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Social Enterprise

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are entities and organisations that are led by an economic, social, cultural or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit, that trade to fulfil their mission, derive a substantial portion of their income from trade, and reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus if any, in the fulfilment of their mission.

Social enterprise is about commercially viable businesses generating income and creating jobs to respond to entrenched social or environmental issues. They think, act and operate like a business whilst driving impact.

Today many social enterprises are intentionally designed to respond to the wicked problems and inequities that are a consequence of ‘business as usual’.

Image credited to CityMag 2021

This visualisation adds to and simplifies elements of a model published in 2015 by J Kingston Venturesome, CAF Venturesome and European Venture Philanthropy Association 2015.

Social enterprise can be any type of legal structure - there is no legal structure just for social enterprise and social enterprises will choose the structure that will best enable their business model and social purpose.

Social enterprise is a business model which overlays a commercial business model to drive sustainability with an impact model to drive impact towards their chosen purpose. 

Size and economic contribution of social enterprise

There are over 12,000 social enterprises in Australia, operating across all sectors and industries. 851 of these are in South Australia.

They contribute $21.3 billion to the Australian economy each year and account for 1% of GDP. In South Australia their economic impact is of $1.5 billion.

They employ over 200,000 people; that's 1.6% of the Australian workforce. This is about the same number of people as employed in arts and recreation services or the mining industry. In South Australia they provide 14,590 jobs.

Indigenous businesses are social enterprises

The 'Addressing Indigenous Economic Inclusion in the Social Enterprise Sector' report by First Australians Capital, commissioned by White Box Enterprises, looks at opportunities and learnings for global Indigenous businesses and the social enterprise sector in Australia. The South Australian Social Enterprise Council fully supports and aknowledge the following key insights from this report on the inclusion of Indigenous businesses in the term social enterprise: 

  • Indigenous businesses operate their businesses with their communities and lands at the heart of their business.
  • Indigenous people use business as not only a way to achieve economic self-determination, but as a way to improve outcomes for one's community and/or land.
  • Indigenous businesses have existed long before the social enterprise sector was created. However, limitations exist for First Nations businesses when they don't use the taxonomy determined by the Sector (in which Indigenous ways of being weren't meaningfully incorporated) or don't fit within the parameters of the Sector. The categorisation of social enterprises often doesn't make space for First Nations businesses. This results in limited access to funding or enterprise opportunities.

Social enterprise is a term that is not always accessible for Indigenous people, Indigenous enterprises do not always use terms like enterprise, entrepreneur, impact, and sustainability - but it is implicitly understood that an Indigenous business serves community and country.

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