A landmark strategy to boost its thriving social enterprise sector has been launched by the regional government of Victoria, Australia.

Announced by Minister for Industry and Employment, Wade Noonan and featuring an injection of AU$5m, the strategy is aimed at increasing the impact of social enterprises in the state, encouraging innovation in the sector, building capacity and skills and improving market access for social enterprise SMEs.

Victoria is the centre of social enterprise in Australia with over a quarter of the country’s 20,000 social enterprises. The state is recognising the key role played by social enterprise in improving workforce participation and social cohesion, and the value that can be gained from the innovative application of business skills to social situations.

The strategy features three action areas:

Action Area 1: Increasing Impact and Innovation

With a view to ‘opening doors’ for social enterprises, the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy will extend the scope of state information and programmes to support engagement with the sector. This initiative will include the training of government staff in how social enterprises operate.

A project to develop networks will include activities, meetings and events to help increase the recognition of, and confidence in, social enterprises among government departments and agencies as well as among investors and buyers.

A programme of research on the potential for social enterprise will be undertaken to gather data for future policy. This will involve the mapping of existing social enterprises in the state and an exploration of appropriate economic modelling

Action Area 2:  Building Business Capacity and Skills

Training will be facilitated to improve the business skills of social enterprise founders and managers, to promote diversity and to scale the sector. Assistance will be provided to intermediary organisations (such as Social Traders) in recognition of the valuable business support, advice and mentoring they bring to social enterprise networks, investors and buyers.

Action Area Area 3: Improving Market Access

Through its ‘whole-of-government’ social procurement framework, the government will provide guidance on opening tender and procurement opportunities to social enterprises. For example, the Level Crossing Removal Authority which oversees a $6bn project for the removal of 50 level crossings throughout Melbourne by 2022 requires that all tenders ‘demonstrate a positive procurement impact’.

Nadrasca, featured in the following video, is one of the social enterprises that have successfully tendered for work with Melbourne’s Level Crossing Removal Authority.

Victoria’s social enterprise strategy will also facilitate the development of an online partnering platform for matching social enterprise SMEs with government and commercial buyers.

A Social Investment

In partnering with the social enterprise sector, Victoria’s regional government is recognising that even in boom times, unemployment and homelessness continue to exist and that social enterprises provide a valuable support for disadvantaged people.

Success will therefore be measured not only on net increase in jobs in the sector and overall sustainability rates but also on labour market participation amongst disadvantaged groups.