This is our site for sharing information and findings as we carry out a three year project about young peoples participation in Arts Based Social Enterprises. This research is supported fully by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP170100547). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council. Follow us on Twitter @YouthSocialEnt
We never write on a blank page, but always one that has been written on” (de Certeau cited in Lather 2001b:477-478).
Throughout our project we will use situational analysis to take into account the different ways in which social enterprise organisations are shaped and shape themselves, the environment in which this occurs and how structures, systems and people play different roles in this process. This approach will also enable us to account for the ways in which programs for young people are formed.
So, what is situational analysis? Clarke (2005) tells us that situational analysis is a research tool which enables us to further understand the context in which we live our lives, how we are shaped and shape our selves and our social environment. It is a form of mapping that helps us to look beyond individual and collective human actors to take into account nonhuman material cultural objects. As Clarke (2005: 146) says, it’s necessary in qualitative research…
… Because we and the people and things we choose to study are all routinely both producing and awash in seas of discourses, analyzing only individual and collective human actors no longer suffices for many qualitative projects. Increasingly, historical, visual, narrative, and other discourse materials and nonhuman material cultural objects of all kinds must be included as elements of our research and subjected to analysis because they are increasingly understood/interpreted as both constitutive of and consequential for the phenomena we study.
The idea is that as researchers we are able to better account for the different locations our information comes from and the different forms it takes (documents, media, televisual material, interviews). This means that we can use situational analysis to understand different forms of information – for example, historical, social, geographical, dgital information – in one study. This would be a ‘multisite’ study or research project. The idea is that situational analysis can help qualitative researchers to develop new methods, across the sciences, humanities and professional fields (Clarke, 2005: 146).
Clarke (2005: 146) calls this ‘qualitative analysis after the postmodern turn’, in which postmodernism is understood as the historical, theoretical shift towards understanding people, their experiences and their social environment through the lens of discourse analysis and relationships of power. Discourse analysis allows us to imagine that, as human beings we are already and always will be engaged in an ongoing, complex, often contradictory process of becoming who we are, and this occurs in relation to other people, social institutions, social rules and regulations, constructs of gender, class, ethnicity, race and other personal and the professional power relationships we are involved in.
Understanding these different influences and elements is the work of bricoleurs:
Bricoleurs assemble project-appropriate tool kits from a broad repertoire of available concepts and approaches—selecting what they believe are “the right tools for the job.” We need to keep in mind, of course, that the “tools,” the “job,” and the “rightness” are all constructions, always already emergent and changing (Clarke, 2005: 147).
In the context of our project situational analysis will allow us to use diverse approaches and analytical tools, and take into account different types of discourse – particularly policy discourse, (i.e the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy) academic discourse (i.e. ‘moral economies’) and social enterprise discourse.
Clarke uses the terms ‘situational analysis’ and ‘grounded theory’ together to describe her approach. This is because situational analysis builds on grounded theory. Grounded theory involves the construction of theory from rigorous data analysis. It sounds and is quite complicated but it’s aim is to help close the gap between theory and empirical research or the things, people and stories researchers encounter in real life.
The goal of grounded theorists is to develop theory which is more than just description (Goulding, 2002: 42). Goulding adapts the theory of management and business practices, and says it should:
1. Enable prediction and explanation of behaviour
2. Be useful in theoretical advances in sociology
3. Be applicable in practice
4. Provide a perspective on behaviour
5. Guide and provide a style for research on particular areas of behaviour
6. Provide clear enough categories and hypothesis so that crucial ones can be verified in present and future research (Goulding, 2002: 43).
It is the combination of the groundedness of interpretation with the systematic handling of data that makes grounded theory and situational analysis robust approaches in qualitative research (Clarke, 2011: 147).
To clarify, this formulation of theory shouldn’t be interpreted as discovering some pre-existing ‘reality’, rather we can understand truths as ‘enacted’ and ‘theories’ as interpretations.
… interpretations are temporarily constraint. They should always be seen as provisional and subject to future elaboration, and it should be recognised that they are limited in time; they may become outdated or in need of qualification (Goulding, 2011: 43).
These research methodologies are about keeping an open mind and taking into account the many different elements of our environment when trying to understand particular things. As we attempt to understand how social enterprise organisations support the well-being, education and training and work opportunities of marginalised young people we will need to take into account:
the social and geographical location of the social enterprise organisation;
the history and structure of the organisation;
what role arts-based programs play, and are intended to play, in young peoples transitions;
how stakeholders and young people understand the organisation and their role;
what type of artistic practice these programs engage;
the role non-human material cultural objects play for the people involved;
the affective environment that is generated by the organisation and those involved.
Clarke, A. (2005) Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Postmodern Turn, Sage: California.
Goulding, C. (2002) Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide for Management, Business and Market Researchers, Sage: London.
Are you a stakeholder/manager/coordinator/teacher in an Australian Social Enterprise? Do you run programs that have an arts (fashion, dance, visual arts, creative writing, crafts, drama) component? We invite you to participate in our research project funded by the Australian Research Council.
Participation will involve a one-on-one interview of approximately 1 hour (or less) in length with a member of the project team (listed in the above flyer).
The purpose of the research is to understand how social enterprises engaged in arts activities manage education, training and work transitions, and support the health and well-being of young people.
Please contact Perri Campbell for further information at Perri.Campbell@rmit.edu.au
The purpose of this research is to understand how Social Enterprises and Community Organisations build social justice/community concerns into their education and employment programs for young people, and how young people shape future career aspirations with their community in mind.
We are looking for people located on the West Coast of the US to participate in our research project.
If you part of a social enterprise or community organization that offers programs to young people or you are participating in a program and are interested in sharing your experiences, or would like more information please email Perri.Campbell@rmit.edu.au
Participation will involve a one-on-one interview of approximately 1 hour (or less) in length with Dr Perri Campbell (RMIT University, Australia), Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI), the University of California Berkeley, between the 1st of October and 30th of November, 2017.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.
ARC Discovery Project: Arts Based Social Enterprise and Marginalised Young People’s Transitions, School of Education.
