April 27, 2016
As winter gives way to Spring in the US, I’m not putting my warm coat away, because I am preparing to head west across the Pacific for my very first trip to Australia where the cold season is on its’ way in. Social Traders – a sister organization to REDF – is getting ready for its annual Master’s Conference. And I’m getting ready to attend, speak, and meet with the multi-sector members of a vibrant social enterprise ’ecosystem’ that David Brookes – the passionate leader of Social Traders – and his team have been building for almost a decade.
Shortly after I first arrived at REDF in the mid-2000’s, I attended the Social Enterprise World Forum which piggybacked that year on the Social Enterprise Alliance conference in San Francisco. There I heard a presentation about ’social procurement’ by our Australian (and Scottish) colleagues that got under my skin. Shortly after that, someone shared with me an extraordinary white paper summarizing Australia’s government procurement policies, and the potential that held for scaling up social enterprise. REDF has tried to follow in these promising footsteps, and I’ve wanted to visit to learn more ever since.
Not only has Social Traders graciously invited me to speak at what is on tap to be their most innovative and exciting conference yet, but they are arranging a series of meetings with government and business colleagues to exchange ideas about the role of social enterprise, enabling policies, and the value-add of intermediaries in building capacity and scaling up the impact.
Social Traders lays out three major objectives that are well-aligned with REDF’s: (1) Grow the visibility, value and voice of social enterprise through advocacy and leadership; (2) build the pipeline of innovative and viable social enterprise through access to business skills and the provision of appropriate capital; and (3) open new government and corporate markets to social enterprise by connecting buyers and certified social enterprise sellers.
REDF is also focused on three key strategies as we begin an ambitious initiative to scale up social enterprise in the US: (1) provide the right kinds of capital at the right stage, and the advice needed to grow social enterprises; (2) build an infrastructure and evidence base that supports the growth and success of social enterprises; and (3) develop the strength and sophistication of a national network and field of practice. Our overarching goal is for 50,000 people who are overcoming significant barriers to go to work, while creating sustainable models on the ground and momentum that catalyzes even greater growth.
We look forward to sharing with our Australian colleagues what we’ve learned about our role as an intermediary that practices venture philanthropy; the outcomes achieved to date by social enterprises that are focused on jobs and employment; and our partnership with the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund, and many private foundations in the US, as well as the role of individual donors. I know that our colleagues will be as inspired as we have been by the stories we’ve heard as we have toured across the US in recent weeks to visit our brand new eight- state portfolio consisting of 22 of the most innovative and effective leading social enterprises in the US.
And I am especially eager to learn from, and bring back to the US new ideas that have emerged from the creative, path-breaking work that Social Traders and its partners have done to forge relationships with the private sector and government. Together, we aspire to take social enterprise to the next level across the Pacific!