Creating Community Capital: Opportunities For Social Enterprise To Create A Better Tomorrow
On August 26th, Impact Boom, QSEC & Social Traders hosted an impact-led breakfast forum, with David LePage providing strong insights on blended-value business and building a movement which creates strong value for our communities.
It was followed with a panel conversation and audience Q&A which largely focussed on how we might further develop the social enterprise ecosystem in Australia.
Joining David LePage was David Brookes, Belinda Morrissey, Emma-Kate Rose and Tom Allen, who reflected on recent activity around Australia and the effort which is seeing growing momentum around social entrepreneurship.
Impact Boom would like to thank our co-hosts, Social Traders and QSEC, as well as the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and Brisbane Marketing for sponsoring the event.
co-founder, Director and Managing Partner, Buy Social Canada
David LePage focuses on contributing to creating a social value market place, where trading generates community capital rather than merely economic capital. His work involves the development and advocacy for social enterprise and social procurement.
David LePage is co-founder, Director and Managing Partner of Buy Social Canada and is the Chair of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada and member of the Social Enterprise World Forum Board.
David is the designer and was the initial Executive Director of Community Impact Real Estate. CIRE is a non-profit social enterprise in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside using a portfolio of over 100,000 sq. ft. of commercial properties to create social and economic value for low income residents in an evolving inner-city community. David also holds a number of other roles which play a significant contribution in developing the globe’s social enterprise ecosystem.
Managing Director, Social Traders
Appointed Managing Director of Social Traders in 2009, David is an Executive Director on Social Traders’ Board and has responsibility for development and implementation of the organisation’s strategy, staff recruitment and engagement with key government, philanthropic, business and research partners. David has been closely involved in the development of social enterprise development initiatives in Australia, including the annual Social Enterprise Conference, the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy and social procurement advocacy across the public and private sectors. He is also a Director of the Social Enterprise World Forum. David brings extensive experience leading strategic business-community partnerships at Rio Tinto, Toyota and Amcor; as well as industry and government policy development and key stakeholder engagement experience.
CEO, English Family Foundation
Belinda is the CEO of the English Family Foundation, one of the few Australian foundations with a sole focus on driving transformational change through the growth and development of social entrepreneurs and social businesses. For the past 6 years Belinda has worked closely with social enterprises to develop and support their growth, and she has a particular focus on progressing the role of philanthropy in supporting the social enterprise sector in obtaining the “right capital at the right time”. She has spent the past decade in the philanthropic and for purpose sectors and prior to this Belinda had an extensive career in investment management spanning three continents. Belinda holds several not for profit board positions – she is on the Board of ActionAid Australia and on the Advisory Board of the Social Impact Hub.
Managing Director, Food Connect
Emma-Kate is a mother of four, sister to 5, aunty to 19, community advocate and social entrepreneur from Brisbane, Australia.
She leads Food Connect, a social enterprise founded in 2005 by her partner, Robert Pekin, which has led the way in transforming the local food system, using principles of regenerative and community supported agriculture. Acknowledging the philosophy of ‘small is beautiful’, Food Connect has open-sourced its model across Australia and New Zealand, and last year, led an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise over $2million to buy its own warehouse along with 513 careholders.
EK is one of four Fellows of the Yunus Centre for Social Business at Griffith University, and is now in her second year as Chair of Qld Social Enterprise Council, where she’s led a dynamic management committee to secure philanthropic and government funding to coordinate a sector-wide strategy to scale impact across Queensland.
Tom Allen (Moderator)
Founder & CEO, Impact Boom.
Tom Allen is Founder and CEO of Impact Boom and is passionate about working with purpose-driven organisations, entrepreneurs, individuals and regions to deliver strong, lasting social and environmental impact. Tom works to help social entrepreneurs and their regions to thrive, building critical skills and design-led mindsets capable of tackling complex challenges.
He also works with leading universities, governments and clients locally & internationally to develop and deliver world-class programs across social entrepreneurship and innovation. Tom is highly active in building the social enterprise ecosystem and is a Board Member of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council and Social Enterprise Network Logan, a Fellow at Yunus Social Business Centre (Griffith University) and an Advisory Panel Member of ImpaQt (QUT Bluebox).
Highlights from the Event
[Tom Allen] - Welcome to the breakfast forum this morning and thank you to all of you for coming along for what I hope is a very relaxing and a great start to your week. We've been looking forward to this moment for quite a while now, on the back of what has been an incredibly busy week across Australia for the social enterprise ecosystem and all the supporters of it.
