FILLING THE GAPS
Healthcare and fresh food are things we all need – they are clearly not new, nor are the myriad of support services that provide access for those in need.
The essence of the social enterprise innovation in both of these examples, is identifying where there are gaps in the traditional models of provision – both the commercial market and welfare – and finding new market-led approaches to address and solve these old problems.
In his article ‘Time for a National Agenda for Social Innovation’, Social Ventures Australia CEO Rob Koczkar calls for greater focus on the issue at a national level, including a move towards innovative approaches to solving social challenges including unemployment, mental illness, homelessness and indigenous disadvantage.
As the intersection between traditional business and welfare, I believe social enterprise needs to be recognised as part of the solution to solving these challenges.
This intersection is well-depicted by social enterprise Thankyou who recently announced a new retail venture – Thankyou Baby – where profits of nappies and baby products will fund maternal health projects in developing countries.
The $A600,000 start-up capital required to launch Thankyou Baby has been sourced through a crowd-funding campaign. Just as with their original bottled water product, Thankyou are demonstrating innovation in their ability to generate capital via crowd funding as well as lead consumers to organise themselves around a product on the basis of understanding what their social impact will be.
By doing this, Thankyou is using successful, well-established retail categories to divert – what would normally be personal profit for shareholders – to address persistent problems in the developing world.
Through Social Traders national research, we know there are over 20,000 social enterprises in Australia operating in all industry sectors from tourism and transport to mining, hospitality and health services.
We estimate social enterprise contributes about 2 per cent to 3 per cent of Australia’s GDP and employs up to 300,000 Australians. These social enterprises are trading businesses which exist to address social problems.