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  • 2023 Global Voices fellow

Enabling Social Innovation in a Changing Work Environment

By Tahlia Beckitt, Curtin University, Y20, 2023

Executive Summary

Social issues have become more pronounced in Australia due to a number of recent challenges, leading to increased inequality and hindering individuals’ ability to contribute effectively to the economy. Social enterprises are organisations that serve as intermediaries between government policies and communities, directly engaging with these communities to tackle social issues while also generating economic opportunities for participants (Social Traders, 2021). Currently, social enterprises contribute $21.3 billion to the Australian economy per annum (Social Enterprise Australia, 2023).  

This paper recommends the national adoption of the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy 2021-2025 (SES), to introduce sufficient federal support for such enterprises. This will improve the business skills and capabilities of social enterprises, whilst enhancing their connectivity and ability to alleviate social issues being experienced in Australia. In implementing this policy, existing and potential barriers such as community suspicion, openness and fraud will also need to be addressed.

The first recommendation proposed to mirror the SES is the introduction of 1200 initial $2000 grants for youth or Indigenous social enterprises in the start-up stage. Such monetary support will encourage a new generation of involvement in social innovation by increasing the accessibility into the career path. This is estimated to cost $2.65 million and is modelled on the successful UK Social Enterprise Boost Fund (SEBF) (UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2023). 

The second recommendation is to incentivise the introduction of university studies relating to social innovation, to allow further interaction with such concepts by youth and Indigenous Australians. This will cost a total of $1,050,000, bringing the total cost to $6.1 million when combined with staffing, operations and advertising costs over five years.

Problem Identification

The need for social innovation within Australia is undeniably increasing, due to environmental factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and global supply chain issues that have created a cost-of-living crisis (McDonald, 2023; Commonwealth Parliament 2022). In September 2023, 75% of people receiving income support payments were under significant financial distress and could not afford basic necessities (ACOSS, 2023). The introduction of artificial intelligence technologies will also exacerbate these crises, with homelessness and unemployment rates increasing, as certain jobs are absorbed by technological advances and capabilities (Lloyd and Hicks, 2020; Trading Economics, 2022). 


In Australia, 20% of businesses fail within their first year, with the statistic significantly higher for social enterprises, particularly when lacking a significant financial backing (Kepka, 2020). Young and Indigenous Australians are especially less likely to take on the risks associated with starting a business, as youth frequently lack the savings of older generations (United Nations, 2013), whilst Indigenous Australians are generally less wealthy than non-Indigenous Australians (ACOSS & UNSW, 2018).  


Policy Recommendations




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