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March 21, 2019

Last updated on March 22, 2019

Social enterprise roadshow out to change local lives

Jobs growth in the Greater Shepparton region is top of the agenda at a forum and networking event for local social enterprises, at The Connection Shepparton on 21 March.

Hosted by Social Traders, the event will bring together social enterprises, businesses, government agencies and community organisations to discuss partnership opportunities that will help drive business growth and create jobs.

Social Traders – Australia’s leading social enterprise development organisation – works to foster jobs for local communities by facilitating procurement opportunities between social enterprises and Government and business buyers. The practice is known as social procurement.

Managing Director David Brookes said that The Workgroup in Shepparton is a great example of social enterprise providing a legitimate commercial solution to address social inequality at a community level.

With an annual turnover of around $30 million, The Workgroup is committed to growing its businesses to support 1,500 young people per annum over the next five years.

The Workgroup run two different business units –  Recruitment Select and GAME Traffic & Contracting – both of which distribute profits into employment programs embedded in 17 schools in the region. The programs are designed to assist local youth remain engaged at school and create a pathway to meaningful employment or further study.

Customers of these business units include well-known multinational corporations such as Visy, Powercor, AusNet, Comdain Infrastructure, John Holland, Lend Lease, Fairfax Media, Schneider Electric, Pactum Dairy Group, Ertech and Downer, as well as numerous locally based businesses.

Despite a fundamental commitment to social change, operating as a commercially competitive business was critical to The Workgroup’s success, according to CEO Craig Marshall.

“In the early days of our business a lot of our customers did not realise we were a social enterprise, and back then I guess there was a bit of a stigma that social enterprise was not fair dinkum commercial business,” Marshall said.

“That has changed though and now businesses understand they have an opportunity to support the communities they operate in.

“For us it’s about working with as many young people as we can and drive real impact over a sustained period of time. We couldn’t do that without having the resources, and so being in control of our destiny in a commercial sense is vital.”

Social Traders Regional Roadshow will visit Shepparton on Thursday March 21 at The Connection Shepparton, 7287 Midland Hwy, where other local businesses will be exposed to a range of social procurement success stories.

Brookes said that many businesses operating with social and sustainability causes at their core don’t realise they qualified as social enterprises and he urged them to come forward.

“Social enterprise is defined as any business set up to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people with access to employment and training, or help the environment,” Brookes said.

“We estimate that there are more than 40 social enterprises operating in the Greater Shepparton area, all with the potential to make a significant contribution to the local economy.

“We’d like to work with as many as possible and help them realise just how much of an impact they can have. And that is through legitimate commercial transactions with business and Government buyers.”

“Since 2017, we’ve facilitated more than $30 million worth of social procurement contracts Australia-wide, which has supported around 400 jobs for people facing some form of disadvantage or exclusion. These numbers provide a compelling indication of the huge positive impact stemming from social procurement.”

Brookes said that Social Traders estimated that for every $100,000 spent on social procurement 1.5 jobs are created for disadvantaged Australians.

“Simply, we need to help government and businesses in Australia understand what a major impact they could be having – for both themselves as much as disadvantaged Australians,” Brookes said.

“Social procurement isn’t a charity or goodwill gesture. It’s a legitimate business transaction that provides a social benefit – for both the supplier and the buyer.”


For further information, interviews, case studies or images contact:

James Aanensen M: 0410 518 590              E:

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