Centre for Social Impact Swinburne

Transcript - Youth health equity and the role of social enterprise organisations

(CSI Swinburne's Social Impact Summer Webinar Series - Week 4)


Welcome to the Centre for Social Impact's Summer Webinar Series for 2019. My name is Kiros, and I will be facilitating today's session on youth health equity and the role of social enterprise organisations.

Before I introduce our speakers, I would like to make an acknowledgment on behalf of everyone. On behalf of those present, I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, who are the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, where the webinar is presented from. I pay my respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging. I also pay my respect to all aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia, and hope that the path towards reconciliation continues to be shared and embraced.

Today, we are lucky to have our centre director, Professor Jo Barraket, and my colleague, Dr. Perri Campbell, who is a research fellow. Welcome Jo and Perri. And the way today's webinar will go is they will speak for 10, 15 minutes. And after that, we will have questions and answers. Thank you.

Thank you.

Thanks, Kiros. I'd also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, and apologise for being slightly distracted while you were making that acknowledgment. I was struggling with the technology. As Kiros said, my name is Jo Barraket. I'm the director of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne. And I'm happy to be here with my colleague, Dr. Perri Campbell, to give this brief overview of some research that we're doing at the moment.

The research is funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage Program, in partnership with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Social Traders, and the Foundation for Young Australians. I won't read the long list of acknowledgments on this slide, but I'd like to acknowledge our wider research team, who've been actively involved in the project. And particularly, we do want to acknowledge the four social enterprises who have participated in the research so far. They've been very generous with their time with us, both managers and staff and participants of the social enterprises, particularly the young people who've been actively involved in designing the research, as well as involved in interviews, et cetera, for the work that we've done thus far-- so very important to acknowledge that important contribution.

So in terms of what we want to get through today, just very briefly obviously, this project is in-- at the end of its second year. It's a three-year project, so we're still at the point of doing the top-level data analysis. But we've completed the case study data collection, and what we wanted to do was take you through, first of all, a very brief overview of the project, which I'll do momentarily, and some

preliminary findings, and any questions that you have at this stage. We'll be expecting to have a more formal release of the findings from the research in about a year's time, as well as having some more practical outputs from the project in terms of policy advice, and public health and promotion, design thinking, in the next six months or so.

So in terms of what the focus of the project is, the project is focused on improving the health equity outcomes of young people, and understanding the role of social enterprise in doing that. So very specifically, the primary question of the research is the ways in-- whether and how social enterprise, particularly what we call employment-focused or work-integration social enterprises, affect the social determinants of health. In broad terms, for those who don't know what social determinants of health are, the best way to describe them are the causes of the causes of health inequalities, or the conditions through which health and well-being are realized.

So there's a lot of literature on the social determinants of health, and the concept is evolving every day, but in broad terms, the consensus social conditions, if you like, or social determinants are things like education, employment, income, housing, and social relationships. So they are seen in most models and empirical research on health and well-being as the key conditions through which we realize healthy equities.

And why we're looking at social enterprise, well, one of the key areas of social conditions for health and wellbeing that's widely recognised in the health literature is economic participation. But interestingly, when you look at the empirical research, there's actually not a huge amount of research that looks at the mezzo and micro levels of systems at the way in which economic participation can affect and produce health and wellbeing outcomes, and also, the particular kinds of economic interventions that might help us [INAUDIBLE] progress those. So that's really, I guess, the starting point, was wanting to look at the question of economic participation.

Then when we look at the literature on social enterprise and health and wellbeing, which is a literature that I acknowledge is growing quite rapidly-- and when we started this project-- when we formed this project in late 2016, the research was less mature. But what we found then was that most of the literature was saying, yes, social enterprises produces health and well-being outcomes, but was very unspecific on how or under what-- in what context those outcomes were being produced. So a lot of that early literature almost treated social enterprise like welfare programs rather than organizations or businesses, which is what they are, that exist to create a social purpose. So we didn't really understand the full contextual conditions under which we were seeing the kind of outcomes that we produce.

So that gives you a bit of background about the aims of the project and why the project is significant. With no further ado, I hand over to Perri. He is going to take you through some of the preliminary findings.

