Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy: The What, Who, How, and Why
Enthusiastically embraced by many in the sector, the Victorian Government’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions released the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy (2021-2025) last week. This follows the state’s first social enterprise strategy—also an Australian first—that was launched in 2017 and led to the establishment of the Social Enterprise Network Victoria, or SENVIC. Here are a few of the key takeaways.
A Recap on the State’s Social Sector
Australia-wide, Victoria is home to the highest number of social enterprises—around 3,500 organisations that employ roughly 60,000 people and generate $5.2 billion in annual revenue. As the nationwide leader in efforts to support social enterprises, the Victorian government has recognized the real and potential impact of social enterprises, and has bolstered the sector through actions like the Social Procurement Framework, which was launched in 2018.
Along with supporting access to development and training opportunities, affordable finance, and social impact measurement tools, establishing procurement opportunities was highlighted as one of the top opportunities for growth in a government-commissioned study in 2017. This awareness has contributed to a few key achievements reported by the sector in recent years. These include launching and elevating SENVIC and the Framework, as well as offering the Social Traders certification for social enterprises and $1.62 million in grants offered in the Social Enterprise Capability Voucher Stream.
Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy: Four Key Themes
Building on these achievements, the 2021-2025 Strategy highlights four key themes in order to create greater opportunity, inclusion and impact. Building on the first Strategy’s strong foundation, future efforts will attempt to grow, connect and enhance social enterprises by focusing on the following:
- Theme 1: Building business skills and capability and capturing impact
- Theme 2: Enhancing recognition and access to innovative financing to scale impact
- Theme 3: Fostering a connected and innovative social enterprise ecosystem across Victoria
- Theme 4: Opening doors for social enterprises across government
Ultimately, by building a coordinated ecosystem across Victoria, the Strategy will create new opportunities for social enterprises to sell goods and services, and will assist with the measurement and reporting tools to improve their impact. Further, government will take a better approach to working with the sector—providing services, financing, collaboration opportunities, and options for social entrepreneurship to be fostered across the education system.
Future Outlook for the Sector
Going forward, the state government will play a significant role in fostering inclusive employment opportunities while delivering social and economic value to the Victorian community. With 14 action points contained within those four key themes, government will contribute to programs, research, models, networks, and certification schemes that are designed to support the sector. In addition, they will partner with social finance providers to explore innovative funding models and improve the sector’s access to appropriate funding.
Across government itself, the future direction of the Strategy will continue to leverage opportunities through the Social Procurement Framework, ensure that social enterprises have access to Jobs Victoria’s programs and services, and explore opportunities for integrating social entrepreneurship across the education system. Working with other states, the Victorian Government will also influence national action and collaboration to support social enterprises.
A Renewed Commitment to the Sector
In addition to social, environmental, and cultural benefits, Victoria is recognising the economic benefits that come from the sector. The 2021-2025 Strategy demonstrates a renewed commitment to the sector. In a message from Jane Garrett MLC, the Parliamentary Secretary for Jobs, she said, “we know that to support a thriving social enterprise sector that can create real impact and is well placed to respond to persistent and emerging challenges, government must play its part as an enabler.”
With government continuing to champion the state’s social enterprises, it appears the sector has nowhere to go but up.
Even if you’re not in Victoria, you still have the opportunity to join a connected and supportive social sector ecosystem! With a Social Change Central membership, changemakers, entrepreneurs, and anyone who sees business as a vehicle for creating positive change can access opportunities relevant to furthering any vision.