Queensland launches social enterprise strategy to double employment in the sector

25 Sep 19

The Queensland government is injecting close to half a million dollars into the state’s social enterprise sector as part of a wide-ranging strategy aimed at creating more jobs for disadvantaged Queenslanders.

Small Business Minister Shannon Fentiman last week launched the Queensland Social Enterprise Strategy, which includes a framework for growing the sector and doubling the number of people employed by social enterprises.

Fentiman said with many Queenslanders looking for ways to enter the job market, social enterprises offered a viable option for vulnerable people.

“The social enterprise sector in Queensland currently supports 4,000 jobs across the state and we want to help it grow,” Fentiman said.

“Through this strategy we hope to more than double this number over the next ten years.”

The strategy maps out a $450,000 government investment into a new Social Enterprise Grants program that offers support for businesses during their start-up phase. These grants provide matched funding of up to $50,000.

A further $400,000 is being invested into a pilot program offering training and mentoring to social enterprises looking to kick start business ideas.

A key focus of the strategy is creating a social enterprise ecosystem, so social enterprises can network and connect with one another across the state.

The government has pledged $240,000 for the state’s peak social enterprise body – the Queensland Social Enterprise Council – to help facilitate this.

Queensland MP Leanne Linard said social enterprises were making a huge difference in the lives of many Queenslanders.

“Espresso Train run by the Nundah Co-op is a fantastic local social enterprise success story providing meaningful employment to local people with a disability,” Linard said.

“Social enterprises like Espresso Train are community assets and are vital to supporting many disadvantaged locals.

“The Social Enterprise Strategy will benefit many Queenslanders, particularly regional Queensland, as they tend to be more ‘grassroots’ organisations focused on their communities and deliver local solutions to local problems.”

Jobs Queensland recently mapped the state’s social enterprise sector and found 229 businesses and 47 ecosystem organisations across 412 locations.

More than one in five (21.7 per cent) social enterprise and ecosystem organisations were created in the last four years, which suggests rapid growth in the sector at a start-up level.

Social Traders CEO David Brookes told Pro Bono News that he welcomed the social enterprise strategy and was keen to work with the state government to further develop the sector.

“Social Traders is really keen to continue to work closely and cooperatively with both the Queensland government and the Queensland Special Enterprise Council with building the social enterprise ecosystem across the state,” Brookes said.

“We believe over time we can build a stronger, more diverse and more inclusive economy throughout regional and metropolitan Queensland.”

While the launch of the strategy was lauded as a key step forward for the state, Brookes said Queensland had some way to go to catch up to the leaders in the social enterprise space – Victoria.

“Victoria launched its own social enterprise strategy just over two years ago and has committed significant funding to the sector and social enterprise procurement,” he said.

“But I think you could say that Queensland is in hot pursuit and is certainly in the top two or three states in terms of policy development and commitment.”

This article originally appeared in Pro Bono Australia.