Social enterprise: What is it? and why is it good for CQ?
JOBS seem to be the talk of town, but while others are talking, a small group of big thinkers has been working out how to bring jobs to Central Queensland.
CQUniversity representatives yesterday joined Queensland Social Enterprise Council, Social Traders and Welcoming Inter-cultural Neighbours (Organisations) for a one-day workshop on the future of jobs and small business in the region.
The key would be social enterprise, a business model which funnels profits into the immediate community through employment, sourcing locally or reducing food miles among other means.
Among those was Professor Lara Carton, Associate Vice Chancellor for the CQU Victorian Region and Director of the Office of Social Innovation, who said local employment plays a key part in social enterprise.
"Social enterprise is a particular type of business model that focuses on making profit and returning that profit to support people to be employed that would otherwise not be employed,” she said.
"It creates social and cultural capital. What we are doing today is talking about how we can grow the social enterprise sector in the region.
"The definition of a social enterprise is that you return around 50 per cent of profit back in to the community.”
According to Prof Carton, sourcing local and spending local is also an integral part of social enterprise.
"Local is important, but one of the challenges we face in Rockhampton is that often local is a challenge because the market isn't large enough,” she said.
"One of the issues we are trying to tease out today is how important is local verses how important is sustainable, and that will be different for every business.”
Social enterprise is believed to open doors for those who may otherwise can not access jobs.
"The disability sector is really important so too are people who have recently been released from prison or people who have a range of social challenges,” she said.
"There are also young people that are really struggling to get a foot in the door on that first job.
"It is getting harder and harder for young people to find meaningful work, and we often see that young people don't want to move into the traditional employment structure where you work for a boss and take home a regular pay.”
Prof Carton said social enterprise also opens doors for those with entrepreneurial flair.
"Social enterprise also allows people to create their our jobs and own opportunities, and not be reliant on traditional business structures to give them a job,” she said.
"(People) want to bring their own entrepreneurial skills, as well as their concerns about environmental issues, or social issues and see how they can bring their personal interest together with the creation of their own futures.”
The group identified local challenges for social enterprise, but they also found local benefit.
"For Rockhampton, a general awareness of social enterprise is needed,” Prof Carton said.
"We need more people to understand that buying from local social enterprise, you're buying local and creating job opportunities for people that would otherwise be unemployed.
"Some of the other challenges are what any other business would experience like; how do you get a business off the ground? How do you get access to new markets or find customers? Also, making sure not to duplicate existing businesses is important in smaller communities.”
She said social enterprise had the potential locally to be adopted by those looking to start a business and for those with businesses already established.
"We also look at turning existing businesses into becoming a social enterprise where it has the existing infrastructure,” she said.
Prof Carton said social enterprise on a large scale has the potential to reduce reliance on social service payments.