Welcome to module Eleven

Understanding The Ecosystem. Leading Social Enterprises.

Your success as a social enterprise is heavily influenced by your surrounding community and mechanisms of support. If the greater goal is to create positive social and environmental impact, how might we all contribute to growing and supporting a thriving ecosystem?









the importance of an ecosystem

“Entrepreneurs can only be successful if the ecosystem is successful” - Kate Goodall



“Social entrepreneurs not only must understand the broad environment in which they work, but also must shape those environments to support their goals, when feasible.

To understand and change these social systems, social entrepreneurs should borrow insights from ecology and use an ecosystems framework.

Long ago, biologists discovered the limits of studying living organisms in isolation. Biologists gain a much deeper understanding only by considering the complicated relationships between organisms and their environments. They look not only at the impact that environmental factors such as soil and water have on organisms but also at the impact that these organisms have on one another and their environment. Human societies are just as complex as ecosystems, with many different types of players and environmental conditions.

Many interdependent systems, institutions, and networks enable social enterprises to flourish: social enterprises, beneficiaries & customers, governments, impact investors, peer organisations.

(Source: Social Innovators)


According to Ashoka’s Erlijn Sie, continued growth and enhancement of impact will require entrepreneurs to ‘think big and think beyond the business, looking past the boundaries of existing organisational structures and more towards networks and communities, in which we need to make social innovation key, rather than the aforementioned boundaries.’

Social enterprises operate within a context rather than a vacuum. Their success is markedly dependent on factors and parties from their environment which collectively form the ecosystem.

(Source: PwC NL)

Much like a healthy sea ecosystem, the balance of right conditions are necessary to help all the different organisms thrive, survive… or peril. What can you do to contribute to a healthy social enterprise ecosystem?

Much like a healthy sea ecosystem, the balance of right conditions are necessary to help all the different organisms thrive, survive… or peril. What can you do to contribute to a healthy social enterprise ecosystem?


Gerry Higgins discusses ecosystems

In our podcast with Gerry, we discussed the history of social enterprise over the last 30 years, sharing valuable insights into growing the sector.

“We see countries now that are using the ecosystem terminology, and recognise that the best thing is to work broadly to make sure that people coming into the sector are supported, that organisations already in there are also supported to grow, and that the policy takes account of the various inter-related economics between policy and practise.”


David LePage on ecosystems

Over 10 years ago, we started to approach the development of social enterprise in Canada from an ecosystem perspective and basically said, "You've got to have business acumen. You have to have access to the right capital. You have to have access to markets. You have to have the right policy framework. You have to have networks."

So it allowed us to create a framework to influence government policy, at the municipal level we have provinces, provincial level and the federal level, not by trying to say, "Do everything at once," but to build over years an ecosystem, so you are seeing the right context at the right time. Because I think where some governments have been much more focused on, "Well, we can help build capacity," or some other governments, "we can move on social procurement."

So having that ecosystem perspective, I think, has really benefitted our ability to influence it.


Social Enterprise UK CEO, Peter Holbrook

Listen to our conversation with Peter Holbrook, on the underpinnings of effective social enterprise ecosystems & social entrepreneurs.


Locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, there are many organisations out there working towards building a strong social enterprise ecosystem.

It’s important to know who they are, and what they do, to build your own strategic network.



See Episode 106 of Impact Boom, on Regional Social Enterprise Ecosystems; Cohesive & Collaborative Models To Create Change.

“In regional areas it's really important to stick together and make that collective, cohesive voice be heard. Know who your people are, know who you're helping and it's easier I guess in regional areas to have that connection with the people.” 

- Davinia Nieper

“If you're looking at collaboration as the key ingredient, how do you collaborate? So what are the tools of collaboration? So I think it's really important for regional networks to have those tools, to be able to hear the voices from the grass roots.”

- Emma-Kate Rose

“I think community just matters a lot more when you can see and touch people on a regular basis.(…) What are the strategies which are going to enable people to be more aware of local, social and community enterprises? Give them the option to actually get more involved in those organisations as well.”

- Alex Hannant

Key insights/advice on being part of the local collaborative ecosystem

“Keep at it, keep turning up, and if you do, things will inevitably… we're just industrious creatures. We can't stop doing stuff. So if we put ourselves in a position where stuff might happen, it will.” - Alex Hannant

“Turn up to the meetings, volunteer to help out at events, run a side event for that in your sector or in your area of interest under the social enterprise network banner. They'll help you facilitate it, they'll help put the comms out for you. Just come to us with the idea and help us run with you because we're all doing it voluntarily while we're 24/7 in our own enterprises, and it's a big commitment, but the more of us that participate in this, the more traction we’ll get with the wider movement of people.” - Emma-Kate Rose

“To be having open, frank, honest conversations and not be afraid to tell your business plan or model to other people. Trust me, nobody is going to steal your idea.” - Tony Sharp

“Keep doing it, keep doing what you love, keep helping the people around you and keep connecting, keep collaborating, keep talking about it and eventually opportunities will come.” - Davinia Nieper

Queensland based support

Hear our conversation with Minister Shannon Fentiman on how State Government is growing the social enterprise ecosystem in Queensland.

Queensland Social Enterprise Council is the peak body democratically representing Social Enterprise in Queensland.

Brisbane City Council ‘is committed to supporting emerging and established social enterprises and community organisations.’ Council regularly invites these organisations to tender for goods and services, providing the opportunity to work with Council.

Advance Queensland is supporting programs that drive innovation, build on our natural advantages, and help raise our profile as an attractive investment destination. 

