School for Social Entrepreneurs is a feature in the Perth startup community, teaching socially-minded people how to run socially-oriented businesses. Their 2015 incubator intake is open and taking recruits, so we put our hands up and asked some questions.
We wanted to chat to Katie Stubley, the irrepressible local representative for SSE, and a more-or-less permanent feature around the Spacecubed kitchen table, but had to talk to the SSE’s media guy over east instead. Joshua Stockwell got to deal with our curiosity…
//SN: How do you define “social enterprise? How does someone know if their startup is a social enterprise or not?
At SSE Australia we believe that Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs go hand in hand so allow us to define both.
Social Enterprise – A social enterprise is an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits for external shareholders. Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form of a co-operative, a mutual organisation, a disregarded entity, a social business, or a charity organisation.
Social Entrepreneur – A social entrepreneur is someone who recognises a social or environmental problem and uses entrepreneurial skills to organise, create, and manage a venture to create a social change. Social entrepreneurs are individuals tackling major social issues by offering new ideas for wide-scale change, often through the provision of a new product or service. This can sometimes take the form of a new for-profit business venture or not-for-profit organisation. Social entrepreneurs will not leave societal needs to the government or business sectors to solve, and instead find what is not working and solve the problem by innovating and using enterprise to spread the solution to mass populations.
Someone would know if they are an social enterprise if their start up is about making a positive social impact on a community, rather than just making money. That’s not to be confused with corporate social responsibility in larger organisations who have a responsibility to generate revenue in line with their shareholder responsibility, rather there is a fundamental direction to have a positive social impact – and that outweighs the dollar signs.
//SN: The website offers a list of features, but what benefits can applicants expect to get from the course?
When a student completes an SSE course the can expect to walk out of the graduation ceremony with a heightened business acumen that can be applied to their social venture. This is combined with a strong network of mentors, experts, and peers that foster their growth. Our students will understand how to grow their enterprise for larger social impact and can take the knowledge they have now and apply it throughout the lifetime of their venture.
//SN: $9K? really? How do you justify a fee like that for a bootstrapping social startup?
As a not for profit organisation we aim to keep our programs as economical as possible but as also as enriching. The truth is that we bring in the best of the best to facilitate, mentor, and lead our students and that’s why there is a cost involved. However, noting that we understand that social enterprises don’t always have the funds readily available we work with partners in the region who offer bursaries for our programs to students which dramatically reduces the cost of the course. We’re fortunate enough to have some amazing partners on board this year who have the capacity to dramatically reduce the fee for the students.
//SN: Is the fee per person or per team? Are teams welcome at SSE?
The fee is per person and teams are always welcome at SSE.
//SN: What do you expect to be the outcome of the incubator running in Perth? What would you like to be the outcome?
We would like to see the social enterprise sector in Perth flourish even further as a result of our program. Our mission is to inspire and equip change makers to establish, scale and sustain social ventures that foster social and economic participation and create a lasting impact within disadvantaged communities. No matter what city you visit there are disadvantaged pockets that are being underserved and often it falls to the social enterprise sector to pick up the slack and foster social inclusion.
//SN: What are the opportunities for social entrepreneurs in Perth? Are there any funding opportunities?
When we talk about opportunities for social entrepreneurs we know that there is an opportunity make a lasting impact in indigenous health, education, youth, and the disability sector to name a few social issues. To assist entrepreneurs make a positive impact there are, like all states, both financial and non-financial support. The Western Australian network is one of the strongest in the region with a sense of community culture unseen in other parts of Australia. Through organisations such as Spacecubed, SiiWA, The Funding Network, Social Ventures Australia, Centre for Social Impact, Western Australain Council of Social Services, and of course SSE we hope that our collective impact provides opportunities for the budding social entrepreneur.
From a funding perspective we look to both corporate and non-corporate grants from organisations such as Lotterywest and The State Government of Western Australian grants.
//SN: What is the national SSE doing? Is Perth an integral part of it, or are we out on a limb as usual?
Nationally we’re embarking on a new phase for SSE Australia where we aim to transform the sector, lift the bar, and positively impact change makers so they can go on to have an even larger impact. At SSE, when we say National Impact we mean that – we don’t just look at Sydney and focus our energies there. Not only is Perth an integral part of our direction, but in fact it really is National. Consumers and Communities see through organisations that say they are national but focus on Sydney and Melbourne – there is demand in other cities so we intend to meet that demand. We have teams in Perth, Alice Springs, Melbourne, and Sydney; and we’re running programs in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide as well as in regional areas such as Mildura, Wollongong, Coffs Harbour, Cairns, Ballarat. In fact there are another 12 regional programs coming to Australia in the next few years and several of those will be based in Western Australia – so keep an eye out.
Local Government Support
This year’s SSE program is being sponsored by Fremantle City, and the City of Canning amongst others, and we found out why this is such a great program for them. Melanie Bainbridge of the City of Fremantle said:
The City of Fremantle has experienced first-hand the many benefits of the various social enterprise training opportunities around WA. This past year, four emerging social enterprises from Fremantle went through the School for Social Enterprise’s Accelerator Program, which provided them with skills, tools and contacts to take their organisation to the next level. As a result we’re providing sponsorship for two places in the upcoming Incubator Program for 2015, to see if we can foster more local social enterprise.
We want to keep Freo a special place, a place where people value their community, work together for social and environmental good and support each other – and we see social enterprise as a huge influencer of good work in our community. Some of the most proactive and positive businesses in our community are in fact, social enterprises. They provide skills and opportunities for people of all abilities and cultural backgrounds, they create sustainable economy and promote fair trade and they focus on resource responsible products and services.
This is Freo’s point of difference, and in many instances it’s our social enterprises creating and promoting that. So from our perspective supporting social enterprise just makes good sense – economically, socially and environmentally.
Jayne Bryant of the City of Canning says they’re supporting the program because:
This past year the City of Canning has been supporting the growth of sustainability related entrepreneurs through their “How to Start Your Own Green Business” workshops and is very keen to continue supporting the growth of social entrepreneurship in the City. Decreased funding availability through budget cuts is making many non-for profit entities have to seek new models, and the City is interested in supporting and learning more about how to enable the many great organisations and individuals working in the Canning region to continue doing it into the future. If you live, work or have a social enterprise that will benefit the Canning Community we’d love to help you make that happen!
The Federal government is chiming in to support the recently launched national SSE Partnering for Scale & Impact (PSI) program, and is open to Australian social enterprises from all over the country.
Head over to the SSE’s incubator program page to find out more if you’re interested, or hang around the kitchen table at Spacecubed and talk to Katie.