August 6, 2015

Financial resilience of WA’s emerging social enterprise sector under the spotlight

A recent report into social enterprise sustainability has identified the challenges this emerging sector faces in striking the right balance between social purpose and commercial viability.

The report titled Resourcing Social Enterprises: Approaches and Challenges is the second in the Social Impact Series, which was launched earlier this year as part of a five-year research program made possible by the partnership between the Bankwest Foundation and UWA Centre for Social Impact (UWA CSI).

The latest report focuses on the key research theme of ‘Improving the financial resilience of Social Enterprises’ as it delves into the financial and resource needs of social enterprises and the barriers and opportunities to accessing finance.

Director of UWA CSI, Professor Paul Flatau, said that social enterprises are playing an increasingly important and valuable role in the economy and in creating social impact in Australia.

“We have witnessed rapid growth with social entrepreneurs looking to cut through with innovative business solutions to social problems - this is a turning point for social enterprise founders looking to create long-term social value,” Prof Flatau said.

The report was launched this morning at a Bankwest Foundation event which was attended by key public policy decision makers, social enterprise organisations and funders, community sector organisations and business supporters.

Bankwest Foundation chair, Carolyn Kidd, said she was thrilled to see the second report with UWA CSI launched today as part of the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to supporting research and reform of the community sector in WA.

“By making this significant research investment into the social enterprise sector, we hope to deliver unique and groundbreaking research that can be applied and ultimately make a real difference within our community,” Ms Kidd said.

Unpacking the financial needs of social enterprises provides a platform to allow a deeper understanding of the factors that affect the financial resilience of social enterprises in WA and beyond – and the tools needed to support such resilience.

These insights were uncovered during a series of interviews and workshops held with 15 social entrepreneurs in WA and seven other social financiers and policy professionals as part of the report findings. 

Professor Jo Barraket, Director of CSI at Swinburne University of Technology and lead author of the report said, “The preliminary findings from this research suggest that social enterprises in Western Australia are highly resourceful and typically rely on internal or non-commercial external resources when growing their businesses and impacts. They report experiencing some challenges in accessing resources due to narrow definitions of social enterprise in use in WA, and limited knowledge of social enterprise amongst financiers and the wider public.”

“Given the social value these organisations generate, it’s imperative that they are enabled to be as resourced, resilient and sustainable as possible. This research supports that endeavor,” Prof Barraket said.

This research has been warmly welcomed by social enterprises and the broader WA community, openly discussing the challenges they face and the tools and support that need to be provided to them.

The Bankwest Foundation was established in 2013 with a mission to improve the well-being of Australians by enabling the implementation of significant and meaningful community initiatives in Western Australia and nationally.

- ENDS –


A full copy of the report is available for download here.



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