I'd like to particularly welcome all our distinguished guests. We have David LePage who's come all the way from Canada. I would certainly like to welcome all our other representatives from Brisbane City Council, from the English Family Foundation, staff from Social Traders. It's great to see you here and supporting and hosting the event, alongside board members from the Queensland Social Enterprise Council. Everyone who's come from the different universities; we have a great representation from our strong university sector here, supporting social enterprise in Queensland. It's great to have you here as well. As well as amazing people from our ecosystem, who are supporting the growth and development of our sector. So, thanks so much for coming.
I personally would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of our land the Turrbal and the Jagera people and pay my respects to the Elders past, present, and emerging, and recognise that these lands have always been lands of learning, teaching, and sharing.
The common thing that brings us all here together today is really in the search of how we might create a better tomorrow for Australia and around the globe. That's why I'm so happy we have an amazing speaker, David LePage, all the way from Canada, and a great panel here today to discuss social enterprise, ecosystem development and how we may work closely together to enable a strengthened ecosystem and tackle some of our deepest social and environmental problems.
It's with great pleasure that I warmly welcome David LePage not only to Brisbane, but to the stage to share his deep experience.
[David LePage] - I'm very humbled to be here as well. It's fascinating, because you actually get to hear me in the future, because at home, it's actually yesterday, so I'm not sure if I'm supposed to like, ‘we're done with this... or enjoy the day... or come back tomorrow.’
It's been an amazing week visiting here in Australia. You guys are doing some amazing work and hopefully we can contribute a little bit to that discussion to help move it forward and give you some perspectives of what's going on in Canada. Rather than spending a lot of time on some of the small stuff, I thought I'd give you an overview of some of the perspectives we have, and then the panel can dive into some of the issues.
As Tom mentioned, it's really, really always important in our sector to remember why we're doing this, because I think often times we get so wrapped up in the how, and the what, and all those issues, that we sometimes forget that what we're really trying to do here is address some really serious issues.
The community that my office is located in, which we refer to as the downtown east side in Vancouver and trying to explain what it is for people dealing with mental health, drug addiction, poisoning from fentanyl, and living on the streets and trading on the streets; to try to say, where do we provide some hope in that? I think part of that model, where we've had problems, is we've created a business model that was built on the model of Milton Friedman over the last few hundred years, and the purpose of business has become, how do we create the greatest economic value we can? Stiglitz, in his recent book, actually said that the problem is we've changed. Money used to be a matter of exchange. The dollar wasn't a matter of exchange; an IOU. Now, the IOU has become the goal, and who gets the most IOUs is the winner, not the value of the trading.
What happens then in the extraction of this economy, is we've ended up having to create this phenomenal charitable sector that has to fix the issues that are created by the means of trading we've created.
I think where social enterprise changes that equation is we're not talking about separating the social value from the economic value. We're actually talking about, how do we create a blended value business? Social enterprise is really about maximising that blended value.
It's sort of like, you can't take it apart... it's not like we can put the ingredients in, and at the end of the day, say well I don't think I'm going to do this social value or I don't think I'm going to do this trading value; it's actually blending that together. We cannot take it apart, because we are not trying to create economic value alone. We are actually trying to create community value.
We are trying to change the economy from being focused on economic transactions to actually community transformation.
In community capital, we're talking not about just one capital, but we're talking about a healthy community. When we think about that, we're talking about using social enterprise to actually create capital. So, when we think about it in the community where I work, we think about Inverse, which is a day labour social enterprise. They probably, on any day, have over 300 people with barriers, primarily working on construction sites; but their real objective is to create opportunities for people recovering, people coming out of prison, people without the health or other capacity to work the traditional eight hours a day, five days a week, and transitioning. So, they're really building human capital.
We look at amazing projects, like the higher education society, which is up on the islands of Haida Gwaii, and it's a First Nations initiative. Years ago, they had the idea that they would start a university program, and everyone said, ‘how would you do a university? There's only a couple thousand people on the islands.’ They said, ‘no, we're not going to do the university for us.’ They created a culturally sensitive, geographically aware, environmental program, where university students from across North America come to study in Haida Gwaii. So, not only are they employing First Nations storytellers, they're employing the environmentalists, and they're bringing awareness to the First Nations' culture to university students.
We don't often think that sometimes our farmer's markets and our other markets are actually contributing to community economic development.
When you start to think about all the models that social enterprise takes, they're all about creating community capital.