Twitter: @Perri_Campbell and Social Enterprise Project @YouthASE
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 enterprisesthat 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 intermediariesand don’t necessarily run training/education/work programs.
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:
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.
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.
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/
The project: ‘Art based social enterprises and marginalised young people’s transitions’
The project is examining how art-based social enterprise organisations manage education, training and work transitions, and develop the health and well-being of marginalised young people. In particular, the project is exploring the specific education and employment outcomes achieved for young people situated in these alternative learning settings. Social enterprises are a rapidly expanding sector of the Australian economy with 20,000 programs currently operating. Using a longitudinal, critical case methodology the project will provide sector stakeholders with a strong evidence base to develop long-term strategy for innovative policy and engagement practice.
The role: PhD Candidate 2018 – 2020
The PhD candidate will be supported with an RMIT scholarship and will be based at RMIT University in the Centre for Art, Society and Transformation (CAST), under the primary supervision of Dr Grace McQuilten.
The PhD candidate will be supported to develop a related project – that may employ creative methods to engage young people in case study fieldwork while also expanding and diversifying the ways in which the results of the study can be communicated.
The candidate will work with case study organisations and program participants to develop, create and publish a series of creative works specific to each enterprise, including; photography, video, sound and textiles. The PhD project will contribute valuable insight into the impact of creative activity on young people’s experiences in social enterprise programs.
The PhD student will commence in the first semester of 2018.
Formal application process To be assessed for eligibility for our research programs applicants must submit a formal application to RMIT School of Art through the School of Graduate Studies at RMIT. The PhD Candidate should nominate Grace McQuilten and Peter Kelly as supervisors for the project in the application form. They should also submit a research proposal with examples of their creative and written work.
The research proposal should respond to the project brief and demonstrate how it will add value to the research project. This is a funded PhD place with scholarship that contributes to an ARC research project. Proposals that indicate the candidate will continue their existing practice or start an independent project will not be considered appropriate.
Please refer to the School of Art admissions information booklet: PhD-Candidate-SoA admissionsfor information on the PhD program and how to write your research proposal. How to prepare your proposal:
Social Enterprises (SEs) are hybrid organisations situated between the public and private sector that combine enterprise activity with the generation of social benefits. It is claimed that the SE model promotes economic capacity, social inclusion and social innovation (Bielfeld, 2009; Campbell, 2011). The Social Enterprise based model (including a significant number of Art Based Social Enterprises [ASEs]) of education, training and employment pathways for marginalised young people promises to ‘break the cycle of youth unemployment’ (Lynn 2014). ASEs, in particular, are considered to be highly effective at engaging marginalised young people (McQuilten, 2015). In the post-mining boom Australian economy over 20,000 Social Enterprises contribute 2-3 per cent of national GDP (Barraket 2010). Despite these claims, and the sheer scale of the sector, the complexities and dynamics of young people’s education, training, work and health and well-being continue to pose significant policy and business challenges for governments, businesses, Third Sector Organisations (TSOs) and communities.
The project aims to document and analyse the challenges and opportunities faced by Art Based Social Enterprises (ASE) working with marginalised young people. The project will:
a) provide new empirical insights into marginalised young people’s education, training and work transitions, and physical and mental health and well-being in the post-GFC economy;
b) develop an evidence base for government, TSO, arts, business and community stakeholders on which to build a long-term strategy for innovative policy and engagement practice;
c) and make substantial new contributions to critical social entrepreneurship studies.
Dr Deborah Warr, Associate Professor and Australian Research Coucil Future Fellow, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, email@example.com
… Many social enterprises are already good global citizens, collaborating internationally and supporting our international development efforts (SSES, 2016: 20).
What is a good global citizen? Well according to the SSES (2016) an organisation or a country or a social enterprise can each be a good global citizen. What is required?
Making distinctive contributions in addressing global challenges such as climate change, tackling inequality and promoting human rights, sharing knowledge and skills and technical expertise for global good (SSES, 2016: 19).
The Scottish Social Enterprise Strategy (SSES, 2016: 20) is not only designed to develop a local response to public service, community and global issues, it proposes a long-term commitment to being a better ‘global citizen’. The hope is that Scottish SEs will be designed and will operate in response to global issues, including: climate change, inequality, and human rights issues. This is documented in the International Frameworkand Internationalising Social Enterprise Strategy.
Global citizens – whether organisation, country or person – collaborate internationally and trade in overseas markets, boost inward investment and educational opportunities. These goals are ultimately working towards the UnitedNations Sustainable Development Goals (SSES, 2016: 20). If the social enterprise sector is visible on the world stage then this will provide an opportunity to promote policy priorities like fighting climate change.
The 10 year strategy is Scotland’s Vision for Social Enterprise developed in consultation with the SE community. The plan is that Social Enterprise will be:
A growing movement
As it develops the sector will retain its strong community roots, independent orientation, and entrepreneurial character (SSES, 2016: 22).
Become the norm
Become widely accepted as a more just, democratic and inclusive way of doing business… inspiring young people who will undertake the change toward the type of society we aspire to (SSES, 2016: 22).
Become visible everywhere
Be found delivering goods and services in every economic sector… become seen as the epitome of ethical, transparent and responsible business behaviour (SSES, 2016: 22).
Much like the Victorian SES the Scottish Strategy is informed and framed by particular Priorities that are oriented towards market opportunities and outcomes and stimulating the social enterprise sector:
This will be done through the points listed above, from 1a to 3c.
Priority 1a. Local Development acknowledges that SE often start because ‘active citizens’ are addressing a local need. The plan is to provide greater support for such active citizens in social contexts there is a paucity of skills or knowledge in this area. So the strategy supports: community development; local strategies; support infrastructure; and equality groups.
Strategic priority 1b highlights the usefulness and necessity of social entrepreneurs as ‘can-do’ people. Can-do people must be nurtured and to this end the strategy proposes seeding funds, the development of work spaces, and locating Intrapreneurs working in existing institutions like universities and large charities.