Thank you, Jo. Thank you. So as we can see up here on this slide, there are some key areas where social enterprises intervene into young people's lives. And the circled areas in blue are learning and education, employment, and social relationships and networks. And today, we're going to have a look at how organizational structure, culture, policy, and process impact education. So in other words, what makes social enterprises programs work behind the scenes?

We can see here that there are a couple of elements in what I call the structure funnel. So we're looking at that first organizational element structure. And one of these is a multi-site organizational structure. Here, there's access to multiple spaces like classrooms and farms, or training spaces and commercial and retail businesses. And this means that there's different opportunities for course content, activity, and delivery, so you can cater for diverse learning styles.

In the blue circle, we can see that there's a designated training team, perhaps a youth program team, who devote time to young people and build relationships. And the quote from this staff member shows that relationship building is quite important. 

If we look at the next slide on organizational culture, we can see an accepting and understanding culture supports education and learning. We've found that having specialized forms of support offered to all young people creates an understanding and comforting environment in which barriers to learning can be addressed, like social stigma around literacy and numeracy skills, or physical and mental health differences. And at the other end, where we have a blended culture of supported learning with professionalism, young people are empowered to imagine themselves as emerging staff members, maybe even experiencing unity with staff and participating in building the organizational culture themselves.

And this is what we look at as the blurriness of the social enterprise offering and a lot of where the value is So one way that this is done, for example, is by having on-site training, in a commercial setting, so that students can visualize their futures. However, rigorous processes are needed to set this up.

There's a lot of planning, processes, and policy that support engagement and learning. There are tensions here because industry rules and regulations intersect with program planning and flexibility. And sometimes, processes create roadblocks for young people, or they don't always work, for instance, the use of paperwork for excursions or risk management policies for guiding behaviour. There should be an agile approach taken so that these foundational elements are reviewed and edited to ensure that programs are responding to young people's needs.

And if we have a look at the quote here from a young person, we can see the personal impact that this has had in Ryan's life. He says, before I came to this course, I was pretty depressed, because I just kept getting knocked back. I was sort of giving up.

I definitely feel healthier mentally just coming here every day and being punctual, having a routine, and stuff like that. And that's where I'd like to finish up, with Ryan's story. So, please, present any questions that you may have for us, and we'll do our best to answer them.

If you have any question, you can type them, and I will read them over. If you don't have any question, or until you think, I have a question to start us off. Are there any particular aspects of the program, that social enterprise are running, which are unique?

So I think it comes down to the way in which social enterprises are designed. And obviously, there's no one type of social enterprise. They're all contextually relevant and designed to fit a particular cohort, group, a place, the industry opportunities in that area, et cetera. So there's no single answer.

But in terms of some of the things that we are seeing in the-- our research that we've done so far, there are-- the real-life work-- the on-site work activity, being in an embedded live-work context, has quite a few powerful effects on young people's health and well-being, as best we can see. It significantly increases their confidence. It builds their social relationships, and that can include meaningful, long-term relationships, but also capacity to connect with diverse people through selling products, or delivering goods, et cetera.

Some social enterprises let themselves have public spaces, so Perri referred to farms, for example, also attract diverse people from the community. And that can lead to the sort of bridging social capital that I'm talking about. So there are a number of factors.

And then I guess the other one is that where social enterprises are very conscious of their work in the world, and trying to see their mission become binding upon a wider group of organizations and people, they're very proactive through their supply chain relationships to promote and advocate the assets of the young people they're working with. So it's not just about what they do in their organization. It becomes about what they-- how they influence other employees, other agencies, other communities. I'll stop talking and see if Perri has got anything to add.

I do. I was thinking that the experience of being a staff member is something really great that social enterprises can offer, because they are that bridging space between training and employment. So the experience becomes one of being part of the staff team of the social enterprise, and then contributing to that culture in their own way. And so many of the social enterprises that we've been looking at have been very open to engaging young people and creating a culture, and an organization, with young people, which, of course, means that the organization itself is more responsive in terms of its culture and its processes and policies. And it meets the needs of young people, which has knock-on effects for other things.

We're looking at, like, belonging, creating safe spaces. And we know that these are things that enable engagement, enable learning, enable people to challenge themselves as well, if they're in the kind of space where they feel safe.

Thank you.

