21 December 2022 Mary Anne Scully

Reflections on 2022

2022 was a landmark year for social enterprise and rural entrepreneurship in Australia.

  • Social enterprises now contribute $21.3 billion to the national economy each year, comprising approximately one per cent of the national GDP. With more than 12,000 social enterprises operating in Australia, one in 60 or over 206,000 Australian jobs are in these for-purpose organisations – rivalling the employment capacity of key industries including mining and arts and recreation.
  • Australia took centre stage internationally when emerging and established social enterprise practitioners, policy makers and impact investors joined the 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum in Brisbane. ACRE subsequently hosted the first ever Social Enterprise World Forum Rural Gathering in the Southern Hemisphere.

ACRE’s purpose is to drive the renewal of Australia’s rural communities so that future generations may thrive. Throughout 2022 we continued to unlock the power of social enterprise and entrepreneurship to create opportunities and solve local issues. Our global learning and development partner, Social Enterprise Academy, connected change makers of all ages with transformational learning and development in Australia and internationally.

2022 highlights


Bursary opportunities for rural changemakers: Westpac Foundation announced it would offer ten rural entrepreneurs who were passionate about creating positive change in their communities the opportunity to attend the 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum Rural Gathering hosted by ACRE. Each recipient also gained access to a package of capacity building support valued at $5,000

Exploring social cohesion in Australia’s regions: ACRE and the Australian National University (ANU) formed a partnership to conduct research on how rural entrepreneurship and social enterprise can promote social cohesion in communities. The partnership will explore the evidence of social cohesion in Australia’s regions – what contributes to it, and what could be done differently to strengthen it.

Pictured: Professor Israr Qureshi, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and ICT for Development, ANU College of Business and Economics and Matt Pfahlert, CEO and Co-Founder of ACRE.


Rural voice joins international social enterprise youth advisory group: With Australia preparing to host the 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum, ACRE welcomed the appointment of Board member Brady Cronin to an international youth advisory group. Brady is an active and passionate advocate for rural Australia, with deep experience in delivery of leadership and mentoring programs to empower rural young people to lead great lives.


Accelerating social enterprise in rural Victoria: Social Enterprise Network Victoria (SENVIC) is  a practitioner-led network with a clear purpose – to establish a thriving social enterprise sector. Since 2020 ACRE has partnered with SENVIC to develop and grow a Local Leads model across regional and rural Victoria. In March 2022 ACRE hosted an inaugural SENVIC conference for rural practitioners at Old Beechworth Gaol, bringing regional networks together from across the State. Supported by the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, the conference was the first investment in social enterprise network development outside of a city anywhere in Australia. In a significant milestone, delegates devised a manifesto for accelerating social enterprise in rural and regional Victoria​.


Exploring ideas with young entrepreneurs: Almost a thousand participants from over 40 schools nationally joined Achieve Fest, an incredible free, two-day online immersion event. Event hosts, Prince’s Trust Australia invited Social Enterprise Schools Coordinator, Tom Colcott, to join a ‘choice or change’ panel session. Visit the Achieve Fest Ideas Board where participants shared their reflections in real time.


International policy forum kicks off 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum. ACRE CEO and Co-founder, Matt Pfahlert led a thought-provoking conversation about the intersection between policy and community-led solutions with an inspiring panel that featured Meg Allan (The Wilderness Collective), Te Pūoho Katene (Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust), Israr Qureshi, PhD (Australian National University), Charmaine Brimm, JP., MBA, BSc. (Hons)(The Planning Institute of Jamaica), Bridgette Engeler (Swinburne University of Technology), Hon Di Farmer (MP Government of Queensland).

Supporting young changemakers: In the first ever Wide Horizons program in Australia, Social Enterprise Academy and ACRE partnered with Wodonga Council to support young changemakers in North East Victoria. Wide Horizons combines knowledge about identity with models of entrepreneurship and leadership, allowing individuals and the group to explore personal and collective agency. Participants concluded a five month journey by joining a final workshop and reflection session at Old Beechworth Gaol, followed by an escape room adventure at Mayday Hills.


Call out for champions of social enterprise in rural communities: ACRE invited social enterprise practitioners and policy makers from across the globe to apply for a place at the 2022 Rural Gathering. The program incorporated an immersive field trip across North East Victoria to meet founders and visit vibrant rural social enterprises, including Indigenous and student-led enterprises.


Launch of first social enterprise peak body for Australia: ACRE welcomed the arrival of Social Enterprise Australia and was proud to play a role in the development of this new sector peak body. The Advisory Council, which guided national strategy work included

  • Belinda Morrissey (Chair), CEO at the English Family Foundation
  • Alex Hannant (Deputy Chair), Professor of Practice and Co-Director at the Yunus Centre, Griffith University
  • David Brookes (Company Secretary), founding member at the Social Enterprise Network of Victoria and former CEO at Social Traders
  • Adrian Appo, First Nations Lead at Yajilarra Trust
  • Alexie Seller, Co-CEO at Enterprise Learning Projects and Convener at Impact North
  • Matt Pfahlert, CEO of ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy Australia
  • Tara Anderson, Executive Director, Strategy and Growth at Social Traders and Director at The Dragonfly Collective

Exploring new approaches in education: Through its partnership with Social Enterprise Academy ACRE offers learning and development programs that give young people a voice and build skills for the future. Tom Colcott from the Social Enterprise Academy team headed to Frankston Social Enterprise Hub to discuss enterprise education with Victorian secondary teachers and introduce Social Enterprise Schools – a practical, student-led experience that equips young people with skills, knowledge and capabilities to drive their own futures in the world of work.