I don't think, and I've been doing this for a while; actually someone recently suggested I should be carbon dated; but I don't think I've seen a business that has not been done by a social enterprise. The first social enterprise I started a long time ago was a print shop. Some people may not know, but there was a time before the internet, and you actually printed things and gave them to people to transfer information. So we had to, in our community organising initiatives, control our information, and we set up a print shop.
When you think about what kind of business models you have in Queensland and across Australia, theres’s probably not a business model that could not be a social enterprise... and probably not a community issue that could not be addressed by a social enterprise. So, when you think, are we working with youth at risk, yes, there are social enterprises that can address that. Are we talking about social inclusion for seniors? When we were in Hong Kong for the Social Enterprise World Forum a few years ago, we had dinner at a restaurant where the staff was all people who had lost their jobs in the garment industry. Seniors, who were now getting an opportunity, to have self esteem.
There's no opportunity that we cannot address through a blended value business model.
But in order to create the environment that can create a healthy social enterprise sector; it was in 2009 that the Social Enterprise Council of Canada identified six pieces of an ecosystem that we believe are really that foundation. So, it's business acumen, and a lot of people said, ‘right, those non-profits need to know how to run businesses,’ and I said, ‘but also, the people coming from business need to know how to integrate a social value.’ So it's business acumen for social enterprise.
It's also access to the right finance at the right time. Having spent this week with Social Traders has been amazing to see what you've done in Australia about creating access to markets... to create the demand for the supplies that are created by social enterprise.
Measuring success becomes so important so we can share our stories. We have to be willing to measure what we're doing and report on it. When I see a hundred people here, this model of what's going on with Queensland Social Enterprise Council, and in New South Wales, the growth of the social enterprise sector creating their own networks is such an important piece. Then the other one, and we spent a lot of time with David Brookes last week, meeting a lot of government people. Because creating that supportive political side, that supportive public policy side, is so important. I think in that ecosystem, everyone has their role to play.
Whether it's a City Council or a State Government, the governments have a role to play.
The universities, as anchor institutions, have a phenomenal opportunity from the education side, from the finance side, from the convening side, from the purchasing side.
When we look at all the players in a sector, in a community, and we start to focus them on creating social value though business, everyone has an important role to play.
One of the projects that we started in Canada is called the Social Enterprise Ecosystem Project, and what we tried to do is collect a number of intermediary institutions, like the Social Enterprise Institute that was working on business acumen, working together with Biosocial Canada, working together with an online marketplace in Quebec, and working with the Social Value Lab out of Scotland; in order to create, activate and initiate a visible collaboration on the ecosystem across Canada.
It's had phenomenal ability to bring people together and to change what had been people working in separate silos to build the social enterprise ecosystem, to actually create new collaborations across sectors.
People always say, what do we have to do to be successful? Focus... focus... be persistent... be persistent... focus... and then do it again.
When you think about the fact that when I first visited Australia, it was for the 2009 Social Enterprise World Forum. It was only the second World Forum we held, and most of the conversation at that World Forum was, ‘so what is social enterprise? How do you define it?’ We were really about what it is and why, and I think what's amazing now is we're talking about what it’s doing. We're talking about moving it forward. We're talking about the impact it's having in communities across Australia.
So, I think you really have to congratulate yourselves. This has been an amazing visit for me. I’m very inspired and taking home much, much more than I can share with you. So, thank you very much.
[Tom Allen] - Thank you very much, David. It's great to have your reflections here today.
How's your breakfast going everybody? I hope you're all enjoying it. I'd like to also thank the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and Brisbane Marketing. Both Claire and Holly have provided fantastic support and are extremely interested in social enterprise, so thank you to both of those organisations.
My name is Tom Allen, and I am the founder of Impact Boom, and it's my absolute pleasure to be able to collaborate with all of you on stage, and look at how we're going to effectively move the ecosystem forward and generate ways that we can tackle some of our biggest issues.
We have a lot to reflect on. I'd like to start with David Brookes. David, we started last week with the Social Traders Conference. What were some of the key takeaways that you'd like to share with everybody, and how might we move forward after what's been a really big week of events?
[David Brookes] - Thanks, Tom. Could I just start by acknowledging QSEC and Impact Boom for partnering with us on this even this morning. It's great to be here in Brisbane, and I also just wanted to say that Social Traders has run similar breakfast events here in Brisbane over the years. It's great to be doing this again in 2019 with David LePage, in conjunction with the annual conferences that we've held over the number of years. We've brought a number of international guests out. It's great to be able to do this again this year with David to provide a bit of a perspective and insight in terms of the sector here. We've been able to do that in the past, going back several years ago with people like Peter Holbrook, and Nancy Neamtan, so it's great to be back here.
