Social Enterprise Inspiration Week 4

By Georgina Rullis

The “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” was hosted by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in February and I was invited to participate as a GLP ambassador at the event. Throughout the day, five inspirational speakers who all work in or around Australia’s social enterprise industry ran the audience through their projects and insights. Over the coming weeks I will be recounting what I learnt from these speakers in short, digestible posts. So far, I have discussed Susan Black, the director of projects for Social Ventures Australia (SVA), whose organization funds, mentors and partners with social enterprises in Australia as well as Bec Scott who owns and runs STREAT – a social enterprise who provide work experience and mentoring for homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness. If you’re interested in hearing more inspiring stories or if you have no idea what a social enterprise is its best to check out week 1 here.

The fourth speaker at the “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” had a tough act to follow after Michael Combs spoke about how his organization, CareerTrackers, provides employment opportunities to Indigenous Australian students just like me. Luckily the next speaker, Cory Steinhaeur, just so happened to exceed all expectations.  Cory is a Kiwi with a background in international aid who has worked for the United Nations and WarChild, an organisation which assists children and young people who have been affected by armed conflict. He has worked in various locations around the world including Holland, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam, and Somalia.

Cory’s current role is the Managing Director of Community Innovations, through which he hopes to create long-term social change. Community Innovations is an organisation which arranges corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs at leading Australian businesses and organisations. Cory believes that appropriate corporate social responsibility programs are the key to creating positive social outcomes. To this end, they bring together entities from all three sectors: public, private, and civil society to achieve positive social change.

Community innovations aren’t reinventing the wheel; instead they’re improving on the current practice of Corporate Social Responsibility Programs by tailoring them to individual businesses and organisations. As Cory says, you don’t have to be innovative to change the world. Community Innovations works within existing frameworks to improve not only social outcomes but a businesses’ bottom line as well.

Image

Cory also outlined the importance of transparency, accountability and sustainability (in terms of social, environmental and economic sustainability) in social enterprises. This is something that I’d heard earlier on in the day from Bec Scott, owner of STREAT*. In terms of transparency and accountability, people are usually more willing to get involved if you’re honest about what it is that you do and how it helps others.

Another of the major principles of ‘Community Innovations’ is the importance of working with communities rather than at them i.e. don’t work within a community in a tokenistic way – in order to be successful you have to engage with people, learn their stories, and listen to what they have to say. He’s learnt this from working in the international aid sector within many different countries and communities over the years.

Lastly, Cory stresses not to be afraid of failure. In order to have long-term success you have to accept that it is okay to fail. Along with much of what I’ve learned so far at ‘Big Friday’ this is a lesson which is relevant not only to people who want to establish their own successful social enterprise but to everyone who wants to be successful at Iife.

Image

*See my article on Bec Scott here

All images taken from the Community Innovations website

 

Advertisements

Volunteering is child’s play…..

By Brita Penfold

….Well the PACE group residing in the Philippines has been here for a bit over a month now. And the time is ripe to check in and tell you all what we’ve been up to and give you some insight into the jam-packed journey we’ve had thus far.

First up, the great group of eight was split up after an intense week of children’s rights training and some sightseeing in Manila. Five people from the group trouped off to the rural provinces where a life of bucket showers and intrusive wildlife awaited them. Myself and two other volunteers stayed on in the bustling chaotic district of Malate Manila, a vibrant city where everything’s constantly on the move.

After you become accustomed to the mortal peril you are in every time you cross the street, you grow to love the city and the close-knit communities within it. The Bahay Tuluyan family took us in, and from the start it began to feel like home. Our friendships in the community grew and our connections with the children deepened. But as we became more connected with our surroundings, we also became confronted by our own set of personal challenges. For me, it was the street children. I have seen my fair share of homelessness around Sydney, but nothing could prepare me for the vast scale of homelessness in the Philippines, nor how many children lived without the basic protection of shelter, adequate food and care.