A maverick, free radical, and challenger of the status quo featured as guest speaker at the 2022 Kerferd Oration. Peter Hutton co-founded Future Schools; a global collaboration of innovators aligned to transform learning communities and co-evolve the future of education. ACRE – Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise Academy Australia were proud to play a role at Oration. Peter Sacco was invited to MC in recognition of his pioneering work with Social Enterprise Schools. “Australian Education: How did we get here and where are we going?” was held  at the George Kerferd Hotel Beechworth and via Livestream.


ACRE features in cyber security magazine: Support from auDA Foundation is helping to build essential digital skills for young people who are participating in Social Enterprise Schools. ACRE was a 2021 auDA Foundation grant round recipient. The auDA Foundation grant unlocked opportunities for young social entrepreneurs and empowered them to learn essential digital skills. ACRE utlised the grant to develop and test an online marketplace platform with schools who are part of the Social Enterprise Schools program.


Shining a light on rural social entrepreneurship: ACRE CEO Matt Pfahlert attended a National Summit for Regionalisation -Rebalancing the Nation hosted by the Regional Australia Institute. Matt spoke about the role rural entrepreneurship is playing in Australia and internationally to build localised and inclusive economies that are agile, resilient and enterprising.

Young rural social entrepreneurs lead international forum: Young people took centre stage during #SEWF2022 – the flagship event for the global social enterprise community. A dedicated Youth Forum featured interactive sessions, workshops, and presentations on topics such as climate action, social entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and the Sustainable Development Goals. With support and guidance from the Social Enterprise Academy team and ACRE Board member Brady Cronin, four young leaders from North East Victoria travelled to the Forum and lead two facilitated sessions with more than 130 youth workers about social enterprise and the difference that young people can make in the world.


Global collaboration with Movember: Social Enterprise Academy co-designed and implemented a comprehensive ‘Train the Trainer’ facilitation skills program that enabled participants from Movember’s key implementation partners to deliver Ahead of the Game – a global preventative mental health program that uses sport to teach athletes, parents and coaches how to talk about mental health. The program reviews how to recognise mental health issues, what to do and when to get help. Athletes learn how to build resilience and overcome challenges in sport and life. A global collaboration led by Social Enterprise Academy Australia, the project team included members from the Academy’s Global Learning Lab in the UK along with Movember’s implementation partners from Australia, Canada and the UK.

ACRE co-hosts international rural social enterprise event: The 2022 Social Enterprise World Forum Rural Gathering explored pioneering approaches to community-led rejuvenation being used in rural Australia and rural communities across the globe. Co-hosted by ACRE, the Rural Gathering explored and unearthed ways to accelerate community-led rejuvenation through social enterprise. The program incorporated an immersive field trip across North East Victoria to meet founders and visit vibrant rural social enterprises, including Indigenous and student-led enterprises, a forum to explore pioneering approaches to community-led rejuvenation being used in rural Australia and communities across the globe, and tours of Old Beechworth Gaol – a site that is being re-purposed as an exemplar of social enterprise, impact investment and rural rejuvenation through community-owned assets. This first ever Rural Gathering in the Southern Hemisphere was supported by Bendigo Bank, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and FRRR, with additional bursaries from East Gippsland Community Foundation, Paul Ramsay Foundation and Westpac Foundation. The Rural Gathering incorporated a Social Enterprise Schools Market day Old Beechworth Gaol. Watch a video about the 2022 Rural Gathering.


Prestigious award for Social Enterprise Schools: ACRE was recognised by the Australian Rural Education Awards (AREA), receiving the Innovative Projects Award for the Social Enterprise Schools program, delivered with our enterprise learning partner, the Social Enterprise Academy. The awards recognise excellence in regional, rural and education in Australia. ACRE CEO, Matt Pfahlert was honoured to receive the award from Fiona Nash, Australia’s first Regional Education Commissioner and Chris Ronan GAICD, president of SPERA Australia. Thanks to the incredible Social Enterprise Academy Australia team and funders who believed in and supported this important work since 2016 including: Yulgilbar Foundation, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, The William Buckland Foundation, The Jack Brockhoff Foundation and auDA – .au Domain Administration Ltd.

Connecting across the globe on Social Enterprise Day: Social Enterprise Academy arranged an international collaboration session with 14 schools from Malaysia and Australia sharing their Social Enterprise learnings and insights. The session highlighted the value of genuine youth-led social enterprise through peer to peer mentoring.


Report reveals national size and impact of social enterprise: An independent report unveiled a first baseline for the size and characteristics of the social enterprise sector nationally. The Business for good: The size and economic contribution of social enterprise in Australia report found that social enterprises contribute $21.3 billion to the Australian economy each year, comprising approximately one per cent of the national GDP. The report noted that social enterprises contribute over $20b to the Australian economy and employ as many people as the mining industry, sparking calls for greater government support of the sector. “Australians may not realise it, but social enterprise is part of our daily life and our economy,” said Jess Moore, CEO of Social Enterprise Australia, the national beak body that commissioned the report.

Supporting a mindset shift- from job seeker to job creator: Through Social Enterprise Schools, ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy continue to drive a mindset shift from job seeker to job creator for young people. More that 15,500 students are now engaging with curriculum both online and face to face. At the conclusion of the 2022 school year, we released an inspirational showcase of the innovative ways that primary, secondary and TAFE Social Enterprise Schools students from across Australia developed enterprises to generate profits for causes they care about during 2022. Visit the virtual awards here.


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 to open doors of opportunity in 2023 and beyond.