I want to acknowledge QCOSS here today, because we've actually hosted a number of these breakfasts in Brisbane with QCOSS before QSEC was formed. Mark, it's great to have you here in the audience today, and our staff here in Brisbane are co-habitating with QCOSS.
We've been doing Conferences now for the last seven or eight years, and the 2019 conference, which we held this last week over two days, was a great success. A number of you were there, and I think for me there was a bit of a difference with this conference.
I feel as though there is real momentum building around the country. A lot of that momentum, I think, is great to see that it's grassroots.
I think here in Queensland, through the Queensland Social Enterprise Council, that you probably are certainly leading on that front; being the most coordinated and organised grassroots movement here. As we saw and heard last week, networks forming at state levels around the country... in Victoria, where SENVIC was launched by the Victorian minister. South Australia is doing great stuff, and in New South Wales and ACT a new council along the models of QSEC is being formed as well.
I think the grassroots movement was a real theme of the conference. The theme of the conference last week was the state of social enterprise in Australia, and a lot of my views in terms of where we are at are consistent with what David LePage was saying around the ecosystem. I think the policy environment here in Australia is heading in the right direction. Without being sort of parochial, I think Victoria certainly is in the lead. But it's great to see that Queensland is in pursuit. I think there's stuff to learn, for Queensland and the other states to learn, from what we've been through over the last eight or nine years. We've been operating in Victoria for ten years, and it took us eight years for Victoria to come down with a social enterprise strategy, and their social procurement framework, which was launched last year, is really world class.
The ecosystem is developing... it's still fragmented, I think we've got some gaping holes on the finance front as well, but I think where the trajectory is that way, rather than that way, or that way, we've got a lot to be positive about and confident. David and I, over the last few days, have had some really positive discussions. Not only in Queensland and Victoria, but with New South Wales. Also, some recent positive discussions at a federal level.
In the not too distant future I'm pretty confident that we'll get a national framework which will provide a really supportive policy environment for what we're trying to do here.
[Tom Allen] - Thanks very much for those reflections.
We have 2021 marked as a strong objective to get that national strategy in place; strongly informed by local and state strategies.
Certainly in Victoria, there is a world class social procurement policy, and I think that's much due to the hard work of Social Traders.
Emma-Kate, many of us sitting in the room today have just come off of the back of a three day Unconference, which was led by QSEC, by the Yunus Social Business Centre at Griffith University, with support from the English Family Foundation.
It's been an amazing weekend. I think a lot of relationships have formed and been strengthened... but Emma-Kate, I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the key reflections, and what did we learn at the Unconference?
[Emma-Kate Rose] - I'm still recovering. Who came along? Hands up. Yeah... half the room... awesome.
It was amazing actually. I think it was a huge leap of faith for people to trust the process; an Unconference is not a conventional thing to invest your time in; turning up with no agenda and no idea of who's going to be there. But the actual process was incredible and I think not just the content, (the quality of the content was obvious), but the main aim was really to take advantage of all of us being in a tight geographical area over 36 to 48 hours, with little opportunities to escape. Actually, five days before we arrived, the camp decided to impose a no alcohol ban... so we couldn't even imbibe afterwards. Which was kind of good in a way, on reflection.
So, a lot got done. I think there's already three or four Facebook groups that have already popped up of people connecting and wanting to work together. There were a lot of people there who were seeking support, who came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I got everything I was looking for after this weekend; all my questions were answered.’ Just to see the great mix of people; not just social entrepreneurs, but also Belinda and Allan from the English Family Foundation braved the school camp accommodation and terrible food to join us, and really hear from the grassroots, and be complete participants in the whole process. So, it was fantastic.
For me, personally, the deepening of relationships... the building of the trust networks... because we are in a little bit of a bubble here in South-East Queensland; and Queensland is such a geographically dispersed population. To be able to have the opportunity to work with the English Family Foundation, as well as Yunus Centre, to provide the resources to get travel scholarships for people in rural and remote areas down to talk face to face, and just be with each other, and create those stronger connections, was extremely important.
One of the things that came up out of the weekend, was that it'd be really great to do this again, but in other regional areas. And to follow the model of pitching for world forums; get the regions to pitch to QSEC to host an Unconference once a year. So, watch this space; it'll be really exciting. I think it's just the first of many for us. As a very young organisation, I think with the coming of a couple of staff to bolster our professional support, I think there's only good things to come for QSEC.