Social entrepreneurs – when they emerge – can feel isolated, unrecognised and unsupported. They also find unnecessary objects in their way when trying to get promising ideas off the ground. We must ensure that these can-do people get the encouragement and support they need’ (SSES, 2016; 29).
1c. At schools and universities students will be encouraged to become ‘can-do’ people by adopting an entrepreneurial attitude and imagining that they can affect change in the world through this type of thinking and action (See for instance, the Developing the Young Workforcestrategy).
One of the greatest ambitions of the SSES is to make social enterprise the norm, this means increasing recognition for SEs as defined in 1d:
We want more decision makers, influencers and supporters (in Scotland and internationally) to understand social enterprise, giving rise to further local action and more social enterprise activity (SSES, 2016: 31).
2a. The strategy regarding funding seeks to further monetise SEs and emphasises capital growth. Where there is investment, there is risk. ‘Responsive Finance’ will offer blended capital which means mixing loans and grants to distribute the financial risk between lender and entrepreneur. The result is that a greater burden will be placed on entrepreneurs to undertake extra training (or ‘Investment-Readiness’ training SSES, 2016:34) to be seen as a viable investment and allieviate the fears of investors.
Priority 2b. recognises that business support should be tailored to different forms of business, from community enterprises to social enterprises, and address the needs of minority ethnic communities. This priority articulates a need for an ‘Advisor Network’ which would build links between social enterprise advisors or Intermediaries as they are known in Australia.
2c. focuses on Collaboration and how SEs can work together to benefit from shared resources, reduced costs, and access to new markets. This type of network building is to be facilitated by the development of networks, consortia and collaborative technologies.
2d. Leadership development involves training programs for ‘future leaders, empowered governance and international leadership’ (SSES, 2016: 37).
2e. Workforce development means supporting Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) which:
Improve the employability and employment prospects of people furthest from the labour market
This includes finding creative ways to enable Social Firms to take on employees with higher support needs (including the use of targeted wage incentives) (SSES, 2016: 38).
WISE are similar to Transitional Labour Market Programs (TLMPs) which we discuss at length in this reporton Action Learning and Social Enterprise in Australia.
2f. Is concerned with demonstrating the ‘Social Value’ of SEs and building their capability. This will mean measuring the impact of SEs or what they have been able to contribute to the market, the workplace, their supply chain, local economy and community and environment. This might also be a ‘balanced account’ of performance for those small SE organisations. Reporting requirements will be developed with funders, purchasers and regulators.
3a. Sets out goals to engage ‘Public markets’ so that more SEs are delivering a broader range of services through public sector engagement, collaborative commissioning and social procurement.
3b. Social enterprises will be more visible to consumers and tap into ethical consumption habits.
Public awareness and recognition of social enterprise remains low. Social enterprise products and services are not yet widely available or easily accessible to consumers… We will encourage and support the introduction of Buy Social as an internationally recognised third party certification programme to label social enterprise products and services (SSES, 2016: 43).
3c. The business market will be engaged with by tapping into what is viewed as a broader social enterprise community with the aim of increasing trade between SEs and businesses. The Sharing Economy and Corporate Supply Chains will provide models for sharing resources and circulating money within the social economy (SSES, 2016: 44).
Neo-Liberalism – it’s common sense!
The Social Enterprise policy and strategy documents – Victorian and Scottish – lay out a number of rules and regulations for people thinking of starting up a social enterprise and those already operating one. These documents emphasise ‘capital’, ‘the market’, ‘profitability’, ‘finance’, ‘consumption’ and ‘value’. The idea is that what SEs are and what they can become is influenced and shaped by the preferences laid out by the Victorian and Scottish Government. International growth and profit are key goals. The problem is that a focus on growth and economic profit will often contradict SE missions, interfere with SE programs and inhibit the articulation of alternatives to what can be understood asneo-Liberal capitalist business models. The reason why such alternatives are desirable and necessary is a discussion we will pick up on in later posts.
…signals the emergence, development and deployment of a range of political rationalities and governmental technologies (Rose and Miller 1992) that seek to make the ‘real’ knowable and governable through the behaviours and dispositions of autonomous, rational, choice-making, risk aware, prudent and enterprising individuals (Kelly and Pike, 2017: 12).
Today, the global logics of neo-Liberal capitalism structure our interactions, our working lives, or lives of work. Neo-liberalism shapes and attempts to produce competitive, individualistic, entrepreneurialpeople. In much of our work we draw on the legacy of Michel Foucaultto imagine neo-Liberalism as: ‘an art of government, a mentality of rule. Here neo-Liberalism is much more than economic theory, or political discourse, or public policy’ (Kelly and Pike, 2017: 13). Neo-Liberalism shapes fields of possibilities, that is, the social environment in which we shape our identity, come to know ourselves and others. In our everyday lives we encounter ‘bundles of beliefs’ that appear to be common-sense: ‘ideas beyond question, assumptions so deep that the very fact that they are assumptions is only rarely bought to light’ (Hall, 2013: 8-9). Neo-Liberalism is a bundle of beliefs that rely on the widespread acceptance of ‘the market’, ‘the competitive individual’ (#boss), and the primacy/priority of the ‘private over the public’ (Kelly and Pike, 2017: 14).
There is growing concern with the ways in which a market logic, or neo-Liberal commonsense, has negative consequences for our well-being, our future and our relationships. There is an increasing awareness that, as Hall et al (2013: 14-15) say:
Commercialisation permeates everywhere, trumps everything. Once the imperatives of a “market culture” become entrenched, anything goes. Such is the power of the hegemonic common sense.
For instance, after the US led Global Financial Crisis of 2008 we witnessed mass protests and uprisings around the world (i.e. Occupy, the Indignados and the Arab Spring), which sought to challenge neo-Liberal commonsense that everything can and should be commodified, that the market and profit should be prioritised over all other aspects of life.
… This is where Social Enterprises come in to the picture. In the Victorian and Scottish SE strategies SEs are presented as models of ethical and moral community, social and commercial practice.
