Social entrepreneurship growth set to take off in Australia


Social entrepreneurship is one of the fasting growing sectors of the Australian economy according to new research published to mark World Entrepreneurship Day.  Opportunity International Australia has calculated that the number of social enterprises has increased by 37%[i] over the last 5 years and claims that Australia is now embracing what is often referred to as the ‘fourth sector’.

Across the rest of the world there has been explosive growth in the number of social entrepreneurs over the past decade— innovators who take a business-like approach to solving social problems.  According to Opportunity, whilst Australia has long lagged behind its foreign counterparts in nurturing social entrepreneurship, the tide appears to be turning.
Universities are embracing the discipline of social entrepreneurship, both in terms of the research they conduct and the options for studying this field.  For the one million university students in Australia there are now at least six universities in Australia offering social enterprise or entrepreneurship studies.  This compares to 250 courses offered in the US, where university students number more than 17 million, and 20 opportunities to study this discipline for the UK’s two million university students.
Stephen Robertson, Philanthropy Director of Opportunity International Australia commented: “The growth in social entrepreneurship as a field of study is in response to student demand.  For many years prominent universities in America, such as Yale, have offered courses in the field and we are seeing burgeoning interest in Australia.  For example the University of Sydney, Swinburne and Adelaide University all offer either modules of study or full courses for budding social entrepreneurs and the School for Social Entrepreneurs has also recently set up its Australian campus.”
Opportunity also credits the Government with helping to stimulate social businesses through initiatives such as The Social Enterprise Development and Investment Fund (SEDIF) which provides funding to social enterprise.  SEDIF is also playing a role in helping to engage the private sector. A total of 105 social enterprise projects have been funded to the total value of $73.6 million.
While more is being done to encourage new enterprises through the likes of SEDIF funding programs, Opportunity also claims that social entrepreneurialism is the new breed of philanthropy and is attracting Australia’s top entrepreneurial minds.
Stephen Robertson commented:  “We are seeing a trend for entrepreneurs who have built successful empires to apply their skills to social businesses. If you were to look across the BRW Rich List you would see many faces now successfully turning their hands to social enterprise or supporting entrepreneurs in some capacity.  Indeed many of our own donors are entrepreneurs who have chosen to support Opportunity because nurturing and helping entrepreneurs in developing countries is what we are all about.”
Opportunity claims that there are a number of synergies that companies look for when offering support to social entrepreneurs and social businesses:  a logical fit between their existing business and the new venture, chemistry between the parties, a natural fit with the brand, commercial viability, longevity and ability to leave their legacy, and opportunity for the entrepreneur to grow and develop their personal skills.
Stephen Robertson concluded: “Entrepreneurs are not prepared to throw money at any social business, rather they are extremely considered and the opportunity must tick all the boxes, both commercially and personally.”

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