[Tom Allen] - Absolutely. Part of the beauty of that Unconference model is recognising that all of you here today are experts in your own right, and giving to the sector in your own way... it really gives everyone that equal platform to contribute, put sessions forward, and hold talks.
So, Belinda Morrissey, you've been supporting the sector as part of the English Family Foundation for quite a while now. Part of your focus is looking at how you can provide the right capital at the right time as well.
It'd be great to hear some of your reflections from the week's activities, but also, what do you see as some of the key barriers that are getting in the way, and how might we move forward?
[Belinda Morrissey] - Thanks, Tom. I think when we reflect on where the journey has been over the number of years, one thing that we can see when you look at what's not missing, is the passion. That came through really loud and clear on the weekend. We had over 120 people who gave up their weekend and came and braved camp conditions and bad food; to really embrace the concept that we're in it together, and that, I think, speaks volumes. That's the really exciting momentum that we're starting to see.
We've been focused on the social enterprise sector for about the last six years, and being a Family Foundation, we have the absolute privilege of being able to be nimble and fund into areas where there are the gaps. About 18 months ago, we decided to really flip our model and fund specifically into the ecosystem; because the ecosystem was where it was the unsexy area. And it is so hard to get funding into that ecosystem.
One of the main barriers that we have been seeing is the lack of support for the intermediaries. I think, David, to your point earlier, is a thriving ecosystem needs thriving intermediaries to really support that.
The other areas that still have major concern in Australia is the lack of capital. I do talk about access to the right capital, at the right time. Because in Australia, without having a really strong legal structure to support the social enterprise space, a social entrepreneur has a vision and they have to decide very early on what legal structure they're going to take. That legal structure then dictates their access to capital. Are they going to a charitable model, and not for profit and therefore go down the philanthropic grants route, and only be able to access debt? Or, are they going to be able to be a Pty Ltd, for-profit, for-purpose company, and access equity?
Those sorts of decisions really complicate, sometimes, the access to capital. We do have a thriving impact investment sector, and I certainly recall Allan [English] coming back from SOCAP in 2017, going, ‘oh my gosh, there's a tsunami of capital, it's coming! We need to get the sector ready.’
But the issue is that still in Australia, we're seeing finance first and not social first.
So, Belinda Morrissey, you've been supporting the sector as part of the English Family Foundation for quite a while now. Part of your focus is looking at how you can provide the right capital at the right time as well.
It'd be great to hear some of your reflections from the week's activities, but also, what do you see as some of the key barriers that are getting in the way, and how might we move forward? [Continued…]
So, we need to really ensure that we are addressing the needs of the market and not the needs of the investor. I totally get that investors need returns. We still need to have those sorts of consideration, and fiduciary duties are absolutely paramount. But at the same time, we're in a really low interest rate environment. So, what we need is more products that really start to capitalise on that low interest rate environment, and really provide innovative capital solutions into the sector. We still haven't quite nailed that. I know that Michael Traill and Amanda are doing some great work with the Federal Government in relation to the Impact Investment Working Group, and I'm really excited to see what they come up with, but I think we just need to ensure that all along the lifecycle continuum, we are able to provide support mechanisms.
David, I was loving your six pieces of the social enterprise ecosystem... and not to bore the audience, but I'm going to repeat them, because they are so perfect. David's six pieces were:
Social value finance... we've talked about that...
Access to markets... and that's absolutely fundamental and I completely applaud Social Traders' incredible work. Social Traders is part of that ecosystem. We need to support that so that you can enable and unlock so many more.
Measurement is still a massive issue in Australia.
Networks, and I think the work of QSEC is really highlighting to the rest of Australia how important that is, and I've been working with Tom and Emma-Kate on the Social Enterprise World Forum bid, and it's just been such a delight... but one of the incredible components is the momentum it's enabled us to start unlocking and opening conversations. Those conversations, particularly at a state based level, have been around that self organisation. So, we've got QSEC obviously, we've got SENVIC launched last week at the Social Traders Conference which is super exciting. South Australia now has a strong working group, and that's working towards it... WA is mapping the system. In New South Wales and ACT, we're now starting to develop NSEC, which is really exciting. So, those are happening, but 12 months, 24 months ago, I couldn't have said anything more than Queensland and Victoria. So to see those developments, in such a short period of time, is really positive.
