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Report highlights untapped potential of social enterprise in creating jobs

A new report released by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne in partnership with Westpac Foundation shows that employment-focused social enterprises are playing a critical role in improving the lives of disadvantaged Australians by offering a people-centred approach to employment support services.

The demand for work among vulnerable groups is growing and is disproportionate to the general population, with close to two million Australians wanting more work opportunities. Underemployment rates are high among women and younger Australians; and people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, refugees and people seeking asylum are also less likely to be employed than the wider population.

The evidence-based report, Social Enterprise: A people-centred approach to employment services, looks at how and why social enterprise is proving more effective than mainstream employment solutions in delivering greater employment outcomes for people with complex needs.

The report reveals there are four key characteristics to effective employment-focused social enterprise – they are people-centred, adaptive, integrative and collaborative.

Employment-focused social enterprise has the power to create long-term sustainable change.  These financially sustainable businesses are an effective alternative to mainstream employment services, delivering greater employment outcomes for people with complex needs. Meaningful employment improves people’s lives and livelihoods, directly reducing the costs of welfare, health and housing services.

The ripple effect of job creation improves workforce participation, reduces disadvantage, increases the national potential for innovation, and creates billions in improved productivity for Australia. 

More collaborative, long term support is needed to increase impact. There are over 20,000 social enterprises in Australia, with 35% of these focused primarily on job creation. To help these organisations scale and increase impact, a more collaborative cross-sector approach and further research is needed to inform policy support and develop more adequate investment options for the sector.

Centre for Social Impact National Research Director, Jo Barraket, said, “The research indicates the important role that employment-focused social enterprises are playing in creating a more inclusive economy, and their unique contributions to Australia’s employment services system, particularly in support of people who experience multiple barriers to participation.”

“We were pleased to work with Westpac Foundation on synthesising the available evidence and identifying where we need to develop further knowledge to support social enterprises to scale their impacts.” Barraket said.

For over a decade, Westpac Foundation has been working with social enterprises to help vulnerable Australians. Following the announcement of its 2030 strategy in late 2018, the Foundation commissioned the Centre for Social Impact to undertake research to identify additional insights that would help them achieve their 2030 goal to help create 10,000 new jobs.

Westpac Foundation CEO, Susan Bannigan, said, “In partnering with CSI Swinburne, this research has not only reaffirmed our belief that employment is a pathway out of disadvantage, it has helped us identify where the gaps are, and what is needed to help employment-focused social enterprises continue to create long-term sustainable change.“

“The ripple effect of a job is powerful. When people work, we leverage all of the talent available to our country. The individual has a sense of belonging and purpose, families and communities are stronger, and so is society.” Bannigan said.

The findings of the report will be shared at CSI Swinburne’s Social Enterprise Evidence Forum in Melbourne and can be accessed online on Westpac Foundation’s and CSI’s websites.

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