Social enterprises create social or environmental outcomes while generating most or all of their revenue from trading or a business model. This allows for greater financial and strategic independence, than traditional charitable grants. The number of social enterprises in Australia has increased significantly in recent years, and many of these are now ‘investment ready’, and have been accessing debt and/or equity investments, to grow and scale.

In Australia, we talk about three types of social enterprises. Many enterprises utilise two or all of these models:

  1. those who achieve social impact by training and employing people who have experienced disadvantage
  2. those who provide a service or product to groups or communities who are otherwise excluded or underserved from mainstream business
  3. those who run an ethical business for profit, and the majority or all of the profits are invested into social causes


Australian Case Studies

One of Australia’s most influential and well-known social enterprises is Streat, who has documented the various lessons they faced as the grew and took on investment. They are now in the final stages of securing a $6.5 million debt/equity deal which will facilitate their financial sustainability, and almost triple their social impact. An overview of their operations is available here. Learn more about Streat in the video below:

Other leading social enterprises in Australia include:


Support for Social Enterprise Development and Impact Investing

In addition to our work at Social Outcomes, a number of other intermediaries also support social enterprise capacity development, including developing robust business models, growing markets and access to procurement contracts, financial management, investment readiness, and securing impact investment. These include:

Foundations that provide seed grants for social enterprise include:

Internationally, the possibility of scaling the impact of social enterprises through impact investment is nicely explained through the story of Oomph Wellness in the UK:


Visit our dedicated toolkit page for more information on impact investing in Australia.


Maintaining Social Purpose

Many social enterprises are concerned that their social mission might be lost in the business model over time, especially if they receive investment. That is, how do you ensure the social enterprise does not evolve into just a mainstream business?  One of the working groups of the International Task Force on Social Impact Investing has focused on mission alignment, called Profit with Purpose Businesses, ensuring that enterprises receiving investment are able to maintain their focus on social outcomes while continuing to generate financial returns for investors.


Community Enterprises

Yackandandah is an inspiring story of a community taking control of their future and ensuring that the local economy and social infrastructure remained strong in this regional Australian town. The video below overviews their work.