Yet, there is some irony here in that having developed such a picture of SEs, the Strategic documents propose a market logic to develop and mould the social enterprise sector. Of course SEs are not immune to the commonsense logic of neo-Liberal capitalism. This is not to say that they are inherently good or bad, but that they are shaped in relation to the prevailing trends of the market, of commercialisation, entrepreneurialism, competitive individiualism.
Moral Economies and Social Enterprise
It is in this context of neo-Liberal capitalism that we introduced the idea of ‘moral economies’ in an earlier blog post. Moral economies refer to the social, political and spatial dimensions of the choices we make, and the ways these spaces frame what it is that we should choose to do.
“Moral economy” is a concept, originally introduced by E P Thompson (1971) in a discussion of food riots in the “premodern” English economy of the eighteenth century, that, in a much wider sense than first imagined by Thompson, suggests a
kind of inquiry focusing on how economic activities of all kinds are influenced by moral dispositions, values and norms, and how in turn these are reinforced, shaped, compromised or overridden by economic pressures (Kelly and Pike, 2017: 18).
Broadly speaking, moral economies underpin the rules and boundaries we live by in our communities and societies.
The theory of moral economy assumes that economic activities are defined and legitimized by moral beliefs, values, and norms… In particular, agrarian communities are said to share a set of normative attitudes concerning the social relations that surround their local economies. Social networks and culturally legitimized dealings tend to prevail over market-efficient behavior, as they promote the survival of the community under the conditions of scarcity (Cieslik, 2016: 12).
Moral economies establish commonly agreed upon moral and ethical norms governing appropriate/preferred behaviour in relation to others – but this does not mean they are inherently just, equitable or fair. Moral economies are made up to assist the smooth functioning of people in groups, in society.
Just what counts as moral, as opposed to immoral, behaviour is contestable; some forms of moral economy, for example, that of the patriarchal household, might be deemed immoral, or as a domain disguised as benevolence and fairness (Sayer, 2004: 2).
Moral economies – and immoral economies – are intricately tied to the ‘ways in wich markets and associated economic phenomena both depend on and influence moral ethical sentiments, norms and behaviours and have ethical implications’ (Sayer, 2004: 2). In this sense, the concept allows us to examine:
moral aspects of economic practices – the role of social enterprise ‘missions’;
economic influences on morality – why these missions exist and to which fields can they be mapped and traced?;
how economic organisation affects human well-being – how is young people’s well-being affected by their participation in social enterprise programs?.
Social enterprises have overt moral codes and undertake social missions which is one of the things that makes them different to other organisations. It is the moral dimensions of social enterprises. and how thses are constructed and communicated that interests us as we attempt to understand how young people participating in SE programs are encouraged to shape a sense of self and carve out a path into the future.
As we said in part one of our discussion of the SSES:
People might be able to imagine themselves as responsible for local community issues which SEs address, but these issues are often tied to broader, even global issues which exist outside the reach of many individuals as they go about their daily lives.
The Strategic documents encourage people to think of themselves as problem solvers, as the active citizens who should take up community and social issues as part of their personal and professional life journey and career (entrepreneurs, Guerrilla selves!). But, they should do it in a way that is financially profitable, that encourages other people to consume products and services (whether they are needed or not). The Strategic documents provide a detailed map of how existing SEs and attached moral economies should take economic factors into consideration, particularly:
global networking and collaboration;
market and financial viability.
The Strategy or plan is to further sculpt social enterprises in the image of profitable business that engage with and sustain the neo-Liberal capitialist economic market. In this sense particular attitudes and dispositions are encouraged and praised, for example:
Cieslik, K. (2016) ‘Moral Economy Meets Social Enterprise Community-Based Green Energy Project in Rural Burundi’, World Development, Volume 83, July 2016, Pages 12–26. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.03.009
Hall, S. D, Massey , and M. Rustin, eds. (2014) After neoliberalism? The Kilburn Manifesto, Soundings. London: Lawrence & Wishart.
Kelly, P. and Pike, J. (2017) ‘Is Neo-Liberal Capitalism Eating Itself or Its Young? in Kelly, P. and Pike, J. eds. Neo-Liberalism and Austerity: The Moral Economies of Young People’s Health and Well-being, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
The social enterprise sector in Scotland delivers £1.68 billion to their economy each year, employs 100,000 people and there are plans to increase this number even further. The ‘Scottish Social Enterprise Strategy’ (what we will refer to as ‘SSES, 2016’) provides a long term 10 year plan to develop the sector via 3 year ‘Action Plans’.
The strategy begins by positioning SE as intrinsic to Scottish culture and the economy.
Social enterprise is also an important part of our national identity and international reputation (SSES, 2016: 16).
They say for instance, that more than 5000 SEs are currently operating in the country, three in five of these generate an annual turnover of less than £100,000, and two thirds of all SEs in Scotland sell directly to the public (SSES, 2016: 9).
The strategy is framed by the idea of an uncertain and ambiguous economic future in which, it is thought, SEs can provide sustainable, entrepreneurial solutions. Also on the social enterprise agenda is: fair work, place and regional cohesion, tackling inequality and human rights as defined in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan(SSES, 2016: 15).
The world is increasingly volatile, complex and ambiguous. In response, the delivery of this long-term strategy must remain agile (SSES, 2016: 10).
Through this logic SEs are seen as agile, flexible and able to adapt to volatile markets which render traditional business models clunky and old fashioned. SEs are packaged as new, caring businesses that are able to address public needs and concerns. You can see below where social enterprise is positioned within Scotlands Economic Strategy as a mode of ‘inclusive growth’, alongside goals like ‘investment’, ‘innovation’ and ‘internationalism’.
The strategy is forward looking in that it identifies a range of political, social, economic and technological futuretrends which it is thought will influence social enterprise operations and opportunities:
The influences and trends presented have been identified as both relevant and plausible. They have informed our thinking on how best to help the sector adapt to the dynamic and challenging period ahead (SSES, 2016: 10).
