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How to Build Your Social Enterprise Network and Why It’s Important

Does attending a networking event make you excited? Or does it leave you nervous and wanting to find the door from the moment you arrive? Wherever you are on the spectrum of ‘networking emotions’, what is undeniable is that networking IS important for the development of any business. In Australia’s fast growing social enterprise sector where collaboration is key, networking is more than important. It’s vital.

Approaching networking with the question, “Do I really want to get to know this person?” allows you to focus on what matters to you and to them. See if you can find a way in which both of you can ‘win’. This is important because not only can it provide you with more job offers, inspiration, knowledge, friendships and opportunities to make a difference, you can also do the same for them.

Networking is about quality over quantity. And if you’re not sure, be open minded and just meet people anyway – you’ll soon figure it out.

How to Approach Networking

Consider that all of the relationships in your life (bar family) have come from some form of networking. Maybe you met them at school, or at work, or maybe they played in your local sporting team. In order to grow and sustain this relationship, you had to work at it over time, which means that the good news is, you’ve already been doing this your whole life!

By approaching professional networking with the intention to build meaningful, authentic and lasting relationships, it can help us narrow down who we really want to spend time with and how to give purpose to that encounter.

Where to Network

Speak to your Social Change Central and social entrepreneur mates. There are hundreds of social enterprise events taking place around the country annually. Ask friends to take you along to their work functions. Create your own event based on your interests and see who comes. Send that email to someone you admire and ask them to catch up. Go to a conference and mingle. The list goes on!

Don’t neglect online networking. LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool. Send that email to someone you admire and ask them to catch up.  Networking is about quality over quantity. And if you’re not sure, be open minded and just meet people anyway – you’ll soon figure it out.

Maintaining Your Network

Once you get started, building your network is actually the easy bit. The real work is in maintaining your network and investing in the relationships beyond the first encounter. This is why it’s good to be clear on who you want to spend time with and how you can add value to them.

To maintain relationships, you can find out what interests the person has and make a note to bring it up in your next conversation with them. Genuinely inquire about matters that are of importance to them. If you’re able to give them something that you already have, offer to do so. As you lay the foundation of your relationship brick by brick, you will see your relationship grows stronger.

A purposeful approach to maintaining your networks ensures that a first introduction doesn’t end up being a ‘once-off’ but develops into something mutually beneficial that will grow over time.

You Do You

Any networking experience can lead to a friendship or opportunity that shifts the trajectory of our lives. Think about how you can network in a way that is true to you and how you can bring out the best in someone else. It takes time but the rewards can be worth it and if you’re a social entrepreneur in the making… you never know where you will get your next idea or find the awesome co-founder you’ve been seeking.

Natalie Klenner breathes social impact. Through social enterprises eliminating youth homelessness to facilitating preventative mental health and emotional wellbeing workshops, Natalie believes in giving all young people opportunities to thrive. She’s also passionate about ideas that change the world. On a day off, she can be found in a kayak or doing a dance… somewhere.
Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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