27 April 2021 Mary Anne Scully

Beyond the disaster

2020 was a tough year for rural Victoria. In the wake of devastating bushfires and COVID lockdowns, many communities are seeking new pathways to prosperity and growth.

Thanks to a Victorian Government initiative, almost 200 people from across the State are exploring how the business model of social enterprise can address local challenges and unlock new opportunities.

These change makers are building new concepts and expanding networks by tapping into Thriving Rural Futures, a program co-hosted by ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy Australia, and supported by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Thriving Rural Futures offers social enterprise education and direct support to all age groups and sectors in bushfire affected communities, so that the tools and know-how exist locally to drive community led rejuvenation initiatives and thriving communities over time.

Exploring how the business model of social enterprise can rejuvenate rural communities.

Thriving Rural Futures kicked-off in November 2020 when more than 180 people signed up for a three part webinar series. 

The series was co-facilitated by experienced social entrepreneurs Matt Pfahlert (CEO – ACRE) and Matt Perfect (Facilitator – Social Enterprise Academy Australia) who unpacked the business model of social enterprise, explored the concept of community asset buy-backs and introduced real life social entrepreneurs from rural Victoria and overseas.

The journey continues – Steps to StartUp

Rural communities need support to develop local leadership, so they are empowered to lead local responses. The next stage of Thriving Rural Futures is designed to do just this.

After an extensive recruitment drive and application process, 15 people from East Gippsland, Northern Grampians, Golden Plains, City of Ballarat, Indigo, Campaspe, Greater Shepparton, Campaspe, South Gippsland, Hepburn, Glen Eira, Mildura, and Mount Alexander Local Government Areas were invited to join Steps to StartUp – a guided e-learning and coaching program designed to help participants take social enterprise thinking to the next level.

From March – May 2021, ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy Australia is working with each participant to establish goals and a vision for a social enterprise concept, and build a road map for establishing or developing a viable social enterprise. Over the course of ten weeks, these change makers are coming together for weekly virtual group coaching sessions to review modules from Steps to StartUp, explore questions and ideas, share insights, and map out key actions that apply to development of a social enterprise concept.

So, what does it take to set up and operate a successful and sustainable social enterprise in an Australian rural community?

Stay tuned ! We will soon shine a spotlight on social enterprises being developed by the incredible change makers who are part of the Steps to Start Up program.