Let’s look at these future trends and what they mean for social enterprises …
Technological trends: The SSES claims that as technology enables public scrutiny of SE activities, SEs will be encouraged to collect robust data, show good governance and social impact (pictured left). And as socially responsible products and practices increasingly become more familiar to the public, more hybrid businesses are likely to emerge in the sector. Here, SEs are presented as the ‘business of the people’ – trustworthy, grassroots, accountable, hi-tech, responsible and capable of social and economic impact (SSES, 2016: 12).
These ‘trends’ identified by the strategy can be thought of as framing mechanisms or ways of attributing particular meaning to SEs. SEs are identified as vehicles that can be mobilised to addresss a range of economic and social problems, from local community concerns to uncertain economic markets.
People might be able to imagine themselves as responsible for local community issues which SEs address, but these issues are often tied to broader, even global issues which exist outside the reach of many individuals as they go about their daily lives. This is an idea which we will pick up on in our discussions about ‘moral economies’ and social enterprises in later posts.
Politicalchanges: First, ‘Enabling legislation’ is identified as something that will open up financial and funding possibilities for SEs, particularly in the areas of early learning and childcare, health and social care, land ownership, broadband and transport. SEs are encourged to capitalise on the opportunities that arise in these spaces.
Second, it is predicted that increasingly localised public services will need a personalised response. And this is where it is claimed that SEs can step in to offer these kinds of unique, customised services.
Finally, it is thought that change will come about from high levels of democratic participation:
High levels of democratic participation is likely over time to lead to power being devolved downwards. Locality planning, participatory budgeting, and community empowerment are symbolic of the shifts underway. Further work will be required to ensure services are locally organised, people powered, and enterprising (SSES, 2016: 11).
While Social trends (pictured below left) include: demographic change, persistent inequalities, the influence of young people, and ethical consumption. The responsibility of caring for an aging population and providing innovative solutuons for aging populations is attributed to SEs, as well as the responsibility of fighting entrenched social inequality.
Nothing less than social transformation is the expected impact of social entrepreneurialism and enterprise. The spirit of entrepreneurialism is tied to the ‘younger generation’ who are relied upon for ‘progressive values’ and ‘new expectations anout society, business and life’ (SSES, 2016: 11). And this point is expanded on in relation to schooling a little later in the strategy, where there are plans to develop an education system with entrepreneurship at the core to capitalise on the potential of Scotlands young workforce (SSES, 2016: 16).
Finally, it is thought that our own motivation as consumers to buy ethically produced and responsible products and services, is cited as a driver for social change. Social Enterprises are encouraged to leverage these political and social trends to grow the sector, unite communities and fight against socio-economic injustice (our team member Kim Humphrey is an expert in the dynamics of ‘ethical consumption’).
A desire to live better, more sustainable lives means consumers will increasingly make ethical choices. This may fuel growth of the sector, but only if social enterprises are more visible and able to supply consumer requirements (SSES, 2016: 11).
The Economic trends identified by the SSES provide the final piece of the puzzle (SSES, 2016: 12). Here, entrepreneurialism is something that can balance and revitalise the economy by creating a more diverse business base. And, in the economic trends section we see a reflection of the social trends mentioned above. The idea of ‘business with a purpose’, social impact and ‘collaboration’/partnership taps into social trends of moral or ethical consumption (see Kim Humphrey’s Excess: Anti-Consumerism in the West).
We will pick up on this discussion of business with a purpose in our next post on social enterprises as the ‘good global citizen’, intrapreneurship and mobilising the consumer for market opportunity. In that post we reflect on what these ideas mean if we examine them through the lens of the ‘moral economies of social enterprise’.
As part of the development of the work of the larger 3 year project we are interested in exploring particular approaches to understanding the contexts in which social enterprises in general, and arts based social enterprises in particular, work with, and for, young people, and for the promotion of marginalised young people’s transitions and social, economic and physical and mental health and well-being.
A key dimension of these contexts is the different forms of responsibility that different agencies, organisations, departments, businesses, communities, neighbourhoods, and individuals assume, or are allocated, in relation to addressing the significant challenges and opportunities that many young people, marginalised or otherwise, face, and which, increasingly, social enterprises are imagined as providing the solution to.
A key concept here will be the idea of ‘moral economy’. This concept enables us to focus on a number of things, including:
those processes that seek to make social enterprise responsible – by governments, businesses and communities – for managing a range of youth issues and concerns;
to imagine these processes as being inherently ‘moral’ in that they ALWAYS involve making some choices, and not others;
to focus on the different power relations that enable some individuals and organisations to be made responsible, and others not so much;
and to critically analyse the consequences – intended or otherwise – for young people, their families and communities, for the ‘moral economies’ of social enterprises.
This concept has a particular history in social science. It has also been used in a number of ways by project members in earlier projects which introduced this concept into the field of Youth Studies.
In this book we used the concept of moral geographies to identify and engage with the elements of choice that relate what it is that we should feed ourselves, our families, our children. We suggested that these questions of choice and what we should imagine as food extended to the various, often complex and ambiguous, processes and practices of food production, processing, transportation and preparation. As well as to the array of personal and cultural practices that structure often idealised, always morally inflected, ideas about children, parenting and food, the family meal, the issues of young people’s nutrition, health and well-being, public health ‘crises’ such as obesity, and the array of possible responses and interventions in relation to these issues, these crises.
We were interested in the cultural, economic, social, political and spatial dimensions of these choices; the things that contribute to the shaping and the making of these choices; the normative and non-normative forces and positions that contribute to the naming and framing of what it is that we should choose to do, how we should choose to prepare, present and consume our food, where and when these practices and processes should occur, who should be present, and what relations of authority are implicated in the choosing and the doing.
Building on our work on moral geographies we found Andrew Sayer’s (2000, 2004 a & b) discussions of moral economies to be useful in framing a discussion of Neo-Liberalism and Austerity, and the ways in which economies are always ‘moral’ (which is different to saying that ‘economics’ is always moral!).
For Sayer (2004b), ‘moral economy’ is a concept that suggests a:
kind of inquiry focussing on how economic activities of all kinds are influenced and structured by moral dispositions, values and norms, and how in turn these are reinforced, shaped, compromised or overridden by economic pressures.