GLP 3

Bahay Tuluyan offers a range of programs and services for children in need of special protection, and one program is a mobile unit that a group of youth facilitators and volunteers go out in every week. The mobile unit is a colorful, child-friendly truck that goes to the areas of Manila most entrenched in poverty. The truck acts as a colorful magnet to the children that live there, calling them to come learn, play and eat together. With the youth facilitators we play games, teach the children about their rights through arts and crafts and sing songs together about community and safety. The children love to run after you and swing off your arm and ask all the important details of your life. ‘What’s your name?’, ‘how old are you?’, ‘do you have a boyfriend?’. They remind me so much of children back home, always ready to play and full of irresistible energy, yet they show unmistakable signs of a life lived in poverty.

GLP photo

Many of the children’s bright large smiles are dimmed by their rotting teeth- the consequences of a country where health care is expensive and inaccessible to those who live under the poverty line. Their energetic limbs are full of small-infected wounds tied up with dirty rags that have been left to fester without basic medical care. They run around wild, jumping into the local polluted river, unused to having adult supervision or censure. These children are scantily clad, dirty from playing so much on the dusty street and running around wild while their wealthier neighbours go to school.

The Philippines is a place of contrast and difference, right down to the absurdly sweet and savoury foods- like green mango dipped in fish paste… a Filipino favourite unfortunately. But some differences are not acceptable, like the view of the urban slums from lecture rooms in the prestigious universities, or homeless families sleeping under the roofs of multi-million dollar hotels.

Poverty in the Philippines is a vast and complex issue and Bahay Tuluyan is doing incredible work to provide shelter, schooling, and a safe environment to as many children as possible. It has been an absolute pleasure to work for an organisation that seeks to protect those most vulnerable from the cycle of poverty. But I know that there is much more that we can do as a country and a community of culturally aware Australians. There is no excuse to accept poverty, and it is imperative for us to actively stand up for those in most need of protection and take steps to eradicate extreme poverty…and maybe green mango too whilst we’re at it.

 

Until next time!
Brita

 

*All pictures courtesy of Brita Penfold and PACE

 

 

Taking up the Challenge – Looking to the future

By Jennifer Tridgell

Ceiling insulation, plastering and cement already complete, a cheer sounded as the final nail was hammered into the floorboards. Finishing the classroom was a moment of real achievement for our group as we had accomplished one of our core goals and ahead of schedule at that. From March, there will be a third classroom in use at Quilla Huata school, allowing 40 more schoolchildren to attend. This classroom will become yet another of the many distinctive blue and yellow buildings of Peru’s Challenge that already dot the Andean countryside.

Quilla Huata schoolchildren, their mothers and construction workers with the Macquarie team in front of our completed classroom

Quilla Huata schoolchildren, their mothers and construction workers with the Macquarie team in front of our completed classroom

Within Quilla Huata, these blue and yellow buildings include flower greenhouses, guinea pig farms and the Women’s Workshop. It was what made Peru’s Challenge special for me: this holistic, community-oriented approach to sustainable development. With a steady, non-seasonal income from greenhouses or handicrafts, the parents can afford better clothes, food and housing. Consequently, the children are not required to spend as long in the fields, allowing them to remain in school longer and have a better shot at the future.

Quilla Huata school , painted with the distinctive colours of Peru’s Challenge

Quilla Huata school , painted with the distinctive colours of Peru’s Challenge

The visit to the Women’s Workshop in the second week really stayed with me, particularly as I eventually hope to work with Indigenous women and development. Built in the last few years, the Workshop is a safe space for the women of the community to weave, sew and knit beautiful, brightly-coloured llama wares. Money from selling their handicrafts provides a steady income for the women, which is not dependent upon seasonal produce or weather. Their partners also respect their ability to support the family financially, with the incidence of domestic violence dropping from 96% to 42% in 2009. Given the opportunity to buy scarves, tablecloths and beanies and, above all, to support the women, the Macquarie volunteers did not disappoint.

Macquarie volunteers buying everything in the Women’s Workshop

Macquarie volunteers buying everything in the Women’s Workshop

Undoubtedly, one of the hardest moments of the  project was the farewell. Just like the welcome ceremony; the schoolchildren, their mothers and our fellow construction workers turned out to show their thanks. Confetti was sprinkled, bunches of flowers were presented and lots of hugs were exchanged. The main difference to the welcome was the connection we now share with the people here, whether it was banter with the construction workers, cutting fruit with the mothers or playing soccer with the kids. This friendship was reciprocated; instead of calling us ‘gringos,’ which means ‘foreigners,’ the children now call us ‘amigos.’

