Intermediaries play a pivotal role in supporting the social enterprise development in Australia. Much of the social enterprise market development in the recent past has been driven by intermediaries, including Social Traders and Social Ventures Australia, while philanthropy has been influential in the provision of finance to getting businesses up and running. Here are some key recommendations for how they can both help to shape the resourcing environment for social enterprise.

  1. Expanding beyond business reporting to measuring impact

Although developing SERT has responded to the need to capture business performance data, there are other factors that require attention for a social enterprise to stay the course. The Social Enterprise Impact Lab is one example of a new approach to metrics for impact evaluation, involving key support from philanthropy. There is more that can be done here:

  • Help to support the development of better systems to reliably evaluate social impacts.
  • Work with cross-sector stakeholders to understand how digital platforms can open up access to impact measurement tools.

  1. Social enterprise training on legal forms and governance

Our findings support a growing awareness of the importance of training in governance and legal related matters for social enterprises. Good governance is a critical part of a sustainable business, and there are many general resources available, such as through the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Not for Profit Law.

Governance is also known to influence financial probity and risk management. More support is needed to understand how social enterprises can determine the best approach to governance to ensure compliance, accountability and effectiveness:

  • Create flexible, practical training, tailored for social enterprises.
  • Develop more opportunities for social enterprise founders and managers to participate in board experience programs, including observerships.

  1. Expand support to get more social enterprises ‘investment-ready’

Opening up the promise of greater capital investment in social enterprise is one area that has seen some traction in recent years. However, we also know that there are barriers to opening up this investment, including bigger issues around opening up the supply of appropriate capital. Focusing more specifically on the barriers that businesses can control include:

  • Develop accessible resources for social enterprises to help them understand what being ‘investment-ready’ means, the implications of it, and how they might build towards it.
  • Focus more resources on supporting early-stage social enterprises, examining the start-up and early stage ecosystem to identify opportunities for support.

  1. Deepen wider public awareness of the social enterprise movement

Alongside the need to address institutional blockages to better social enterprise resourcing, there is the more practical focus on growing the pool of potential service users and customers. For example, Social Traders have led the way by developing searchable databases and annual campaigns to promote social enterprises in business-to-business markets, via social procurement.