It is in this sense, Sayer (2004b) argues, that ‘moral’ and ‘economy’ are ‘best defined broadly’. The ‘moral’ here includes an interest in:
lay norms (informal and formal), conventions, values, dispositions and commitments regarding what is just and what constitutes good behaviour in relation to others, and implies certain broader conceptions of the good or well-being.
Sayer (2004a, p.2) suggests that it can be useful to argue that ‘all economies – not merely pre- or non-capitalist ones – are moral economies’. In doing so he recognises that:
Of course, just what counts as moral, as opposed to immoral, behaviour is contestable; some forms of moral economy, for example, that of the patriarchal household, might be deemed immoral, or as domination disguised as benevolence and fairness.
In his work on moral economies Sayer (2004a, p.2) explores the
ways in which markets and associated economic phenomena both depend on and influence moral/ethical sentiments, norms and behaviours and have ethical implications.
Importantly, given our interests in that book in the array of choices made and not made about young people, their education, training and work, their health and well-being in a post-GFC period of ongoing crises for neo-Liberal capitalism, this broad view of the moral creates a:
space not only for assessing moral aspects of economic practices, and economic influences on morality, but also for the assessment of how economic organisation affects human well-being (Sayers 2004b).
We believe that there are a number of points to explore here in relation to young people and the moral economies of social enterprise. These points are just briefly sketched below, but will be developed in the next few years.
We all makes choices, and have choices to make.
But we don’t all have the same capabilities, backgrounds and resources to bring to bear in making these choices.
Choices always have consequences.
But the consequences of choices made or not made are never the same for different people.
We also don’t, mostly, even often, get to choose the circumstances in which choices emerge, or have to be made.
Many young people, for example, had no influence or impact on the unfolding of the Global Financial Crisis.
Yet many of them now have to make choices about school, further education and training, jobs and work in environments profoundly shaped, still, by those events.
As one example here, governments around the world increasingly pass the cost of further and higher education onto individual young people and their families (in the form of loans, fees and debt) because, it is claimed, governments can no longer ‘afford’ to fund ‘free’ higher education (if they ever did).
In addition, young people are increasingly told that jobs as we know them are disappearing. And, that they need to develop the skills and dispositions that will enable them to make their own jobs, that will enable them to be become enterprising.
And our own University (RMIT), like many others, seeks to develop in young people what it calls ‘enterprise skills’ to making young people Ready for Life and Work!
These are the elements of the ‘choices’ that young people are increasingly told that they must make, that they are told will shape their future life chances, life courses, life choices.
Of course, this demand to be enterprising – this ‘moral obligation’ to make your own work, or suffer the consequences for education and work, for becoming an autonomous adult, for your health and well-being – is something that, possibly, only a limited number of young people are capable of fulfilling.
And it is those young people who, at a particular time in their lives, are less capable of being this ‘kind of person’ (‘enterprising’) that social enterprises are given responsibility for – in managing their ‘transitions’; in promoting their health and well-being; in ‘dealing with’ a variety of issues (employment, housing, criminal justice, substance use) that often identify these young people as ‘marginalised’.
In coming blogposts we will also introduce a number of related ideas, such as the self as enterprise, and the guerilla self, to further develop our interest in the ways in which young people and social enterprises are increasingly made responsible for these matters.
SAYER, A. 2000. Moral economy and political economy. Studies in Political Economy. Spring. pp. 79-103.
In our last post we discussed the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy (SES) and its focus on social finance options, specialist intermediaries and social procurement. In this second post we take a look at how international social enterprise strategies have inspired Victoria’s SES and what the strategies ‘next steps’ involve.
But before we delve into these issues it might be useful to remind you what the Victorian SES is all about. The strategy frames social enterprises (SEs) as a way of promoting innovation, entrepreneurialism and productivity:
‘The growth of the social enterprise sector improves productivity through innovation, by adapting old business models to meet the needs of Victoria’s changing economy. Social enterprise helps maximise the productive use of our human capital through increased workforce participation’ (SES, 2017: 2).
Between 2011 and 2016 the Federal Government allocated $20 million in Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF). Recently, this initiative was evaluated and it was recommended that social finance options (grant finance, patient capital and early-stage risk capital) were provided to SEs along with business capability development for social enterprises. The evaluation also recommended supporting ‘specialist intermediaries’ and ‘social procurement’. While this kind of support has a role to play in developing Australia’s social enterprise sector, in our last post we discussed how supporting intermediaries rather than SEs runs the risk of undercutting funding to SEs.
In the SES there was also a recommendation that the impact of social enterprises be measured. We questioned how the impact of SEs would be measured, because impact in the social context is not always quantifiable or easy to measure. Funding and impact were listed as key elements of growing the social enterprise ecosystem in Victoria (SES, 2017: 9).
Now lets turn our attention to the international policies and strategies influencing Victoria’s SES.
Drawing inspiration from international social enterprise strategy
Victoria’s Social Enterprise Strategy takes direction from Canada, the UK and the Scottish Government’s recently released (2016) social enterprise strategy. The Victorian SES states that:
‘The Scottish Government has been a leader for many years in establishing a supportive environment and eco-system for social enterprises. They have made small, targeted investments for huge dividends and are currently in the consultation phase of developing a new 10-year social enterprise strategy for Scotland to build on their successes. With a comparable population Scotland’s social enterprise sector employs over 112,000 people, compared to Victoria’s estimated 75,000’ (SES, 2017: 11).
The Victorian strategy presents Scotland as a leader in creating the right conditions for social enterprises to emerge and thrive through small targeted investments. They draw comparisons between the populations of Scotland and Australia as well as how many people the social enterprise sectors employ. For instance, in terms of gender balance in the social enterprise workforce Scotland is said to lead the way. It is interesting that compared with the corporate sector, social enterprise sectors in Scotland and in Victoria show a more equitable pay scale and involvement of both men and women in different leadership roles.
’60 per cent of chief executive roles in Scottish social enterprises are occupied by women compared to just 17 per cent of women in chief executive roles in Australian companies’ (SES, 2017: 11).