Lloyd being presented with a card and flowers at the farewell

Lloyd being presented with a card and flowers at the farewell

It has been a month of fabulous new experiences and adventures. Catching the crowded local bus into town and navigating around the Cusco streets to our favourite cafes, we no longer felt like tourists. However, the ‘special’ prices of souvenirs for us at the markets reminded us that we were not quite locals. Bargaining down the price of bulk llama socks, salsa dancing on Friday nights and trying new foods like guinea pig (a delicacy, which tastes a lot like chicken) are moments that I will always remember.

Criselda and Krista with their new friends at Quilla Huata

Criselda and Krista with their new friends at Quilla Huata

In the final group reflection session, we were asked, “What has this project meant to you? What makes the work of Peru’s Challenge so important?” Simply, it has shown me the enormous potential for hope. The people of Quilla Huata, the volunteers and everyone with Peru’s Challenge all believe that this is a chance for the entire community to rediscover itself and build a more sustainable, healthier future.  When the mini-bus drew away from the village school for the last time, I was not so much sad that this program has ended as grateful that I had this opportunity to meet such wonderful, inspiring people. Dear blog readers, if you ever get the chance to do a PACE International program, seize the moment and never look back.

Adios amigos!

Social Enterprise Inspiration Week 3- Michael Combs and CareerTrackers

By Georgina Rullis

The “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” was hosted by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) this February and I was invited to participate as a GLP ambassador at the event. Throughout the day, five inspirational speakers who all work in or around Australia’s social enterprise industry ran the audience through their projects and insights. Over the coming weeks I will be recounting what I learnt from these speakers in short, digestible posts. So far, I have discussed Susan Black, the director of projects for Social Ventures Australia (SVA), whose organization funds, mentors and partners with social enterprises in Australia as well as Bec Scott who owns and runs STREAT – a social enterprise who provide work experience and mentoring for homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness

The third speaker at today’s “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” is –DRUMROLL please – Michael Combs! He is the creator and owner of CareerTrackers, a national organisation which arranges paid internships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students. Having already been familiar with the work of CareerTrackers I was really looking forward to seeing how the organisation had originally started and what motivated the CEO, Michael Combs, to start this organisation.

Michael Combs, CEO of CareerTrackers

Michael Combs, CEO of CareerTrackers

Originally from America, Michael was working for HP (Hewlett Packard) who then sent him to work on a project in Australia. He grew frustrated at the fact that HP, who at that time had 7000 employees in Australia alone, didn’t have a single Indigenous person working for them. This led him to start CareerTrackers. This organisation is modelled after the Inroads program in America, which focuses on providing internship opportunities to African-American, Hispanic and Native-American youth and which Michael had previously been a part of.

In CareerTrackers’ first year of operation (which was 2005), they had 18 students and 9 companies on board. Today, they have 637 students, are fully financially independent, have offices in every major city in Australia, and work with some of the biggest companies in Australia. Their end goal or “social mission” is to increase the number of Indigenous university students in private sector companies in order to develop career paths and create the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders of tomorrow.

CareerTrackers is a real social enterprise success story; in a reasonably short period of time they have grown exponentially from a start-up company to a nationally recognised organisation. So, when Michael starts talking about how he got CareerTrackers to this point I pay extra attention. Like Bec Scott from STREAT, Michael was selective with his funding, stressing that there are many other options to government funding which can sometimes be a better option for start-up social entrepreneurs. As I mentioned in my last post here, budding social entrepreneurs may consider getting funding from philanthropic individuals and charitable foundations which are more likely to reinvest any money made back into the business. One of Michael’s key lessons is “Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions.” CareerTrackers work with some of the biggest companies and organisations in Australia, such as QANTAS, NAB, and Lleyton Hewitt. They got here by aiming high and by being brave enough and confident enough in their business model and their social mission to approach high-profile CEO’s, CFO’S and other business leaders.