Supportive public policy... and I think you're absolutely right. We still have a way to go on that, but what we are finding, again over the last 12, 24 months, is those conversations are now happening... which they weren't before. So that's a really exciting progression. But we need to keep that momentum.
Conversations that we've been having is that the 2021 bid is a strong opportunity for us to actually have a line of sight; that's something that we're working towards and I think the momentum that's building is exciting.
[David Brookes] - I think you make some really good points there, and just to comment that David and I had the opportunity of meeting up with Michael Traill in Sydney just on Saturday morning and it was a really good discussion. Michael is Chairing the Social Impact Investment Task Force for the Federal Government and I think it was a very timely discussion and we were encouraging Michael in that process, which he has six or twelve months to run that task force, to really take a holistic view of what the social impact investment market is in Australia.
Not to be narrow around the supply side, but to think about it really broadly; not to forget social enterprise; not to forget the market and procurement aspects. He was very open to that conversation and I think it was, as I say, a really timely conversation that we will certainly be inputting into over the next couple of months.
[Tom Allen] - Thanks, Belinda and David.
David LePage, you provided those six key points for ecosystem development, and you've spent a solid week or so now having many, many conversations. Are there any specific points that you see really should be reiterated and focused on within those six points? Gaps that you see, that we should be focusing on in Australia?
[David LePage] - Well, I actually think that the previous three comments cover it really well. The networks are growing... but it takes a lot of work. It's not something that a lot of people are resourced to do. We're finding a shift in Canada as people get much more engaged in growing and having larger businesses. So, someone like Marcia Nozick, who's CEO of EMBERS, is running a 12-13 million dollar a year business. She can't necessarily drop that business for a week and go camping for bad food.
So, I think we have to be very careful that we are aware of where our focus is. I totally agree with Belinda. We have so much money in Canada, and I tell you, the government just put 755 million dollars into a new fund, and I said that is not what we need.
We don't need more money; we need the right money. We have banks that make 10 billion dollars a year in profit, who have no responsibility to invest in patient capital. We have foundations sitting on hundreds of millions, if not a billion dollars in an endowment which is invested in the stock market, which is creating the problem they're trying to solve with the money they make in the market.
So, the whole thing to me is, there's enough money. SOCAP, which is the social capital meeting that happens every year in San Francisco, started 15 or 20 years ago by a group like this, very grassroots. SOCAP was sold to investors four years ago because the profits around the event are so great, and the discussion. So the tsunami of money coming is actually money, as a friend of mine calls it, looking for google with a halo.
They are not creating social capital, and they are not creating social value capital. They are creating investor capital.
I think what we're seeing is when we can have that discussion here... it's amazing. Then Social Traders, with creating an amazing... to have 62 buyer members, and a lot of those being private sector, and using government purchasing to drive the private sector partners is just strategic. But, I think what we need to keep doing is be aware that, at least we've realised in Canada, you can have an election and that falls apart.
People always say, how do you do public policy, and I say, you just stay focused, stay persistent, and when the window opens, jump in.
So, I think that's the thing; the flexibility matched with focus, is really going to be the challenge because you have some great opportunities, but we all know they come and go; and so, how do we stay focused?
It's hard, because last week, someone said, ‘well should we look at the short term?’ And I said, ‘yes, you have to measure your short term.’ They said, ‘well you just contradicted yourself, because you're talking about the long term.’ I said, ‘no, the short term has to focus on achieving that ecosystem.’
Don't be afraid when we fail sometimes, because sometimes we try really hard to create a new market or create a public policy, and it doesn't happen. But every time we try, we're building the networks and we're building the knowledge. I think that's really something that has to be maintained.
[Tom Allen] - Thanks very much, David.
We’ve got a lot of great voices in the crowd, here, and it'd be great to give that opportunity to a couple of you to ask a question to the panel. So, were there any questions?
[Sabrina Chakori] - Thank you for your insight, but I was at the Social Traders Conference in Melbourne, and I spoke with many social entrepreneurs. They agreed that the highest cost that any business in general has, is salaries and rent. So, I think when we talk about resources, we talk a lot about capital, but if that capital then is invested in rent... well, it's not really supporting the thriving ecosystem.
So my question is a bit for everyone. With the growing population, especially in Australia, with the free markets that we can't stop in our cities that are being designed and sold to bigger corporations, how can we actually allocate affordable, accessible spaces?
