Australia’s fragmented social enterprise ecosystem lags at least 10 years behind the UK leaving our social entrepreneurs pushing uphill. Finding the support and resources needed to start and grow a successful social enterprise is a major challenge.
That is – until now. Social Change Central, Australia’s first dedicated online social enterprise opportunities portal, has launched.
Social Change Central is the brainchild of social entrepreneur and Myer Foundation Fellow, Jay Boolkin, and corporate lawyer turned social entrepreneur, Anne Lennon. This new business is a 2016 ANZ Nexus Innovator Award finalist and has already listed over $320 million in funding opportunities available to social entrepreneurs. Social Change Central’s mission is to connect Australia’s social entrepreneurs with the critical support they need to convert their passion and ideas for social change into real social impact.
What is the state of social enterprises in Australia?
There are now more than 20,000 social enterprises in Australia employing more than 300,000 and contributing to 2-3% of GDP, according to a recent report from the Centre for Social Impact. From STREAT, a cafe chain that trains at-risk youth, to Hireup, an app that matches people with disabilities to local support workers, social enterprises operate in every industry of the economy, harnessing business principles to find innovative solutions to our most entrenched social problems.
However, there has not been the level of strategic support for social enterprise seen in the UK or some other parts of Europe. The Australian social enterprise ecosystem remains underdeveloped and disorganised. “I’ve experienced and seen firsthand how many of our most promising social entrepreneurs struggle to find the resources they need to get potentially life or world changing ideas off the ground. At Social Change Central we want to fix that”, says Boolkin.
What exactly will Social Change Central do?
As Australia’s first dedicated online portal for social enterprises, Social Change Central will foster collaboration and stronger, sustainable social enterprises by bringing together the growing number of intermediaries operating in the sector and helping changemakers connect with and secure the support they need.
From funding to awards, competitions, exposure, programs and more, Social Change Central will bring together the most up-to-date social enterprise opportunities – both nationally and internationally.
“The portal will also play an important advocacy role educating and raising awareness of social enterprises and their work and driving more government, corporate and philanthropic players to get behind social enterprise as a catalyst for widespread social and environmental impact”, adds Lennon.
CEO of School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia, Michelle Goldman, welcomes the launch of the new portal, “Social enterprises offer a new approach to tackle some of our most entrenched social issues. Social Change Central will provide an invaluable resource for connecting social enterprises with the support they need, significantly increasing the chance of them successfully achieving their mission, and thereby adding value to the social fabric of our communities.”
Who are the people behind this?
Jay Boolkin is the founder of Promise or Pay, which has been recognised by a number of competitions, programs and media who have endorsed it as a way of reinvigorating charitable giving and engaging people who were not previously inclined to donate, including awards from Deloitte, General Assembly and Optus.
In 2015, Jay was selected as one of Australia’s top 50 young social entrepreneurs by the Foundation for Young Australians, received an Innovation Fellowship from the Myer Foundation and was selected as the Young Entrepreneur Finalist in the Sydney SHINE Awards.
Anne Lennon is a corporate lawyer who spent eight years working in a leading international law firm before moving full time into the social enterprise sector. She is also a co-founder of award-winning social enterprise, SheWorks, a Fitted for Work initiative, which aims to increase the workforce participation of women experiencing disadvantage by providing recruitment and post-placement services to organisations seeking to attract more female employees.
In 2014, Anne was recognised as an emerging leader for social change by the Australian Centre for Social Impact. She is also a recipient of the Quinn Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.