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Goodstart: steering a social enterprise for impact

30 Oct 2018

Goodstart Early Learning (Goodstart) is one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit social enterprises. Its turnover in 2018 exceeded $1 billion, the proceeds of which are re-invested into providing quality early learning and delivering on its vision of giving Australia’s children the best possible start in life.

The organisation was formed in 2009 by a syndicate of four not-for-profits buying out the bankrupt ABC Learning business with a vision of transforming early childhood learning in Australia. (See Goodstart: a story of impact investing for the story behind the buyout.)

As a large social enterprise, now with 644 centres nationally attended by close to 71,000 children, how does Goodstart go about achieving its social mission and balancing the commercial and social goals – which at times must be in competition?

One of the most important things, says Goodstart’s CEO Julia Davison, was developing a strategy and being really, really clear about the organisation’s purpose and goals. It was the first thing Davison did when she joined the organisation in 2010.

Building on the founders’ work, Davison and the board created the purpose, established three goals – financial stability, quality and inclusion – as well as the guiding principles to support those goals.

Davison understands that the social and commercial goals in many ways complement and reinforce each other. She also  emphasises that social enterprises need concrete targets for the social purpose goals as well as commercial goals.

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