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Social Enterprise Inspiration Week 4: Community Innovations

The “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” was hosted by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in February and I was invited to participate as a GLP ambassador at the event. Throughout the day, five inspirational speakers who all work in or around Australia’s social enterprise industry ran the audience through their projects and insights. Over the coming weeks I will be recounting what I learnt from these speakers in short, digestible posts. So far, I have discussed Susan Black, the director of projects for Social Ventures Australia (SVA), whose organization funds, mentors and partners with social enterprises in Australia as well as Bec Scott who owns and runs STREAT – a social enterprise who provide work experience and mentoring for homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness.

The fourth speaker at the “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” had a tough act to follow after Michael Combs spoke about how his organization, CareerTrackers, provides employment opportunities to Indigenous Australian students just like me. Luckily the next speaker, Cory Steinhaeur, just so happened to exceed all expectations. Cory is a Kiwi with a background in international aid who has worked for the United Nations and WarChild, an organisation which assists children and young people who have been affected by armed conflict. He has worked in various locations around the world including Holland, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam, and Somalia.

Cory’s current role is the Managing Director of Community Innovations, through which he hopes to create long-term social change. Community Innovations is an organisation which arranges corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs at leading Australian businesses and organisations. Cory believes that appropriate corporate social responsibility programs are the key to creating positive social outcomes. To this end, they bring together entities from all three sectors: public, private, and civil society to achieve positive social change.

Community innovations aren’t reinventing the wheel; instead they’re improving on the current practice of Corporate Social Responsibility Programs by tailoring them to individual businesses and organisations. As Cory says, you don’t have to be innovative to change the world. Community Innovations works within existing frameworks to improve not only social outcomes but a businesses’ bottom line as well.

Cory also outlined the importance of transparency, accountability and sustainability (in terms of social, environmental and economic sustainability) in social enterprises. This is something that I’d heard earlier on in the day from Bec Scott, owner of STREAT*. In terms of transparency and accountability, people are usually more willing to get involved if you’re honest about what it is that you do and how it helps others.

Another of the major principles of ‘Community Innovations’ is the importance of working with communities rather than at them i.e. don’t work within a community in a tokenistic way – in order to be successful you have to engage with people, learn their stories, and listen to what they have to say. He’s learnt this from working in the international aid sector within many different countries and communities over the years.

Lastly, Cory stresses not to be afraid of failure. In order to have long-term success you have to accept that it is okay to fail. Along with much of what I’ve learned so far at ‘Big Friday’ this is a lesson which is relevant not only to people who want to establish their own successful social enterprise but to everyone who wants to be successful at Iife.

All images taken from the Community Innovations website

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