[David LePage] - I think there's another way to look at that. We just set up a social enterprise in Vancouver, and Vancouver probably has the highest real estate wherever you want to go. What we did is we went to the social housing authority and to government, and said, you own a lot of property, and a lot of your property has commercial space in it. So, we actually signed a lease for 100,000 square feet of commercial and retail space from the social housing. It's the first floor below. Social housing above, street level commercial, and we signed a 15 year, plus 5 year option, lease at a very accommodating rate, because they realise that their space can be more than just property, because it's government owned and it has a blended value. Then we can rent to nonprofits and social enterprises at operating costs, and then the commercial tenants pay market rent. The profits can be reinvested in social enterprise.
So I actually think there's some very creative opportunities to review the real estate market from the social enterprise lens, as opposed to assuming that it's always going to be privately owned and privately controlled. I think we're seeing movements around land banks, and changing the ownership, transfer of ownership, especially when, I don't know about in Australia, but in Canada, government owns a lot of property. They have just accumulated it, and we have big arguments with the City of Vancouver, because they think it's an income stream; we think it should be a social value stream.
So, I would reexamine how property is used. And even with Social Traders, with the procurement thing, we have some nonprofits who actually sit in the SAP office in Vancouver. So how can we reexamine space to look at it through a different lens than just a rent lens.
[Belinda Morrissey] - Just to add to that, there's also something unlocked in Australia... and obviously I come from a philanthropic lens, but a few years ago, the government did actually put into the tax legislation for foundations that they can unlock value, and that value might look like a grant, but it might look a dollar a year rental stream. Both of those can actually become financial incentives. We haven't unlocked or tapped into that in Australia.
Something that we're trying to do within philanthropy in Australia is actually encourage the philanthropic sector to consider how they can unlock social value... and that's something that is in motion, because a lot of philanthropists run big business; so they could actually unlock a portion of their office space or their own properties that they could actually do that really low rental. So, I agree.
[Tom Allen] - Thanks very much Sabrina, David, and Belinda. I had a thought there about our anchor institutions; the universities. With the amount of space that they have... perhaps that's an opportunity for that sector?
[Johanna Klout] - Thank you. To carry on from that, my start up is based in regional Queensland. So, to get the traction that I need, I need to come to Brisbane to set up here. So I'm paying a mortgage and I'm paying rent... and then how am I supposed to pay for office rent as well? So, fortunately Advance Queensland is fantastic. They have a landing pad at The Precinct that I use. But if that wasn't available, what would I do? There are limitations to long term aspects of that as well.
But going back to what you were saying about impact investment. As a startup, (it's a for-purpose, for-profit), I started looking at impact investment. I approached organisations in Australia, I spoke to Charlie Kleisner in the States, and they all seem to come back with, ‘once you're turning over 50 thousand a year, come and talk to us.’ I found that quite disappointing as an attitude. I think it really should be looking at the proposition you provide, the value proposition, rather than what your possible impact is, rather than this floor of, ‘come and see us when you're turning over 50 thousand a year.’ So, I think that's another area that we can be looking at as well... that risk factor.
In the meantime, I've been very fortunate. An international IT company has seen the purpose that can be achieved, so I have an investor now, but I think it's a bit of a shame that the impact investment sector didn't stop and look at the impact that was possible with the particular startup I have. Because in the meantime, when you're [running] something like me, you're paying all the bills yourself, you mortgage your house to be able to achieve what you're achieving, because you have this mission, this purpose, that drives you. Then, it's the very sector that you think that would pick you up, is the very sector that says, ‘well, until you're actually turning over a certain amount, try somewhere else.’
[Tom Allen] - Thanks Johanna. Do we have any reflections on that? Time is quickly escaping us, so I'm wondering if there are some final reflections?
[David Brookes] - I think it's a really good point, and as Belinda was saying…
I think there's a really huge need to have a whole spectrum of finance available for enterprises at different stages of their development.
Social Traders, in its earlier days, ran a patient capital fund for start up in early stage, which was a mix of non-repayable investment and then loan repayments. Then, we provided business support behind that as well. So, there's not a lot of that sort of finance available. I think some of the philanthropists are doing some of that work really well, particularly in Victoria, we're very lucky down there, but I do think there's a huge role for government to incorporate some of that into their thinking as they put out a strategy. Those strategies need to be funded and implemented, and that's one of the things that I think government can do in conjunction with philanthropy and impact first with actual investors.
[Emma Kate Rose] - Just to add to that, we've been lucky in Brisbane, I guess to a point, where we've had a little bit of support from Brisbane City Council in providing some incubator style support for Elevate+. This is a big missing piece in next stage growth, but I do see a role where universities can start getting a bit more agile in that space as well, and start providing a lot more resources to assist with that sort of technical support.
