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Social Change Champion: April Crawford-Smith

April has a vision for building empowered, creative, self-sustaining communities and has been working in social justice and environmental campaigning for many years. She’s currently the Project Manager for The Valley Centre, an on-the-ground sustainable community building and youth empowerment organisation, focusing on working with Aboriginal communities across the country.

April is also Convenor of Pingala Community Renewables for Sydney, which has a vision to unlock the value of community finance in developing community owned and run solar farms.

April has extensive experience in campaigning, community facilitation and project management, with a passion for creative, community-driven solutions addressing climate change and resilience issues into the future. We had the privilege of sitting down with April and hearing about The Valley Centre!

What is your social enterprise elevator pitch?

The Valley Centre is a sustainable community-building organisation working with First Nations across Australia on self-sufficiency and resilience projects. Their focus is on securing energy supply, healthy locally grown food, young people, cultural revival, healing and rebuilding housing. We’re also in the process of building a kids EcoWonderland just outside Sydney, where young people can come and vision the future, learn sustainable tech and be taught by the Elders of this incredible continent. We believe a sustainable, thriving, creative future is possible for all Australia and we’re making it happen one community at a time.

What are your biggest personal and/or professional challenges as a social entrepreneur in Australia?

Tackling the sometimes insurmountable social, environmental, political, historic issues when working with First Nations communities is one of the biggest challenges. And yet, their stories and their hope is what keeps us moving and inspired. Funding for projects is also a big challenge. No one is doing this in Australia, so getting proof that it can work, without funding, is a bit of a chicken and egg situation! There is no shortage of work and no shortage of will from the communities, it’s the quadruple barrier to having to spread the work, raise funds, do project development and work on the ground in the community that makes these sorts of projects multi-faceted but so exciting to be a part of.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received so far since starting your own social enterprise?

Make everything investable. Don’t rely on external donations or philanthropy and even less on government grants. How can you structure the project so it can be invested in?

If you were to start over, is there anything you would do differently?

I’d drive ahead more quickly, doing things rather than researching or feasibility work. The proof is in the doing, not in the thinking.

Where do you see the future of social enterprise in Australia?

It’s at a crucial juncture right now I believe, it has the ability to be the main force of societal change, but it also needs to tackle the bigger forces of government and corporate interests!

What appeals to you most about Social Change Central?

A hub to share ideas and boost awareness of what’s really going on in the humanitarian and social transformation world. Also a central point of resources and support, the idea that someone could help us navigate the world of funding and finance is hugely rewarding.

The Social Change Central changemaker community is growing at a fast rate. How can our members learn more about you and help support your organisation?

We are looking for it all! Funding for own organisation, funding for our projects, we need marketing and accounting support, also in-kind work from skilled people in the energy, governance, legal sectors!

And finally, what would you do if you found a lottery ticket that ended up winning $10 million?

We would put it straight into our current project, the Indigenous Solar Rolling Fund; enabling Aboriginal communities to install solar and batteries on their households, securing supply, creating jobs and furthering the independence for their community. The $10million used in the first communities will be able to be utilised again and again as communities pay back 0% loans for their assets. It’s an incredible project and we’re set to go with all our partners, ready to test and then roll it out across Australia!

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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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