Scotland’s targeted investments have been paired with a 10-year investment plan which includes:
The Social Entrepreneurs Fund – From Ideas to Action. £1 million – to provide capital and business support for new social enterprise ideas
Just Enterprise program – £3 million for business support and £4 million enterprise investment fund – both managed by consortia of Scottish intermediaries
2015 First census of Scotland’s social enterprises
Support for Social Enterprise Networks – there are now 20 across Scotland (SES, 2017: 11)
Scotland’s social enterprise policy can be found here. We’ll take a closer look at this in upcoming posts…
The Victorian Government also looks to Canada and the UK to support their investment in the business capabilities of social enterprises. However, it is a little concerning that this type of investment emphasises profit and gears funding towards organisations that work with social enterprises, and not primarily the social enterprises themselves.
In Canada, state jurisdictions look to foster the business capabilities of social enterprise through better access to training for proponents, business support and services, facilitation of access to government services, awareness building of the sector and improving access to finance to enable businesses to both start-up and grow.
Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy Key Action Areas
As we’ve said, the Victorian SES seems to be pushing for the development of social enterprise business practice and broader policy frameworks with economic profit and growth in mind. Alongside this, the Government is keen to formalise partnerships between the sector and the State.
In order to achieve these goals the strategy outlines three key action areas:
Key area 1: ‘Increasing impact and innovation’
This involves: supporting innovation, promoting and connecting social enterprises and raising awareness, and growing the social enterprise eco-system. The idea here is to make government programs more readily available and relevant to social enterprises. This approach is to be supported by a research program aimed at understanding how social impact is valued. The SES states that:
‘This will include an indepth study and mapping of Victorian social enterprises to better understand their demographics and impact, including representation of women in the workplace and in management roles, and exploration of appropriate economic modelling’ (SES, 2017: 15).
A study of how social impact can be valued could be useful, especially one which considers the meaning of social impact and how ‘value’ is attached to things, events, people and programs would be best. This would be a critical engagement with social impact. It is unclear at this stage precisely what form the program of research will take. The strategy indicates that it will be formative and look to influence future policy and economic models which social enterprises may then be encouraged to adopt.
Key area 2: ‘Building business capacity and skills’
This key area focuses on encouraging self-sufficiency, strengthening intermediary services, building the skills and capacities of social enterprises, and enhancing the enabling role of the government. The SES states that:
‘The government will facilitate the creation of a skills development program for social enterprise SME founders and managers – supporting the viability, sustainability and growth of the SME’ (SES, 2017: 16).
The concern here for us, is that many social enterprises are over-workshopped and over-trained and need actual funding rather than these types of programs. Again, funding goes to the intermediaries, as the strategy says:
‘The government will provide pilot funding to test new initiatives supporting the development of the intermediary sector to provide specialist business support, advice, mentoring and signposting to social enterprise networks, investors and buyers’ (SES, 2017: 16).
Key area 3: ‘Improving market access’
This means that attempts will be made by the State to decrease the financing barriers social enterprises in Victoria face by boosting investment opportunities and creating opportunities for competitive social enterprises to deliver goods and services. The word competitive indicates that SEs will be encouraged to compete with fellow SE organisations. This may have its benefits, however it may also go against the grain of basic social enterprise ideas and philosophy to work with and not against others orgs in creating social value and impact.
This third key area involves a number of steps, like developing a Social Procurement Framework:
‘The government will develop a whole of government social procurement framework to leverage public investment in supporting social outcomes. The project aims to provide whole of government purchasing guidance to departments and agencies regarding opening more accessible tender and procurement opportunities to social enterprise SMEs. It will also work on the creation of a broader framework for considering the economic and social value from working with social enterprises’ (SES, 2017: 16).
And other services and structures will be developed to help identify SEs, such as a ‘recognition scheme’ and an ‘online matching service’:
‘Social Enterprise Recognition: The government will support the development of a recognition scheme to help identify social enterprises and build the confidence of buyers, creating a directory-like information source identifying Victorian social enterprises’.
‘Marketplace Partnering – On-line Matching Platform and On-ground Events Calendar. The government will facilitate the development of an on-line partnering platform to link government and corporate buyers with social enterprise and support a calendar of metropolitan and regional market place events to link buyers with social enterprise’ (SES, 2017: 17).
While these will be useful in providing SEs with potential financial partners, backers or donations this does risk commercialising the sector, especially if SEs are increasingly pushed to compete, to turn a profit and develop business models hatched in the corporate world.
It may also be the case, as in any market, that some social enterprises will benefit from being supported and included in a ‘network’, while others who do not meet the requirements may be excluded. Some social enterprise missions will be valued over others. Different forms of social value may not be recognised through the research evaluation program, particularly if value is tied intrinsically to profit.
Concerns and Questions
The Victorian Strategy states that social enterprises support workforce participation of marginalised groups and improve social cohesion. In many ways social enterprises do address these issues, however the strategy indicates a shift towards the formalisation of the responsibility for these issues resting with SEs. The concern here is that:
such a strategic move displaces Victorian State government responsibility to address these issues onto the community and the individuals involved in running social enterprises. The strategy mobilises a neo-liberal political approach to significant social and economic problems by responsibilising individuals and the community.
While the State looks to take on a measure of responsibility itself, the way in which is does so in concerning: it indicates a shift toward profit-driven welfare, which can actually entrench poverty and exacerbate inequalities between those who manage and run social enterprises and those who are supposed to benefit.
Government support for the sector may have its benefits and its downfalls. Particular ways of doing social enterprise will be encouraged, this includes being a competitive social enterprise. The risk is that increased competition in the social enterprise sector, like any other business sector, may affect performance and quality, and may impact on the experience of participants involved in the programs that social enterprises support.
How can social enterprises be best supported to fulfill their social mission?
Is the value and social good of social enterprise something that should be tied to economic profit? If so, then how?
This post is part one of a two part post about the recently released Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy, 2017.
