21 December 2023 Jamie Meyer

2023 – A Decade of Rural Rejuvenation!

2023 has been an extraordinary year for ACRE as we celebrate a decade of living and delivering on our purpose – to drive the renewal of Australia’s rural communities so that future generations may thrive!

We would like to take the opportunity to thank our esteemed partners, both those on home soil and abroad. To our valued funders and supporters, our work simply would not be possible without your generous support and belief. To the individuals and communities that have worked alongside us this year, a big thank you for trusting our work and inviting us to help unlock new opportunities through social enterprise and entrepreneurship.

We would also like to thank the ACRE Board of Directors for their ongoing commitment and contributions and our incredible ACRE staff, both past and present for their passion, dedication and hard work!

Looking back on 2023, we are proud of our growth and what we accomplished as a team. We’re even more excited to launch into 2024 – a year that is shaping up to be inspiring and impactful in our pursuit of rural rejuvenation!

Here are just a few highlights of 2023.

REJUVENATE | April – North East Victoria + East Gippsland.

In April ACRE launched REJUVENATE – a new way of connecting, supporting, and guiding rural people who want to build and sustain community-led initiatives that address a local problem or create an opportunity.

Designed by ACRE using world-best practice, this initiative brings global and local knowledge, know-how and networks together to walk alongside rural communities determined to find a better way.

As part of REJUVEANTE ACRE introduced a virtual conversation series, hosted workshops across North East Victoria and East Gippsland and launched Australia’s first dedicated accelerator and capacity building program for community-led initiatives, running from September 2023 – May 2024. Eleven initiatives were selected for the initial REJUVENATE cohort.

Community-Led Rejuvenation | Mallacoota, VIC

Throughout 2023 ACRE continued to support community-led rejuvenation in Mallacoota, working with partners, The Wilderness Collective. In February The Wilderness Collective together with East Gippsland Community Foundation, launched an 18 month entrepreneurial education and development program, delivered by ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy, ACRE’s global learning and development partner.

The program kicked off with Social Enterprise Schools for primary and secondary students and education workshops for the broader community to demystify entrepreneurship and build greater understanding of social enterprise business models.

Going forward thanks to generous funding from Helen McPherson Trust we now have funding for continued partner development and initiatives over the next three years.

The program finished the year with student entrepreneurs from Mallacoota P12 College launching a social enterprise ‘Coota Sun – Surf Screen’, ranged at the local Surf Shack Mallacoota with profits supporting families impacted by cyclone Vanuatu.

Strategic Doing Facilitator Training | August – Beechworth, VIC

In late August ACRE trained forty community leaders in Strategic Doing methodology – an inclusive and practical approach for an organisation or community to take ownership over the complex problems they seek to address. Made possible by a partnership with Agile Strategy Lab and generously supported by AMP Foundation.

The training in Australia followed ACRE CEO Matt Pfahlert completing Strategic Doing facilitator training in at the North Alabama University in Florence, USA.

Philanthropic Round Table | September – Sydney & Melbourne

ACRE was established in 2013 to elevate rural communities out of cycles of disengagement and disadvantage by igniting a spirit of entrepreneurship.

In September ACRE hosted a round table discussion with leading philanthropic organisations to discuss and explore ways of addressing place-based disadvantage through community-led rejuvenation. The discussion included national and international perspectives, with Paris Brooke (Co-Founder, The Wilderness Collective – Mallacoota) and Janyce Fadden (Co-Author Strategic Doing) and Mary-Marshall Van Sant (Lead Facilitator Agile Strategy Lab) from the United States sharing insights.

Social Enterprise Schools | February – December, Australia

It was a momentous year for Social Enterprise Schools as 2023 bought together a diverse array of young minds dedicated to making a positive impact on their communities.

Developed by Social Enterprise Academy and proudly delivered in Australia by ACRE, this year the program reached an additional 9,000 young learners through online resources (Cool Australia), helping to build enterprising mindsets across Australia. Fifteen schools and 570 students engaged in co-facilitated learning, embedding entrepreneurial skills and behaviours, resulting in hundreds of social enterprises and support for social causes.

We thank the dedication and support of teachers, schools and young learnings for their work in 2023, together with sponsors and supporters who make delivering the program a possibility. Together with our global learning and development partners Social Enterprise Academy, we are nurturing a generation of changemakers who are reshaping the landscape of social entrepreneurship in Australia and beyond!

ACRE releases Action Manifesto for Rural Social Enterprise | October – SEWF23, Amsterdam

In October ACRE released an action manifesto for rural social enterprise at Social Enterprise World Forum 2023 (SEWF) in Amsterdam. ‘Unlocking the power of rural‘  explores a number of universal issues and opportunities and identifies critical ingredients for accelerating community-led rejuvenation in a rural setting. The manifesto incorporates insights shared by more than 120 social enterprise founders, policy makers and impact investors from rural and remote Australia, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and India who joined the 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum Rural Gathering hosted by ACRE.

Mary-Anne (ACRE Executive Director Innovation & Service) hosted the panel session with international guests at SEWF to explore features and needs of rural social enterprise, recognising that rural models are similar around the world, yet are very different and distinct from urban enterprise models.

Download the manifesto here:

Atlantic Social Impact Summit | October – St. John’s, Newfoundland

In October ACRE CEO Matt Pfahlert delivered a keynote speech at the inaugural Atlantic Social Impact Summit in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Matt talked about taking an ecosystem builder approach to accelerating community-led rejuvenation in rural and remote communities, returning with learnings of the similarities between rural Atlantic Canadians and Australians.
The invitation was with great thanks to Common Good Solutions.


Community Asset Ownership Workshop Series | East Gippsland

Throughout the year ACRE was engaged by East Gippsland Shire Council to host a number of Community Asset Workshops in Nowa Nowa, Orbost, Omeo and virtual Q&A sessions. The work recognised how community owned assets can empower rural communities, often starting with the retention of a valued local service.


Let’s Work Together!

Please get in touch if you are ready to develop the mindset, skills and behaviour required to build an enterprising culture and a thriving new economy. We’d love to work with you!