This morning I attended the launch of the Brisbane Social Enterprise Hubs’ accelerator program. Social enterprises build economically sustainable businesses specifically aimed at providing employment, income and business experience to people from more disadvantaged backgrounds. The focus is on building social capital alongside the financial returns, rather than being driven by wealth creation and (maybe) using that to address social issues.
Cheryl Kernot worked in the area of social business and enterprise in the UK in recent years, and wrote a piece on it the Courier-Mail recently which explains it quite well. It is a growing movement internationally, with developing expertise and understandings.
As the chairperson of today’s launch noted, working with disadvantaged people to build viable businesses is far harder than charity work, but if it can be made to work the end results are far better for everyone. Brisbane was the first of these hubs in Australia, thanks in part to significant support and commitment from the Brisbane City Council, as well as a number of corporate partners.
The launch also provided a chance to hear briefly from and meet the people involved in the enterprises, as well as some of those who provide pro-bono mentoring support and business advice.
They have helped support the development of a number of local enterprises. There is Mu’ooz, a restaurant and catering service based at Moorooka, established by refugee women from Eritrea and surrounding African countries. A number of ventures are in areas like gardening and catering.
Food Connectis a business which has been growing for a couple of years – a community food distrubution network using produce direct from farmers local to the region.
A newer one is Blackstar Coffee. These guys are clearly into coffee in a big way, describing it as “a culinary art-form.” Consistent with the ethos of social enterprises, there is a strong emphasis on fair trade and organic produce.