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Wisdom of the Crowd

Advice to Allyson Hewitt and Don Dunstan Foundation

· Meals on Wheels,Allyson Hewitt,Dunstan Foundation

The Don Dunstan Foundation are hosting Allyson Hewitt of MaRS DD as their first thinker for the Social Capital Residencies, replacing the former SA Government Thinker in Residence program. She is absorbing what she is hearing, seeing and exploring from main seams of knowledge and experience and also sharing some of her wisdom and experience too – although in my meeting with her yesterday she could barely get a word in! I asked Sarah Gun to gate crash our scheduled time so help bring the lived experience of building social capital into the room. My experience at scale is in policy, community practice and leveraging systems; Sarah brings the day-to-day know-how of job creation through her event management social enterprise Go Go Events.

To prepare for the meeting I asked the ever expanding Chooks closed facebook community to give me their ideas as well. I didn’t manage to get all those ideas out in the meeting with Allyson, hence this blog and an opportunity for the conversation to continue. What follows are some of the points raised.

The ecosystem for start ups and social enterprises is very under-done. While start ups have a community and an infrastructure of sorts it is immature and under or not funded to help accelerate all the elements required for growth. For Social Enterprises it is even less mature and there are only six BCorps in SA, many of the non-government agencies working in the space are not thinking big enough and their efforts are often little more than an extension of services to clients, instead of disrupting and having clients deliver services (eg an idea I have left with Junction Australia that they seem to be developing is for their tenants to form the basis of a landscaping, gardening business to deliver to their housing stock and local surrounding neighbourhoods). Equally models like buying franchises (eg a VIP, Jims, Ben and Jerry’s, Krispy Kreme) may well be another way to go. So in a nutshell this piece of advice to Allyson and the Don Dunstan Foundation is all about creating and supporting the development of an intermediary. An intermediary would be able to hold the space for the ecosystem and provide a range of services and recommend best places to go, host and support learning, develop the data story, measure the impact, advocate and help leverage policy, investment, ideas and growth. Given the immaturity of this space, a kickstarter in funds will be needed to get it off the ground (and I have a few ideas about a business model, that I will share another time). Sarah Gun has an idea she shared for such an intermediary and I have collaborated with Sarah on strengthening the proposal.

Business models was also discussed in particular co-operatives and associations. We have a long history and experience of these models in South Australia and they are gaining ground in the lexicon of start ups and social enterprises. Coming soon to Adelaide will be Trebor Scholz, an associate professor at the New School , New York. I was in a workers co-op for ten years as well as supporting many housing co-ops with governance advice for more than a decade. I have also led large associations (one for SA and NT with members from around 2,500 organisations and another globally where there were members in 26 countries). The rise of the for profit BCorp will also go a long way to the eco-system.

As one of the chooks correspondents (Sharon Ede) expressed in the facebook group:

Business models that retain, rather than leak, value from the local economy (see Michael Shuman's book + this presentation in Adelaide: http://edasouthaustralia.com.au/.../pollinating...); asset mapping civic innovation (see http://www.flanderstoday.eu/.../peer-peer-expert...) perhaps using the open source software the SA government developed www.sharensave.com.au); economic development starts with community development >> supporting citizen innovation especially access to capital - so often, they fall outside traditional sources of government funding, or philanthropy (which is typically targeted at fixing the damage caused by the system, rather than investing in a better system) or can't get a loan from a traditional lender yada yada on it goes.

Unlocking resources was high on the list of issues raised. I went in hard on the community resources that exist such as community and neighbourhood houses, not for profit owned buildings, empty or under utilised churches, schools. There are so many already paid for spaces that could be released and re-purposed. Often burdened with red tape and risk aversion, let alone lack of imagination and leadership – there are so many spaces that could be shared or even better gifted. Community kitchens lie idle in community houses most of the week. It is frankly a sin in our state that these resources are now being unleashed and made available for little or no cost.

Capacity to unlock is everywhere, founder of Harvest Fair, Amy Orange gave the following examples:

Unlocking capital to provide tax breaks for evidence of positive social impact (along similar lines to social impact bonds but more of an incentive paid based on performance rather than a whole funding model).

Carers SA are looking at a fee for service model called Refresh Holidays where we want to unlock unused holiday houses to use as respite opportunities for carers. There are so many holidays homes which sit empty for weeks during the year, so if we can somehow leverage these unused assets by getting owners to donate their holidays house for a week to Carers then we think this could be a winner.

Unlocking empty office spaces and empty cafes' restaurants to be shared/used by small enterprises.

The role of government in creating and challenging the conditions for an emerging ecosystem were also offered. This included doing some tiny and simple things such as having the State Development agency having a tab for social impact and listing all those businesses who are social enterprises and similar making a real impact along the lines of Social Traders listing. Procurement policy needs to be addressed so businesses with a social and/or environmental impact get preference. Any competitions that government supports in this space to insist on equal gender representation on judging and presenting panels, pitching contests to be focussed on getting more women involved and opportunities to strengthen the gender gap in investment. Mapping out logistics chains that demonstrate the impact value chain using a common measurement system (IRIS for example is being championed by Allyson in this visit). Leading by example with procurement policy would be enough to get leverage and behaviour change. I have some ideas about this too, which I didn’t share in the meeting, but I have been invited back to talk some more with the Don Dunstan Foundation.

Personal Note

I never intended to be in this space, my personal mission is equity, a fair go and enabling us all to have a say in shaping our democracy. The levers we have are rooted in the society, economy and the environment. I am glad to be here and through applying the gender lens and lifting up so no one is left behind is more important than ever. This is now personal and political and a direct legacy of Don Dunstan’s vision for South Australia as an equitable, accessible and inclusive place to live and work. Let's not forget Doris Taylor who started Meals on Wheels with Don as well - an original Chook. Our State however was also founded as a company, colonists left the ravages of inequity in England. We still haven’t made our peace and treaty with the local Aboriginal people and that sore remains to be healed. I want to acknowledge with gratitude I live on Kaurna land and it is and always will be so. Chooks will need to confront that reality.

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