Social enterprise is perceived as an innovative response to funding challenges that non-profit organisations increasingly face as they attempt to solicit private donations, and government and foundation grants. The concept is used to emphasise the innovative dimensions of projects and the risks that they are taking. A wide variety of organisations are engaged in social enterprise activities: ‘from for-profit businesses engaged in socially beneficial activities (corporate philanthropy) to non-profit organisations engaged in mission-supporting commercial activity’ (Defourny and Nyssens, 2006: 4).
Social enterprises ‘main purpose is not the maximisaton of profit but the attainment of certain economic and social goals’ (Muñoz and Tinsley, 2008: 44).
In Australia in recent years, social enterprises have been positioned in many goverrnement, community and business discussions as significant sites for youth engagement, training, and social inclusion. In 2017 the Labour State Government of Victoria released their Social Enterprise Strategy. The policy, in part, states that rates of employment and community engagement among marginalised groups of young people in Australia will be a key indicator used to evaluate social enterprise benefit/outcomes.
The Victorian Government Social Enterprise Strategy (SES) is framed by a concern for the employment opportunities provided to young people entering the workforce. The Minister for Industry and Employment Wade Noonan notes that ‘jobseekers’ are ‘at risk of being left behind’ with young people facing declining opportunities for meaningful participation in the workforce. Noonan suggests that the that the Victorian social enterprise sector has a substantial role to play as government alone can not solve:
Our most pressing social challenges – including unemployment, homelessness and disadvantage …
Many of our brightest and most innovative people are working tirelessly every day to find new ways to solve these problems. Through the extraordinary efforts of Victoria’s thriving social enterprise sector, we are drawing maximum dividend from our economy and applying business skills to a social mission (SES, 2017: 1).
The new Strategy understands social enterprise aims and goals as mostly financial:
While social entrepreneurs often require financial support or assistance to get their business off the ground, the goal of social enterprises is to become commercially self-sustaining. Sustainable operations are vital to the social enterprise model and international experience demonstrates the ongoing dividend, which is gained from well-targeted policy to assist sustainability (SES, 2017: 2).
The State Government supports social enterprise activity by: supporting social enterprise intermediaries, through social procurement initiatives, and through investment in social enterprises.
Social enterprise intermediaries
The Victorian Government states that social enterprise intermediaries provide support and guidance to social enterprises in identifying and adopting:
workable business models and legal structures, accessing appropriately experienced mentors, and successfully demonstrating economic and social impact (SES, 2017: 7).
The majority of Australian social enterprise intermediaries are located in Victoria, and include: Social Ventures Australia (SVA) (which supports SecondBite, Ganbina and STREAT); the Difference Incubator; the Social Enterprise Academy (SEA); and the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE).
Social Traders: Established in 2008, jointly funded by the Dara Foundation and the Victorian State Government, Social Traders has established itself as the leading organisation supporting social enterprise in Australia, providing a diverse range of services to develop and grow the sector.
LaunchVic: A Victorian Government initiative, LaunchVic supports Victoria’s globally recognised, thriving start-up culture, and supports entrepreneurs to develop and grow businesses, including social enterprises.
Problems arise as social intermediaries are now the recipients of more funding than social enterprises themselves and are over-represented in the sector. Most intermediaries don’t provide pro bono support here – but charge social enterprises for this kind of consultancy. As a result they receive funding at both ends, from government and from social enterprises.
The Victorian Government social procurement initiative aims to leverage the purchasing power of the state government. It claims that the initiative
adds value by intentionally generating a social outcome when goods or services are purchased, and ensures that wider government goals can be aligned with procurement’ (SES, 2017: 7).
The social procurement approach has been used by the Victorian Government’s Level Crossing Removal Authority to create New Employment and Exchange Training Centre (NEXT). The Strategy cklaims that NEXT operates as:
a hub for a range of social procurement services, including career and transition advice services. The project is estimated to create 2000 new jobs, with at least 200 being apprentices or graduate engineers. The NEXT centre will provide opportunities to re-skill people from transitioning industries, such as automotive workers, and students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, including indigenous Victorians and migrants (SES, 2017: 7).
Major Victorian government infrastructure delivery agencies, such as the Level Crossing Removal Authority and the Western Distributor Project require a Social Procurement Plan from project delivery partners.
Social Impact Investment for Sustainability
Launched in 2016, this Sustainability Victoria initiative provides a combination of grants and low interest loans to investment-ready social enterprises working in the environment space. Investments are designed to create new jobs and training opportunities, respond to climate change, avoid and recover waste and improve resource efficiency in Victorian communities (SES, 2017: 6).
Increasingly government funding is shifting toward this kind of investment, or debt finance, rather than actual funding, which can put further financial stress on nonprofits. This type of investment is paired here with a Sustainability focus which may exclude a range of social enterprises from applying for funding.
The limitations of the Social Enterprise Strategy
In terms of the track record that we bring to this project (see for example, Working in Jamie’s Kitchen: Salvation, Passion and Young Workers), and the significant research undertaken on/with social enterprises (see for example, Art as Enterprise: Social and Economic Engagement in Contemporary Art), we want to suggest that the framing of social enterprise in this Strategy should raise a number of concerns. In the first instance, the Strategy takes a profit-focused approach to social enterprise and does not fully account for hybrid models of social enterprise. This approach runs counter to the reality of the social enterprise sector worldwide, as only 30% of all social enterprises run at a profit. This has the effect of diminishing the value of non-profit yielding social enterprises and increasing the pressure on all social enterprises to turn a profit. The downstream effects of this pressure will be felt by the very participants social enterprises aim to support. Ironically, the strategy begins with a concern for the employment prospects of young people, but in reality may undermine the chances of young people, the quality of social enterprise programs and the functionality of the social enterprise sector. There are further negative implications for those social enterprises working with greater levels of marginalisation and disadvantage who bring together funding as well as self-generated revenues.
Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, the strategy places significant emphasis on supporting intermediaries and business development training (often run through intermediaries) with almost no government funding for social enterprises themselves. The small amount of funding being provided seems to be geared toward debt finance or ‘investment’ rather than actual funding. This continues a pattern of policy-making and funding decisions in the sector that has led to an explosion of intermediaries while social enterprises themselves struggle.
We will take up these and other issues in subsequent posts.