Study shows growth in social enterprise sector

Monday 6 June 2016

Researchers have identified dramatic growth in social enterprises across Australia.

In summary

  • Social traders call for cohesive government policy
  • Industry generates new job opportunities
  • Philanthropy helps sector to grow

Swinburne research has found more than 34 per cent of social enterprises now operating in Australia are less than five years old.

The research has also identified that the most significant opportunity for growth in the social enterprise sector is in social procurement, which helps to generate new jobs and employment opportunities.

The research, which is a joint initiative of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne and Social Traders, is published in the report, Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector 2016 (FASES 2016).

FASES 2016 will be launched at the Social Traders Masters Conference hosted at Swinburne on Tuesday 7 June 2016.

Director of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Professor Jo Barraket, found social enterprises were experiencing dramatic growth and creating meaningful solutions to social, cultural, economic and environmental problems.

Social enterprises derive a substantial portion of their income from trade and reinvest most of their profits into their mission.

However, FASES 2016 revealed a lack of cohesive government policy as a major constraint to growth, with more than 80 per cent of survey respondents believing that supportive state and federal government policy would encourage new growth opportunities for social enterprise. 

Social enterprises called for more diverse forms of finance, with 39 per cent of respondents saying they had been unable to find the necessary finance to support their goals. The report identified a strong need for policy development within the sector and the need for enhanced networking and development opportunities.

“Social enterprises serve the needs of a diversity of people, including those living with disability, young people and disadvantaged women; yet the sector is a largely invisible part of Australia’s economy,” Professor Barraket says. 

“Social procurement represents a significant opportunity for social enterprise, but requires greater uptake and understanding among corporate, government and consumer buyers.

“Philanthropy is playing a proportionately more significant role in financially supporting social enterprises than it did five years ago too,” Professor Barraket says.

The study was based on data from 359 social enterprises. Seventy-three per cent were small businesses, 23 per cent medium-sized and just four per cent were large organisations.