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast - Located at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and as not-for-profit company, the IC is a major hub for innovators, entrepreneurial startups and high growth companies. 

Social Enterprise Network Logan (website currently being redesigned) is a support, advocacy, and knowledge sharing organisation for Logan based Social Enterprises and Not for Profits.

Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative (NCEC or Nundah Co-op) was formed in 1998 to create sustainable employment and training opportunities for people with Mental Illness, Learning Difficulty or Intellectual Disability.


The Yunus Social Business Centre (Griffith University) has been established to contribute to Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus’s philosophy of driving systems change through social entrepreneurship and enterprise. The Centre aims to equip people with the knowledge, capacity, connections, and opportunities to innovate and create change through social business.

QUT Bluebox ImpaQt provides opportunities, resources and networks to channel for-purpose capital into innovative organisations and projects that seek to make a significant, measurable social and environmental impact on Queensland and other societies.

The Centre for Social Impact is a collaboration of three universities: UNSW Australia, Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Western Australia. Their purpose is to catalyse positive social change, through transformational research and education that is rigorous and purpose-driven. By working with people, communities and organisations to grow their capabilities through research, education, and leadership development.


Matt Pfahlert is helping to shape regional and rural Australia through igniting entrepreneurship in young people and their communities. Check out his insights on the best approach for organisations, entrepreneurs and government to create sustainable change.

Social Traders connects social enterprises with social procurement opportunities and supports social enterprise to successfully deliver on the contracts they win.  

Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector (FASES) is the first and currently only census of social enterprise in Australia.

In 2016, supported by Social Traders and led by Professor Barraket, (now at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University), the latest national Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector 2016 research, was launched.  This most recent census is based on data from 370 social enterprise practitioners, social enterprise intermediaries and policy makers.

Looking at this research and its findings outlines the major changes in the sector over the past six years and the main opportunities and barriers for social enterprise growth and development into the future. 

The Australian Centre for Social Innovation. Their projects range from individual policy and service redesign through to multi-year innovation initiatives. 

Social Change Central (SCC) is a dedicated online hub for social enterprises. SCC connects, encourages and supports social enterprises and aspiring entrepreneurs through an easy-to-use, comprehensive self-service database which collates the most up-to-date opportunities available in Australia and internationally.

Listen to our interview with Anne Lennon, co-founder of Social Change Central, on building a thriving social enterprise ecosystem.

Pro Bono Australia is one of Australia’s first social businesses. Since 2000 they have provided, media, jobs, education, skilled volunteering and other resources for the common good to over one million people nationally in 2015. Certified in 2013 as a B Corp organisation, today they act as the central online hub for the Not for Profit sector, the broader social economy and those wanting to engage with it



The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) was established in 2008 by national social enterprise support agencies seeking a means to advance social enterprise development globally. Bringing together social enterprise practitioners, support agencies, investors, public, private and government representatives, the inaugural event in Edinburgh in 2008  provided a platform to bring together social enterprise leaders and champions from all continents to collaborate, share best practice and plan future developments.

Here you can find 40 key insights from speakers and delegates at the 2018 SEWF. Impact Boom are media partners of the SEWF.

 The World Economic Forum is the International Organisation for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

B Corporation certification is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global nonprofit organization with offices in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a partnership in Latin America with Sistema B. To be granted and to preserve certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for "social and environmental performance", satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholders into company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $50,000. Source: Wikipedia

Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability

Impact Hub is the world's largest network focused on building entrepreneurial communities for impact at scale. With 100+ locations across five continents, in more than 50 countries.

Social Enterprise UK - The peak body for social enterprise in the United Kingdom and one of the biggest social enterprise communities.

Yunus Social Business - Founded in 2011, with headquarters in Frankfurt and Berlin, YSB's mission is to expand the social business model pioneered by Prof. Muhammad Yunus through the Yunus Centre in Bangladesh, to countries throughout the developing world. The primary goal is to utilise the tools developed in the business world, to create financially self-sustaining companies dedicated to reducing poverty. A secondary goal is to finance social businesses that directly contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Ashoka is a global organisation that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs -- individuals with innovative and practical ideas for solving social problems.

Nesta is an international innovation foundation based in the UK. They back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, from the pressures of an ageing population to stretched public services and a fast changing jobs market.

leading positive change

Rosabeth Kanter shares Six Keys to Leading Positive Change in this video. She suggests to:

  • Show up

  • Speak up

  • Look up

  • Team up

  • Never give up

  • Lift others up

be an active agent


The best opportunities come from people you haven’t met yet.

Whether you struggle to network (or not), you might find these few videos/resources useful.

“Don’t be that person who sells. Be interested, not interesting.”

Successful Networking the ultimate guide Christopher Barrat

5 Great Talks On Networking

Top Networking Tips For Social Entrepreneurs



Follow blogs to keep up-to-date with social entrepreneurship and the topics that affect your business. Get inspiration and never stop learning.

Good luck Elevators!

We’ll look forward to seeing the progress you have made next week. Please remember that by sharing your progress and asking for information, feedback or advice on the Facebook group... or simply writing down your week’s goals in a public place, you may find that your weekly progress is accelerated...


The information contained within this Elevate+ Module is intended solely for you and we kindly ask that you do not email, distribute, copy, modify or print this document.

You retain sole responsibility for actions and decisions, regardless of whether they are based on options or suggestions provided by Impact Boom. Any information contained should not be construed as legal advice.

Thank you for the fantastic energy you bring to the Elevate+ cohort.