In July 2017, the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne was commissioned by the Victorian Government—Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources to undertake a census and mapping exercise of Victorian social enterprises as part of its Social Enterprise Strategy.
Mapping Victoria’s social enterprises for the first time will create a baseline of evidence from which to begin understanding the characteristics of social enterprises across the state. This understanding will go some way in creating a foundation for informing government policy, identifying opportunities for collaboration across the social economy, and facilitating connections in a growing and dynamic sector that can harness business for social good.
What’s in it for social enterprises?
If you ask Sam Marwood, founder and CEO of Cultivate Farms, he’ll tell you, he intends to use the map to “crush the competition.” “Just kidding,” he says with a laugh. Cultivate Farms is a social enterprise focused on helping young people stay in rural communities by finding ways to help them buy and retain farms. “In all honesty, I will take a look to see who else is out there. How many agriculture enterprises are there? I don’t think there are any, but if I do have aligned enterprises, it would be useful to know.”
A map of social enterprises is a tool that can benefit social enterprises in a variety of ways. We’ve heard that for organisations in regional Victoria, the map may provide a great way to identify local collaborators, partners, even suppliers. Bessi Graham, CEO of The Difference Incubator suggests that there is a real opportunity for social enterprises to explore the ‘B2B’ (business to business or social enterprise to social enterprise) market for social procurement. “Social enterprises are often talking about social procurement from government and large corporates, but there is a big opportunity for social enterprises to procure from each other, much like the B corporation movement has done successfully in the United States,” says Bessi.
The opportunities for social enterprises to connect via the map extend beyond a rural and regional focus.
Some Melbourne-based social entrepreneurs have noted that they would really love the opportunity to network with and learn from other enterprises within their trade or industry to exchange best practice or find ways to work together on procurement initiatives. Bec Scott, CEO of STREAT social enterprise, has recently started a ‘foodie’ group of social enterprises for this very reason. A map provides a public resource for other enterprises, who to date may be less well networked, to identify their tribe and find ways to exchange best practice and collaborate for mutual benefit.
Beyond making networking connections, a map of social enterprises offers the opportunity for social enterprises to boost their visibility with potential buyers. Whether consumers, businesses or governments are looking to buy from values aligned companies, putting social enterprises on the map, creates opportunities for buyers to connect with sellers.
Who else benefits?
Aside from the networking, marketing and development benefits for social enterprises, a map of Victorian social enterprises can provide a public good for young job seekers, communities, and government.
The map of Victorian social enterprises provides evidence of the diversity of businesses that are able to work toward social good and make money. This can serve as a well of inspiration for young people or anyone looking to find that intersection between their values and their work. Not only can a map provide examples of the types of businesses that are out there, but it can also provide a sort of business directory for young people who either want to harness the social enterprise business model or look for a values aligned place to work or volunteer.
Creating a baseline of evidence by mapping social enterprises and their economic and social impacts can also inform governments about the importance of partnering with and supporting a burgeoning segment of the social economy. Social enterprises and governments are aligned in their desire to improve social outcomes for communities. Understanding where and how governments can work with these enterprises can lead to better social outcomes and more efficient pathways to get there.
How to get involved
To find out more and for social enterprises interested in putting themselves on the map, click here. CSI-Swinburne is working in collaboration with a number of partnering organisations, like Social Traders, to collate social enterprise directories. If you have a directory of social enterprises that you would like to share with this project, you can us at firstname.lastname@example.org.