Social entrepreneurship fastest growing sector of economy

Colourful hands all in the centre

Social entrepreneurship has grown 37 percent in the past five years, making it one of the fastest growing sectors of the Australian economy, new research has revealed.

The research by Opportunity International Australia (OIA), which was undertaken to mark World Entrepreneurship Day, shows universities and government initiatives have led us to embrace a ‘fourth sector.’

“The growth in social entrepreneurship as a field of study is in response to student demand,” OIA philanthropy director Stephen Robertson said.

Though Australia has been lagging behind the rest of the world in nurturing social entrepreneurship, the tide is now turning. There are now at least six Australian universities offering courses or study modules in social enterprise or entrepreneurship.

“For many years prominent universities in America, such as Yale, have offered courses in the field, and we are seeing burgeoning interest in Australia,” Robertson said.

Government initiatives, such as the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Fund (SEDIF), which provides funding to social enterprise, have also helped to stimulate social businesses. Over one hundred social enterprise projects have been funded, with over $73.6 million being spent.

Australia’s top entrepreneurial minds are also being attracted to social entrepreneurship.

Robertson said, “We are seeing a trend for entrepreneurs who have built successful empires to apply their skills to social businesses.

“If you were to look across the BRW Rich List, you would see many faces now successfully turning their hands to social enterprise or supporting entrepreneurs in some capacity.”

OIA believes there are a number of factors that companies consider when offering their support, including a logical fit between their existing business and the new venture, and chemistry between the parties.

A natural fit with the brand, commercial viability, longevity and ability to leave their legacy, and opportunities for the entrepreneur to grow and develop their personal skills were also highlighted as factors to consider.

“Entrepreneurs aren’t prepared to throw money at any social business. They are extremely considered, and the opportunity must tick all the boxes, both commercially and personally,” Robertson said.

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