles as
    organisations grew and changed was also identified as a problem (Barraket et al, 2016a: 4).

These barriers have consequences for the Impact social enterprises make, that is the effectiveness of their work and how they are able to carry out their mission.

 

Supporting the Potential of Social Enterprises 

The 2016 report analysis suggests a number of ways in which the SES can be supported in pursuit of their missions and social impact. These following recommendations are informed by workshops with SEs:

1. Policy development

When asked about how the SE sector in Australia could be supported and the role of the government, more than 80% of respondents thought that government policy support would create new opportunities and generate growth. Activating SE though ‘traditional procurement laws of government’ was suggested (Barraket et al, 2016b: 15).

2. Building a more cohesive ecosystem

Better support during the start up phase was called for which would include: greater availability of intermediaries; more opportunities for peer-to-peer learning; cohesive and continuing support from the Australian Government; greater public awareness of social enterprises and their work (Barraket et al, 2016b: 16).

3. Developing appropriate and accessible forms of finance

Many respondents called for better, more suitable financial support at different stages of development. Because of their location some SEs are not able to access funding, particularly those outside metropolitan areas.

(Barraket et al, 2016a: 9)

The right financial support at the right time can make a big difference (Barraket et al, 2016b: 17).

… philanthropy appears to be playing a proportionately more significant – albeit still relatively small – role in financially supporting social enterprises, particularly those in start-up development since 2010. This may suggest a growing awareness of social enterprise by philanthropy, and the extension of some partnerships between philanthropy and not for profit organisations that are now exploring social enterprise as an option for increasing their impacts or improving their financial viability (Barraket et al, 2016a: 32).

4. Impact measurement tools

While impact measurement is largely regarded as a contested and complex issues for SEs, Barraket et al (2016: 18) suggest that more accessible, comparable and affordable impact measurement tools are needed to help articulate the social impact of SEs (Barraket et al, 2016b: 18).

Additional survey research suggests the costs of undertaking impact measurement are prohibitive for many social enterprises (Barraket et al, 2016a: 31).

Continuing lack of convention around measuring social impacts, and lack of  availability of affordable options to do this work, was a frequently cited constraint on social enterprises both understanding and extending their positive impacts; practice in this regard appears to have remained stable over the last two waves of FASES.

Major opportunities identified for increasing social (or environmental) impacts of social enterprises included ethical supply chain development – including between social enterprises – and replication or, less frequently cited, scaling up of social enterprises (Barraket et al, 2016a: 32).

 

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. (2016a) ‘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/

Barraket, J., Mason, C., and Blain, B. (2016b) ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise
Sector 2016: Analysis’, 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/

Clarke, C. (2017) ‘Millennial survey shows youth feeling aggrieved, frustrated by the way country is being run’, ABC News, 8 February 2017. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-08/millennials-worried-about-the-future/8250250

Davidson, H. (2017) ‘Third of Australian youth have no job or are underemployed, report finds’, The Guardian, March 2017. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/27/third-of-australian-youth-have-no-job-or-are-underemployed-report-finds

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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/