In recent years, public and policy interest in social enterprise and its impacts has grown. Yet, little is known about the characteristics and impacts of social enterprise. In February 2017, the Victorian Government launched its first Social Enterprise Strategy. The Strategy seeks to improve and expand on government support for Victorian social enterprises and to position Victoria’s social enterprises as national leaders in driving employment participation and inclusive economic growth. This report was commissioned as part of the implementation of the Social Enterprise Strategy and provides the first ever baseline analysis of social enterprises in Victoria, with a particular focus on the size of the social enterprise population, its characteristics and impacts. This report will be useful to social enterprise operators, policy makers, social enterprise intermediaries, and researchers.
As part of the wider economy, Victorian social enterprises historically have played an important role in delivering services, fostering economic participation and contributing to social innovation. Australia has a strong history of enterprising third sector organisations – including not for profits, cooperatives and mutuals - delivering goods and services in response to community needs (Lyons, 2001). The history of inheritance taxes in Australian states led to a relatively strong concentration of institutional philanthropy and not for profit organisations in Victoria through to the end of the last century (Philanthropy Australia, 2016). However, recent data suggest that, while Victoria is still well-represented in its number of not for profit organisations per capita, the ACT and Tasmania have recently outstripped other states and territories on this measure (Cortis et al., 2016).
Previous research indicates that there are more social enterprises in Victoria than in other states, and that the field is mature, although with a growing number of new organisations emerging over the past five years (Barraket et al., 2010; Barraket et al., 2016). The relative prevalence of social enterprise in Victoria can be partly attributed to early policy support for community enterprise development under the Bracks Labor Government from 2004 (Barraket et al., 2017). Yet, lack of routine data collection partly driven by the limited visibility of a single ‘social enterprise field’ or sector has created poor understanding of the scope and impacts of Victoria’s social enterprises.
This report presents the first comprehensive attempt to map the scope and impacts of social enterprise in Victoria. There is no universally accepted definition of social enterprise. For the purposes of this research, social enterprise is defined in accordance with the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy, which itself is derived from research conducted by members of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne (Barraket et al., 2010).
The aims of the research, as determined by the Victorian Government, are to:
1. Identify, locate and characterise Victoria’s population of social enterprises and key intermediaries; and
2. Inform the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy by valuing the social and economic impact of social enterprises in dollar terms and identifying scope for raising employment participation and job creation.