We will see if we have other questions coming. We don't seem to have another question, but I have another question, a follow-up from the current discussion. In terms of any other kind of impacts or outcomes on young people, particularly in relation to social networks and employment, what makes this project different? What have you found which is probably different from other projects you have worked with?

Start with you.

So what makes this particular project different to other projects? I think the combined case studies is one thing that makes this project different for me than previous projects I've worked on with social enterprises, which gives you the ability to look across different organizational practices, and different programs, to see what's really working. And often, things that are working are very local and are very engaged with community. And that means that they're responding to actual needs, and they're not inventing sort of a program that will just sit over the community.

So that real-- that real engagement there has been something that's come through for me. And I think particularly around a therapeutic approach, also, for community members, in the particular region of Victoria, has been promising. And it matches up with the various preferences of the beneficiaries in the program.

And if I take up how social enterprise might look different to other, for example, employment and training programs, just to see from how our project looks different to other projects we've done, I think there's an enormous amount of evidence, already documented by colleagues at other universities, about the limitations of our employment services system. If I start with that, I could go on. It has a work-first model, which presumes that-- that tagline we've heard a lot that the greatest form of welfare is a job may well be true, but there are usually transitions that people who are experiencing a high degree of barriers to employment need to get through before they can be job ready.

And some of the things that social enterprise-- the social enterprises we've been studying doing are being very proactive about, as I sort of said earlier, very real work-- real world work training, so building those skills. But also, one of the interesting things we found is that social enterprises that operate multiple types of business activities, which Perri spoke to briefly in her findings, creates opportunities for young people to engage with different types of skills development. And in doing that, doesn't just build their technical capabilities, it also builds their sense of themselves and the things that they're interested in. So they are building a sense of their work selves, and that's quite different.

And the other thing is being very active in transition. So our employment services to [INAUDIBLE], one of my particular comments about individual providers-- but the nature of the system and the way in which it's-- the way in which finances providers within the system means that there can be some rather dark incentives to simply park people or to what's called churn people, so put them into jobs but not-- it then becomes immaterial whether they stay in jobs. 

The social enterprises that we've been working within and studying, very proactive about those transitions, even to the point of actually being in the room while young people are being inducted into a new job, so it's that-- it's that level of support. And also being the safe places Perri said before, the safe place that you can come back to. So it's not the end. It's not a linear process where off you have to go. There are, in some cases, opportunities to come back or remain connected through alumni programs, et cetera.

This will be my last question. In terms of outcomes from the projects, what kind of outcomes can we expect, and [INAUDIBLE] can expect?

So of course, there'll be academic, many academic outcomes. We've already produced one journal article. We've got a couple of others under development. There'll be many more.

In terms of practical outputs, three things in particular. So we're preparing a policy and practitioner advice resource, and that will be particularly directed at an audience that we presume will include health promotion, specialists, policy makers, particularly at the level of local governments who are very active, usually in public health and health promotion, and people who are interested in inclusion of young people. And that will be an output that is based on the findings that are relevant to what kinds of policy and program tweaks can we make, using what we've learned from these social enterprise examples.

So there'll be two parts to that. One is how can we better involve social enterprises in existing programs? But the other might be what can we learn from what social enterprises do that might be incorporated into other types of interventions?

The second piece will be a social design, social business design guide, but we don't want to recreate the wheel. We're aware ourselves. We're the largest social enterprise research centre in the world. We produced a number of outputs along these lines, but we're also aware that there's quite a lot of business development, business planning tools out there for social enterprises.

So rather than recreating the wheel, what we'd like to do is pull out the particular social business design features that lead to better health and well-being outcomes, particularly for young people. Although, we have a number of other projects where we're asking similar questions of different cohorts. So along the path, we will produce an output further down the track that actually lifts us up beyond the young people cohort to look at a whole range of cohorts.

And then the third thing that we're doing in collaboration with Jane Farmer, who is a researcher on this project, but is also leading another project on spaces of well-being and social enterprise, is a website. And that will have quite a lot of dynamic content about the spatial and business elements of social enterprise, and the kinds of well-being outcomes that they produce. So we're pretty excited about all of those outputs.


I would like to thank both Jo and Perri for providing these insights. I think this is the last of the four series, summer series webinars. We hope that you enjoyed it, and we hope to see you, also, next year. Thank you.

Thank you.