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Study Tour offers real glimpse into social enterprise inner-workings

February 25, 2013

Equipped with questions, participants were ready to pull back the layers and gain insight into how each enterprise’s business model achieves its social mission.

Last week’s social enterprise study tour takes participants to four very different social enterprises around Melbourne. With representatives from state and local government, community sector workers and individuals, participant were joined by the curiosity to understand what makes social enterprise tick. Equipped with questions, participants were ready to pull back the layers and gain insight into each enterprise’s business model, and how the business achieves its social mission.

The first stop was Urban Communities, a social enterprise set up during the redevelopment of the Kensington Public Housing Estate. A property and tenancy management company, Urban Communities takes an integrated approach to mixing public and private housing to create a vibrant and connected community. See the Case Study for more information about Urban Communities’ business model.

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A delicious lunch was then served at STREAT café on Flemington Road, and we were accompanied by the delightful general manager Jen Miller. Participants learned about the training program that STREAT offers to homeless youth, in addition to the innovative business structure that enables STREAT to receive external investment.

From Melbourne’s west side, the tour headed north to Preston to visit HIVE Property Solutions. A social enterprise of North East Housing, HIVE was born out of the opportunity to develop in-house maintenance services at a lower cost and higher quality than external contractors. This enterprising activity delivers not only employment outcomes, but also unintended benefits including better relationships with tenants and the opportunity for further cost savings and potential income streams. The Abbotsford Convent was the last stop, where participants enjoyed a lovely walking tour on a balmy afternoon with Community Relations Manager Andrew Evans. In addition to the history of the Convent, participants learned about the Convent’s income generating activities, as well as its challenges in growing income stream to meet the massive costs of upkeep.

Themes that emerged throughout the day include the need for social enterprises to first and foremost be a good business – having top quality products or services is the basic ingredient for social enterprise success.Additionally, the importance of having partners and not duplicating efforts was a recurring theme at several visits.

The next social enterprise tour is on 20 March. Small groups and in-depth discussions are to be expected. Register now.

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