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It’s a wrap: 2015 Social Enterprise Masters Conference

June 4, 2015


This year’s Social Enterprise Masters Conference lived up to its theme of INSPIRE, CONNECT & GROW.

Doubling the participation from last year, over 200 delegates from all around Australia, South East Asia and the UK connected and shared their social enterprise stories of how they are changing the communities in which they live and work.

Key note speaker, Jonathan Bland, MD of Social Business International Ltd and an international expert in social enterprise development in the UK and Europe delivered an inspiring key note address on“What can Australia learn from the development of social enterprise in the UK and the EU?”

His message to Australia is to create the ecosystem to supercharge social enterprises to start, grow and flourish.

“You only see success when you have all the ecosystem elements working together. No use just having a bit of it!” – Jonathan Bland

This ecosystem needs to focus on growing the visibility of social enterprises, building the skills of social enterprises, helping social enterprises to access new business and consumer markets and ensuring a range of appropriate capital is available and accessible.

According to Jonathan, this ecosystem needs government, business, social enterprises, philanthropy and intermediaries to all play their roles.

His challenge to government in Australia is to “be strategic and rise to fill the leadership gap”. His challenge to social enterprises is to “be bold and tell your story”.

Jonathan’s closing words emphasised how important and critical events like the Social Enterprise Masters Conference and the Social Enterprise Awards are to building this ecosystem.

Throughout the day there were many great presentations. The twelve workshop sessions were at capacity and covered a broad range of topics including “the role of government in supporting social enterprise”, “the lowdown on social procurement”, “marketing in the digital age”, “why accelerate your social enterprise start-up?”, “fixing, growing and scaling your enterprise” and “how to bridge the finance gap”.

Delegates heard from four inspirational Social Enterprise Award Winners from 2014 – Thankyou Group, 40K Group, Clean Force Property Services and SEED Parks and Property Maintenance, shared how their organisations have gone from strength to strength in 12 months. Words of wisdom included “manage the pace, know when to pause especially when you are on a fast growth trajectory”  and “running a social enterprise is the best job in the world” and ”finding the right staff is key – people are your business”.

Every hour or so, Social Enterprise Award finalists pitched their inspirational stories reminding all of the amazing impact and businesses that are now operating in communities all over Australia. Without these enterprises, more Australians would be homeless, unemployed, suffer from ill health, more regional and rural areas would be in decline and there would be more environmental degradation.

Later in the afternoon Professor Jo Barraket from the Centre for Social Impact shared the initial research findings from 13 workshops run over 6 states that is taking the pulse of the social enterprise sector. Some of the key challenges social enterprises are currently facing include better access to business and consumer markets, finding the right workforce, sourcing the most appropriate finance and how to manage governance within a hybrid not-for-profit and social enterprise model. The second ever national social enterprise census survey is now open and all social enterprises are encouraged to participate at

The energy of the conference confirmed that social enterprise is now a core part of the social and economic fabric of Australian society, not just a passing fad.


FASES 2015 is the second major project undertaken to profile Australia’s social enterprise sector.

This research will provide valuable information for use in education and informing policy and create a stronger identity for the social enterprise community in Australia.

The first stage of this research is complete and Professor Jo Barraket launched the interim findings of the 2015 FASES report at the Social Enteprise Masters.

  1. Social Procurement
  2. Governance and staff
  3. Partnering and SE to SE purchasing
  4. Social Finance
  5. Coordinated advocacy

The next phase of this project is a national survey which is now open for entries.


The winners of the 2015 social enterprise awards were also announced last night at an awards ceremony at PwC, with eight winners selected across seven categories including the first ever Social Enterprise Awards tie.

The awards were decided by a panel of judges including Simon Gillies (PwC), Professor Jo Barraket (Swinburne), Allan English (Silver Chef Limited) and Ian McLelland (Guardian Australia).

“This year’s finalists demonstrate the quality and diversity of Australia’s social enterprise sector, and through this event we acknowledge the enormous social and community benefits that are being achieved,” said Social Traders Managing Director David Brookes.

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