The 'social enterprise' (or social business) movement seeks to harness market-based initiatives to address long-term social challenges including unemployment, homelessness and social exclusion. The coupling of business and purpose or social mission can be a powerful force for good.
There is a growing social procurement market as governments and companies look to use their purchasing power to acquire goods and services in a manner which delivers good social outcomes and brokers, such as Social Traders and Supply Nation which connect buyers and sellers and certify those enterprises.
As a commercial law firm, we thrive on the opportunity to use our core legal skills to help create innovative business models and to aid the development of sustainable social businesses. Here we are able to bring all of the firm's legal capability to assist in establishment, regulatory guidance, proper governance and risk management, scale and growth and people issues to help social businesses survive and thrive.
We engage with social enterprise 'incubators', such as Social Traders, Social Ventures Australia, Y Gap and others and we collaborate with our corporate clients running programs, like Optus' Future Makers and the Westpac Foundation's Social Scale-up grants, to deliver impact and to drive innovation.
Here's a snapshot of some of the amazing projects we are proud to lend our skills to.
Social Ventures Australia
Social Ventures Australia (SVA) is recognised as a leader in the development of Australia's social enterprise sector. SVA combines business know-how with social sector expertise. Think social investment bank. Back in 2008 MinterEllison partnered with SVA to help establish the Third Link Growth Fund, a managed investment fund where all managers and service providers declined fees and re-directed the revenue stream to benefit emerging social enterprises and charities, including Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, SHINE for Kids, Children's Ground and many more. The result? Now, ten years since inception, more than $7.5M in funding has been directed towards the growth of these high-impact third sector organisations – and the funds continue to grow at $175,000 per month.
MinterEllison and SVA have recently collaborated to establish an award-winning social enterprise, Vanguard Laundry and Career Development Centre in Toowoomba, Queensland. Vanguard delivers outsourced laundry services to a major hospital and other local businesses. The project's underlying social purpose is to provide job opportunities for people living with mental illness.
MinterEllison's strategic advice regarding project structure and contracting arrangements, has assisted Vanguard transition from a small start-up to a commercial reality creating a far greater impact.
With our help, Vanguard is demonstrating that, with an enterprise-driven approach and cross-sector collaboration, marginalised citizens can be empowered to make the transition from welfare dependency to sustainable employment. This project is a blueprint for the expansion of social enterprise in Australia, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this highly innovative business model. Today, we continue to work with Vanguard's CEO, Luke Terry, on scaling opportunities for the Vanguard model, as well as some other exciting opportunities.
Keith Rovers has worked in close collaboration with our colleagues in the finance sector, including Koda Capital, Westpac, Macquarie, CBA and PWC, to develop a model where existing learning and development opportunities in the corporate sector can be accessed by emerging leaders in the not-for-profit sector. Plus One is all about innovation through collaboration to drive social impact. We're proud to be part of it.
We are also working with leading Australian companies, who have established their own innovative, start-up programs for social enterprises.
Optus Future Makers
The Optus Future Makers program supports innovative technology solutions aimed at helping disadvantaged youth, addressing issues such as employability, education and wellbeing. MinterEllison has presented at an Optus Future Makers Summit on legal issues, including IP protection and commercialisation, business structures, governance and social enterprise. This became a springboard for ongoing legal support and guidance from MinterEllison to see the start-ups reach their full potential.
Dervla Loughnane, founder of 'Virtual Psychologist', an online platform providing psychological support to drought affected farmers in remote areas, took up the offer of assistance. We have provided a range of legal supports to help Virtual Psychologist gain traction.
The result? Virtual Psychologist is now operating as a sophisticated platform providing 24-hour psychological support to Australians in need. During 2018, as Australia's drought conditions worsened, Virtual Psychologist has worked in partnership with Aussie Helpers to expand services to farmers in crisis. MinterEllison has reinforced our commitment by conducting a matched, firm-wide appeal to assist Aussie Helpers and, in turn, Virtual Psychologist.
Westpac Foundation social enterprise start-ups
The Westpac Foundation works with emerging social enterprises and the next generation of leaders in the sector to develop innovative solutions to social challenges in Australia. The Westpac Changemakers Program offers Westpac Foundation grant recipients, Westpac Scholars and community partners access to a wide range of skills, expertise and resources leveraged through Westpac Group and its employees.
They aim to foster long-term partnerships with the organisations they support to increase their financial sustainability, organisational effectiveness and social impact.
MinterEllison continues to work with the Foundation's social enterprise grant recipients and social change fellows. These include: