How supporting social enterprises helps them give back to community

Jigsaw Australia and eWaste Connection are social enterprises which support people with disabilities in unique ways. Through Brisbane City Council’s Stronger Social Enterprises program, they received free coaching to develop their business in order to support their community.

Jul 29, 2021, updated Aug 03, 2021
Jigsaw Australia's office (Image: Jigsaw Australia)

Jigsaw Australia's office (Image: Jigsaw Australia)

Brisbane City Council ran the Stronger Social Enterprises program through 2020-21 where 13 select social enterprises were matched with a business coach to develop their business.

Council’s Social Enterprise training and support was initiated in 2016 following research which estimated the size of the social enterprise market was in the vicinity of $114m to $206m contribution to Brisbane’s economy.

Brisbane has recently been announced as the host of the Social Enterprise World Forum in 2022, and Brisbane City Council will host the Lord Mayor’s Social Enterprise Business Forum on 25 August where Brisbane social entrepreneurs can hear about the upcoming World Forum as well as connect with other social enterprise business owners including Jigsaw Australia.

Jigsaw Australia and eWaste Connection are social enterprises which support disabled people to develop soft skills. Jigsaw provides training to transition people with disabilities into award-wage work while eWaste Connection organises workshops to recycle e-waste.

Tim Sprey, Hub Expansion Manager at Jigsaw Australia, said that Australia currently ranks 21st of 29 OECD countries for employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

Jigsaw Australia supports this transition into work by providing training, work experience, and award-wage employment for people with disabilities with the aim to transition them into gainful employment.

“The way we address this imbalance is by supporting people with disabilities to develop the soft skills of work through our digitisation business which involves scanning, record management and administration work,” said Sprey.

The council’s Stronger Social Enterprises scheme provided Jigsaw with a business coach for three months to help them develop the commercial aspects of their digitisation business, which supports the social work they achieve.

“Social enterprises have unique processes and systems because we are not-for-profit, with the help of a business coach we were able to increase productivity across the business and maximise the social impact we make,” he said.

Monique Lowndes, Chief Executive of eWaste Connection, said the business began five years ago in an attempt to find a purposeful activity for her disabled son who enjoyed pulling electronic materials apart. The workshops now have 100 participants who recycle e-waste across two sites in Yeronga and Kenmore.

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“Our purpose is to give people with a disability, or even people who are lonely or suffer social anxiety, a community to belong to and something meaningful to do by recycling electronic waste that would otherwise end up in landfill,” said Lowndes.

Lowndes and Ben Fehris, Yeronga Warehouse Manager, said the Brisbane City Council is a great supporter of eWaste Connection and their Social Enterprise Initiative allowed a business coach to give them a fresh perspective on the direction of their business.

“Having a business coach come in was helpful. The workshop itself is going really well but the business coach was an impetus to give ourselves a kick start and develop organisational strategies to assist the daily business operations.”

Brisbane City Council’s Stronger Social Enterprises Program offers the ability for not-for-profit businesses to maximise their business outcomes and grow the social enterprise sector.

The Council has partnered with the Brisbane Economic Development Agency and the Queensland Social Enterprise Council (QSEC) to open a Social Enterprise Hub.

QSEC occupy a free space in Brisbane Business Hub while other social enterprises co-locate in the same space at a reduced rate, creating a space for businesses to network.

Brisbane City Council will continue to support local social enterprises, including hosting the Lord Mayor’s Social Enterprise Business Forum to be held on 25 August 2021, and providing financial support for the Social Enterprise World Forum, which will be held in Brisbane in September 2022.

To find out more about the Lord Mayor’s Social Enterprise Business Forum, visit the Brisbane City Council’s website. 

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