What is it that Michael feels is most important for anyone wanting to be a social entrepreneur? Thinking differently is key. You need to think differently in order to make a positive difference to the social injustices present in our society. By seeing an issue in Australia today (lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in high-level, private sector companies and organisations) Michael was able to create a business which was able to support him as well as doing something to make Australia a little better at the same time. We can all learn something from his story.

This is the third article in a series of posts. Click here for the first article on Susan Black and Social Ventures Australia and here for the second article on Bec Scott and STREAT.

*Photos taken from CareerTrackers website found here

An Experience Like No Other

Nicholas McNulty is a current Macquarie University student who has recently returned from a PACE International project in Viet Nam. He has been working with PACE’s partner organization KOTO (Know One, Teach One), a social enterprise restaurant and training centre in Viet Nam which aims to positively influence the lives of homeless and disadvantaged youth.

For a first time traveller and volunteer, arriving in Viet Nam in the evening and with a sore back from the flight, wasn’t as pleasant as I had hoped. However, the excitement and busyness this South East Asian country displayed on arrival was more than I could’ve imagined! The bustling nature of the city, the lack of road rules and the complete sensory overload of a new environment were just the beginning of one month’s worth of cultural engagement. We were able to discover the richness of Vietnamese culture, the lives of the locals, and the challenges faced by the developing world. This is just a small reflection of the journey eight Macquarie students including myself and our team leader Will undertook while volunteering with KOTO: Know One Teach One in two different cities in Viet Nam.

 The four Macquarie volunteers in Hanoi: Faye, Joyce, JiaTian and myself in front of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum on one of our weekend trips spent exploring Hanoi and the Old Quarter


The four Macquarie volunteers in Hanoi: Faye, Joyce, JiaTian and myself in front of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum on one of our weekend trips spent exploring Hanoi and the Old Quarter

KOTO is a not-for-profit organisation that offers street kids and the disadvantaged youth of Vietnam training in a two-year hospitality course involving additional studies in English and life skills. Four Macquarie volunteers, including myself, remained in Ha Noi to teach the English curriculum and life skills classes.

Faye and JiaTian teaching a life skills class on International Communication to some of the newest students at the KOTO training centre in Hanoi

Faye and JiaTian teaching a life skills class on International Communication to some of the newest students at the KOTO training centre in Hanoi

Orientation took place in the first few days which involved learning the law of the land, becoming accustomed to local traditions and of course knowing the expectations and rules for working with vulnerable youth. On New Years Day, we waved goodbye to our team leader and the other four volunteers who were departing for Saigon (otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh City) to work in the Human resources and Marketing departments. The long, yet very enjoyable task of teaching started the following day and from then on it was all systems go!

Each day, we would teach two English classes of 2-3 hours, which was both a challenging and rewarding experience. Particularly with the younger trainees, the language barrier proved a rather large hurdle when trying to explain concepts in English however this meant finding innovative and sometimes rather humorous ways to explain things by other means. Additionally there were a number of learning tools such as the phonetic alphabet, which weren’t taught to me when I was at school – (as I’ve learnt, listening plays a much bigger part in learning English than we realize particularly if it is your first language). This made teaching these concepts a learning experience for me as well. Nevertheless, my new learning experiences and the knowledge I was able to pass on to the trainees, made the experience at KOTO in Vietnam incredibly rewarding and valuable for me peronsally, as well as, for the trainees.

One Saturday, the four of us were able to visit a trainee house to help prepare and cook lunch while spending time with them outside the classroom

One Saturday, the four of us were able to visit a trainee house to help prepare and cook lunch while spending time with them outside the classroom

 

The volunteers in Hanoi were also invited to the Dream Bottle ceremony where we acknowledged the dreams of the newest trainees at the KOTO centre. The personal experience with the trainees was touching and moved many of us to tears and there aren’t really any words to describe the atmosphere in the room during the ceremony. All I can say is that the experience was an incredible opportunity to really understand and appreciate the work of KOTO and it was a privilege to be a part of the project.

