Abbotsford Convent


Table of Contents

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a social benefit business that trades to fulfil its mission. The motivations and business models for social enterprises vary, as does the amount of income they derive from trade. Social enterprises build a more just, sustainable world by applying market-based strategies to today's social challenges.  

What is Social Traders?

Social Traders is a social enterprise development agency that was launched in June 2009. Based in Victoria, it came about in response to the need for systemic change required to support the development of social enterprise in Australia. Whilst much of Social Traders’ direct work with social enterprises will occur in Victoria we will be undertaking research and advocacy at a national level.

Social Traders:
• is developing a social enterprise development fund which will provide training, support and investment to a number of Victorian social enterprises every year;
• will be investing in measuring the social impact of social enterprises;
• organises events and opportunities for social enterprises to network;
• undertakes research and policy development to further the interests of social enterprise;
• is leveraging funding into the social enterprise arena;
• is undertaking projects that will open up markets and business to social enterprise.

What are some examples of social enterprises?

The social enterprises that are most visible in Australia are the opportunity shops that are located in every suburb and town. Some of the more well known social enterprises include the Bendigo Bank Community Branches, The Big Issue and Fifteen Restaurant. Behind these well known identities are thousands of other social enterprises that operate in most communities across the country.

Are all social enterprises nonprofits? 

The term social enterprise includes both nonprofits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social. Social mission is primary and fundamental; the organizational form depends on what will best advance the social mission.

What industries do social enterprises operate in? 

Whilst there are industries where social enterprises are more likely to be found, social enterprises can operate in any field. Some of the industries which social enterprises are often associated with include recycling (both household and commercial), catering and hospitality, landscape and maintenance services, banking, community radio, furniture building, mail services, packaging and IT. For further information click here.

Why do people develop social enterprises?

There are 3 principle motivations for developing a social enterprise:
1. Income generation - Many nonprofit organizations see social enterprise as a way to reduce their dependence on charitable donations and grants through commercial activity
2. Employment – Many people see employment or engagement of marginalised groups as the principle motivation for social enterprise.
3. Service delivery – Social enterprise has the capacity to create or retain services needed in communities.
For further information on motivations click here.

Where do "social entrepreneurs" fit in?

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who pursue opportunities to create pattern-breaking change in inequitable systems, whether through social enterprises or other means.

What data is available on the size and scope of the social enterprise sector? 

The forms social enterprises can take and the industries they operate in are so many and various that it has always been a challenge to define, find and count social enterprises. In 2009 Social Traders partnered with the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at Queensland University of Technology to define social enterprise and, for the first time in Australia, to identify and map the social enterprise sector: its scope, its variety of forms, its reasons for trading, its financial dimensions, and the individuals and communities social enterprises aim to benefit.

This FASES project (Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector) produced its final report in June 2010. The project was led by Associate Professor Jo Barraket, Australia’s leading social enterprise academic. For further information click here.

Should social enterprises make a profit?

If a Social enterprise does not make a profit, it depends on philanthropic or government support to stay afloat. Some social enterprises exist knowing that they need to raise funds every year to continue operating. These social enterprises which are reliant on non-commercial sources of support believe their social returns merit the grants they seek and secure. Most social enterprises seek to generate a profit from trading activity because they are ineligible for grants or because they choose to operate this way.

What is social procurement?

Social procurement is the process of a buyer choosing to purchase a good or service which also produces a social outcome.

Where can I get advice on starting up a social enterprise?

Like any other business, setting up a social enterprise requires substantial advice, investment, and support. The Social Traders web site provides links to a range of tools and resources that will help people to develop a social enterprise. Much of the support available to mainstream business may be relevant to social enterprises starting up, as they often face many of the same barriers. A list of social enterprise and mainstream business supports are available state by state on the web site here.

If you are starting up any enterprise it is always good to learn from others’ mistakes and successes. Our info briefs or case studies on social enterprises illustrate some of these stories from across Australia.

How can I learn more / get involved?

The Social Traders web site is a great way to get involved. Our website provides access to a range of information on activities, news and events. Register with the site to receive our monthly newsletter. Ask a question, via our Facebook page or contact us directly to let us know what you are doing.



Social Traders Ltd | ABN 42 132 665 804 | PO Box 24074, Melbourne VIC 3001 | Level 2, 136 Exhibition St, Melbourne | Tel. +61 3 8319 8444 


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