Impact Seed has been mapping WA’s social enterprise sector since late 2019 with an objective of building the WA Social Enterprise Council (WASEC). With the repercussions the growing pandemic crises and lockdowns will have for communities and jobs, bringing together WA’s social enterprise sector now is critical.
What are we doing?
Timing is of the essence and today we are releasing the Preliminary Report for the WA social enterprise sector. We are also bringing forward our first Zoom collaboration (Weds 15th April) to achieve a number of objectives:
- Review the sector data as it was captured in today’s Preliminary Report
- Consider the critical COVID-19 related challenges facing the communities the WA social enterprise sector serves, and how we might collectively respond
- Work together to surface the challenges and opportunities WA’s social enterprises are facing and how we can support each other and the sector
- Explore the growing role of employment based social enterprises which have the capacity to address some of the systemic failures such as supply chain and manufacturing disruption, which have been laid bare through COVID-19
What are we already experiencing in the WA social enterprise sector?
As capacity builder for the WA social enterprise sector, for our part at Impact Seed we have seen very significant delays and disruption to a number of projects working with social entrepreneurs and impact investors, particularly in regional WA given our very place-based approach. We’re also hearing from our WA social enterprise colleagues that they are facing extraordinary challenges, especially our retail, tourism and hospitality focused employment-based social enterprises which actively look to employ some of the most vulnerable Western Australians.
While we’ve already moved to Zoom and other collaboration tools and online resources where possible (we’ll post on that later), none of us can crystal ball gaze on what the future looks like in such a fluid and rapidly changing situation. However, many opportunities are emerging.
What else can be done to build a more resilient, inclusive economy for Western Australia?
From our point of view at Impact Seed, if there was ever an idea whose time has come, then its social ventures emerging from this unprecedented disruption to capitalism 1.0. This evolution must include re-localisation of supply chains, reversal of the rampant globalisation push which has offshored thousands of jobs across manufacturing, externalised costs to customers through overseas call centres, and decimating retail through Amazon-ification of everything.
To truly diversify and build a resilient economy, we need to reinstate local manufacturing capacity and skills, and realise the premium benefit of local, regional production through appropriate government support. The value of local manufacturing and jobs, especially through employment based social enterprises cannot be underestimated. For example the last remaining Australian manufacturer of surgical masks in Shepparton, previously facing stiff price competition from imported product is now scaling its production from 2 million to 50 million to meet current demand for COVID-19 which China simply can’t meet. This example can be replicated across textiles, machinery, retail products and many electronics.
As we face potential unemployment of 20% in Australia, unprecedented homelessness and the myriad social and economic issues that these pressures create for individuals and families, this unemployment/under-employment means these people in our communities will need jobs. Manufacturing and employment based social enterprise is the revolution we need to have out of this disaster, and it could well be supported by corporate and government social procurement, and invested in by a not-for profit and philanthropic sector who are the first responders to these people suffering in our communities.
What’s now and what are we doing next?
We have released the Preliminary Report based on almost 200 responses received in the mapping project. Through analysis of those responses we are also seeking further information so that as a sector we can be best positioned to survive and thrive with the support of appropriate collaboration, and support through these challenging times. If you are a WA social enterprise you can:
- Review the Preliminary Report on the WA social enterprise sector here
- Fill in the follow up survey here (both existing mapping respondents and new respondents) here
- If you’re a social enterprise which has registered in the mapping project you’re welcome to this event at 10am Weds 15th April here (limited to 100 attendees). If you haven’t registered in the mapping project you can do so here
Together we can make this unprecedented challenge a catalyst for inclusive change through social enterprise and resilient, regenerative systems and business.