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The time is now for South Australian social enterprise

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Blend Creative is an Adelaide-based social enterprise graphic design studio that has been providing real work opportunities to designers living with disability since 1990.

The business currently supports 27 team members who identify as living with disability, following a period of consistent growth driven primarily by contracts with several large public sector clients.

These include the South Australian State Government Department of Premier and Cabinet, The Department of Human Services, as well as local Councils in Sydney and Adelaide, and both Flinders and Melbourne Universities, just to name a few.

Blend has also completed work for a range of private sector clients including Bank SA.

So why is this social enterprise important right now? It’s because Blend is a fantastic example of the power of social procurement – and that power is needed more than ever in South Australia right now.

We estimate that there are hundreds of social enterprises operating in South Australia, creating jobs and making a significant contribution to the state’s economy.

At the same time, South Australia has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, recording a spike in unemployment of 7.2% – the highest nationwide.

Given that social enterprise has a unique and proven capacity to create employment pathways for some of our most vulnerable people, and a range of other community benefits, the sector will have a crucial role to play in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why Social Traders has launched our full suite of services into South Australia, as we aim to maximise the potential for addressing disadvantage and unemployment through the state’s growing social enterprise sector.

We know that the appetite is there. Already we’ve seen growing demand from buyers to engage with social enterprises in South Australia over the past 12 months, in a sign the emerging marketplace is rapidly gaining momentum.

The University of Adelaide and Adelaide City Council came on board as Social Traders business and Government members. At the same time, Social Traders business and Government members including Transdev, McConnel Dowell, John Holland, CPB, Fulton Hogan, Lendlease and Laing O’Rourke have all sought information on social enterprises that can supply to them in SA. The South Australia State Government’s recent announcement of a $120 million infrastructure development pipeline represented a prime opportunity for social enterprise engagement.

The challenge now is to harness both the potential of the growing sector, and the appetite from buyers capitalise on social procurement opportunities.

Our team will focus on promoting the value of Social Traders Certification, as well as engaging with business and Government bodies looking to invest in social impact.

We need to help potential buyers see the double value they get for their social procurement spend – businesses buy goods or services they need, and they’re also buying priceless social impact at the same time.

The simplest way we can convey the message is that it’s not a donation, it isn’t goodwill and it’s not charity – these are legitimate and competitive commercial transactions.

We need both the private and Government buyers with real buying power, and other South Australian social enterprise, to look to what Blend has achieved and consider how they may make a difference.

Success will be best achieved via a collaborative, multi-agency approach.

Amy Orange, a staunch advocate for the emerging social enterprise sector in SA, has been engaged by Social Traders to develop this emerging marketplace opportunity across the state.

Amy and her team will work closely with the South Australian Social Enterprise Council (SASEC) and other key stakeholder groups to magnify each other’s work in supporting the social enterprise sector.

Around Australia we’ve seen first-hand the significant difference that private and public-sector buyers can make to reducing intractable disadvantage by incorporating social enterprise into their procurement practices.

We know it works – The Social Traders marketplace has helped social enterprises create more than 700 jobs through $105 million worth of trade with private sector and Government buyers across Australia, in the past 18 months

It’s also helped provide more than $2 million in donations to communities, more than $4 million in free and low-cost services and around 220,000 hours of training.

These numbers provide a compelling indication of the impact social procurement can have and the value of the Social Traders marketplace.

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