In terms of funding, watch this space in terms of Advance Queensland 2.0. I know that Shannon Fentiman in particular, and Kate Jones, are both very interested in social enterprise, especially Minister Fentiman, she's a bit of a champion for us. Kate Jones, having previously a climate change portfolio, is pretty aware of the issues, too. So, I feel like there are some stars lining up there and with Leanne Kemp as the Chief Entrepreneur, just signed up for another extra year, she has started to advocate for the circular economy; still working on that, and I know that there has been some meetings on impact with her as well.
I think it will be really interesting to see what happens in the next 12 months in terms of State Government support for social enterprise.
[Tom Allen] - Thank you Emma-Kate, and yes, thank you to Brisbane City Council, who have been supporting the Elevate+ Accelerator, and we look forward to continuing and extending that to more of our city's citizens.
Belinda, was there a closing thought?
[Belinda Morrissey] - I think that we've covered quite a lot of ground today, and what my closing thought would be that it is about collaboration, and that is absolutely paramount.
Every time that you're coming up against an obstacle, or a challenge, or a success, we need to be sharing that and we need to be talking so much more so that we don't keep reinventing wheels.
That we really work together as a sector across the country as well as within the states. I'm seeing so many positive, encouraging signs of that. I fully applaud the Queensland sector. I've witnessed firsthand over the last number of days just how vital that sense of humanity is. Further, to David's point, about remembering why we're doing this, is that we need to keep close to our sense of humanity.
[David Brookes] - I think the collaboration of partnership is absolutely critical, and from Social Traders perspective, we're absolutely committed to that. We're really pleased to be working here, and got some presence on the ground here with Alex Hooke and Nina Yousefpour. We're very clear around where we think we can add value to the sector here. We really acknowledge the role that QSEC's playing as the peak industry body. We have a partnership, relationship with QSEC, which works really well, and there's a lot of great stuff happening here. You should be very proud of what's happening. We're here to add value to that, particularly around the procurement area, and providing those opportunities for Queensland enterprises to win work with government and business buyers.
Thanks again, Tom and Emma-Kate, for having the opportunity to have this event today and for Brisbane Marketing covering our cost to get up here. It's much appreciated. Thank you.
[Tom Allen] - Thanks very much, David.
I'd like to leave the final thought with David LePage.
[David LePage] - First of all, I want to thank everyone. This is such an amazing welcome and opportunity to visit Australia and to come to Brisbane. It was just amazing and beautiful.
I always look at how many construction towers there are, and then I say, okay, if that's going on, that's great. But let's not forget there's another part of the community that probably isn't enhanced by that wealth and that growth. So the tallest buildings are beautiful, but let's not forget that there's other people who are left behind as the economy goes booming.
The other thing is, we all talk about collaboration, but, I think that's really, really important... but don't be afraid of taking risks. Sometimes, people take risks and they look around and they say, no one's following me, is this a good thing to do? What happened to collaboration? Where are my friends, my colleagues? I think this is one of those ongoing oxymorons that we have to deal with. We have to deal with collaboration and networks, but we also have to be brave enough to sometimes say, I'm going to go this way, because I think there's an opportunity there. If it works, great, and hopefully you've built enough trust in your networks, that when someone gets brave and goes off, you can say, ‘I think it's okay, I trust you, not sure I'm going to follow you on this one.’
So, I think we have to always deal with those things; the short term that builds on the long term goals, but also the collaboration and the networks; but…
don’t be afraid of the risk-taking that's going to be necessary to change the economy that right now is based on personal economic wealth versus an economy that builds community capital. That's going to take risk, it's going to be challenging, but it's why we do what we do.
[David Brookes] - One more thing from me. In conjunction with the Social Traders Conference last week, we have a Social Enterprise Awards to acknowledge Tony Sharp for being the Social Enterprise Champion of the Year.
Congratulations, Tony, and to that great Queensland social enterprise, yourtown, for being Social Enterprise of the Year.
[Tom Allen] - Queensland brought home two of the major awards, so congratulations and well, well deserved, Tony and yourtown.
Thank you so much David LePage, David Brooks, Belinda Morrissey, and Emma Kate Rose. It is a pleasure to collaborate you. We are looking forward to joining you in Ethiopia this year at the Social Enterprise World Forum and continuing this conversation.
I'd like to thank all of you in the room for your support and for the hard work that you're doing. We look forward to continuing the conversation and taking our social enterprise ecosystem to the next level.