Even though some days seemed to be much longer than others, the time at KOTO flew by and in retrospect, I couldn’t have asked for a more engaged and valuable experience of working in a new environment with a culture vastly different to my own.

The last weekend of the trip before heading home was spent visiting one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, Ha Long Bay

The last weekend of the trip before heading home was spent visiting one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, Ha Long Bay

A late Happy New Year to all!

Signing off,

Nicholas McNulty

PACE International run projects in both the summer and winter breaks in places as diverse as Cambodia, India, and Peru. For more information on PACE International and their projects click here

UG – Any PACE International Projects can be claimed under code GL X03 OR GL X08 depending on how many hours they spent volunteering

PG – Participating in a PACE International project can be claimed as a cross-cultural practicum

*Photos courtesy of Nicholas McNulty and fellow Macquarie volunteers

Social Enterprise Inspiration Week 2 – Bec Scott and STREAT

The “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” was hosted by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) this February and I was invited to participate as a GLP ambassador at the event. Throughout the day, five inspirational speakers who all work in or around Australia’s social enterprise industry ran the audience through their projects and insights. Over the coming weeks I will be recounting what I learnt from these speakers in short, digestible posts. Last week I talked about Susan Black, the director of projects for Social Ventures Australia (SVA), whose organization funds, mentors and  partners with social enterprises in Australia.

After hearing Susan discuss the current state of the social enterprise industry in Australia and how NOW is the right time to start a social enterprise in Australia I was keen to understand how someone would go about establishing a business of this kind.

After travelling to Vietnam and meeting a young homeless boy on a park bench which served as his home, Bec Scott decided she needed to do something to end youth homelessness. Responding to the statistic that there are currently around 105,000 homeless people in Australia, Bec replicated the existing business model of well-known social enterprise KOTO (Know One, Teach One), but in the streets of Melbourne.

KOTO is a social enterprise which has been running successfully for 10 years. It stands for Know One, Teach One and was started by Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese Australian who wants to end youth homelessness in Vietnam. It is comprised of restaurants, catering services, an online bakery and a cooking class. Currently, PACE run a volunteer program in Vietnam which sends Macquarie University students to work with the Vietnamese youth at KOTO.  For more information on PACE International’s Vietnam program or any of their other volunteer programs click here.

And so STREAT was born. Bec chose Melbourne because of its strong coffee and café culture and the amount of resources available to social enterprises in Melbourne. STREAT has been running for five years now and their mission is to “stop youth homelessness in a delicious way”. Sounds delightful! They run 3 cafes, a food cart, and a corporate catering service, in which the staff are all primarily homeless youth or youth at risk of becoming homeless.

STREAT's logo

STREAT’s logo

The youth who work for STREAT are provided with valuable work experience in the hospitality industry as well as social support and mentoring. They start off working small shifts of around four hours, eventually moving up to longer shifts. STREAT’S goal is to become completely self-funded and help 1095 kids a year. Imagine: you go to your local STREAT café in the morning, grab a coffee and a pastry and head off to work. By the time you even get to work that day you’ve already done something valuable to end youth homelessness.

As Bec is also passionate about the environment, in particular lessening the damage that humans can wreak upon it, she also ensures that every part of the supply chain of STREAT is assessed for its environmental impact. She argues that it’s not useful or indeed right to be doing one good thing at the cost of another.

Bec has some strong advice for any budding social entrepreneurs out there: be selective with your investors. Because STREAT has always been thoughtful in accepting who they will take capital from they’ve been able to partner with philanthropic foundations and charitable individuals who will usually reinvest any profit or return they make from STREAT back into the business.

If nothing else, Bec urged the audience to remember one thing: you need to be truly passionate about a cause in order to create a social enterprise around it.

Bec Scott, co-founder of STREAT. Photo taken from STREAT'S website

Bec Scott, co-founder of STREAT. Photo taken from STREAT’S website

This is the second in a series of posts on social enterprise in Australia. Click here for the first article on Susan Black and Social Ventures Australia.

Check out STREAT’s recent article in Business Review Weekly (BRW) here: http://www.brw.com.au/p/investing/year_rich_lister_geoff_harris_for_YdEcnNugFV3YxTdABjQuwM