Study Reveals Australia’s Growing ‘Fourth Sector’
Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 08:33
Melbourne social enterprise STREAT helps to address homelessness. Photo courtesy STREAT
Social entrepreneurship is one of the fasting growing sectors of the Australian economy, according to new research undertaken by Opportunity International Australia.
The research found that the number of social enterprises has increased by 37 per cent over the last five years and claims that Australia is now embracing what is often referred to as the ‘fourth sector’.
Opportunity International Australia says that while there has been “explosive growth” in the number of social entrepreneurs over the past decade, Australia has long lagged behind its foreign counterparts – until now.
According to Opportunity, universities are embracing the discipline of social entrepreneurship with at least six universities in Australia offering social enterprise or entrepreneurship studies.
Opportunity International Australia’s Philanthropy Director, Stephen Robertson, says that the growth in social entrepreneurship as a field of study is in response to student demand.
“For many years prominent universities in America, such as Yale, have offered courses in the field and we are seeing burgeoning interest in Australia,” Robertson said.
“For example the University of Sydney, Swinburne and Adelaide University all offer either modules of study or full courses for budding social entrepreneurs and the School for Social Entrepreneurs has also recently set up its Australian campus.”
The Federal Government has allocated $16 million under the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Fund (SEDIF) to two fund managers. In August 2011, Social Enterprise Finance Australia received $10 million and Foresters Community Finance received $6 million.
And while more is reportedly being done to encourage new enterprises through schemes like the SEDIF funding, the report also claims that social entrepreneurialism is the new breed of philanthropy and is attracting Australia’s top entrepreneurial minds.
“We are seeing a trend for entrepreneurs who have built successful empires to apply their skills to social businesses,” Robertson said.
“If you were to look across the BRW Rich List you would see many faces now successfully turning their hands to social enterprise or supporting entrepreneurs in some capacity.
“Indeed many of our own donors are entrepreneurs who have chosen to support Opportunity because nurturing and helping entrepreneurs in developing countries is what we are all about.”
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