This year’s SESNA 2021 was held on the 12th of November and brought together policy makers, practitioners, academics and other stakeholders with an interest in social enterprise in Northern Australia. Summit co-convenor, Dr Narayan Gopalkrishnan, is a Fellow with the Cairns Institute, and Social Work Course Coordinator. He is also the Chair of the Social Enterprise Network for the Tropics (SENT), a network of social enterprise stakeholders from across Far North Queensland. SENT was established as a result of the innovation and research focus in social enterprise at the Cairns Institute and emerged from strong industry-JCU collaborations and engagement.
“This year’s summit had a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led social enterprises, especially those led by women entrepreneurs,” Dr Gopalkrishnan said. “This is of particular relevance to us in Far North Queensland as we face many challenges in ensuring inclusive economic growth and developing sustainably. These challenges are not problems in that they provide opportunities to us to engage in new and innovative ways to develop unique place-based solutions. Social enterprises that work at the intersection of the profit and not-for profit sectors are central to the development of these solutions”.
Social enterprises are rapidly becoming an important part of the Australian economy with an estimated 20,000 social enterprises providing over 300,000 jobs. Many of them provide meaningful employment opportunities to vulnerable populations while creating new solutions to social, cultural and environmental issues. SESNA 2021 emphasized the fact that social enterprises are not a new concept to Northern Australia, as they have always been here, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The Summit provided a unique platform to showcase some of these ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island entrepreneurs are making a difference. Participants were invited to engage with this unique approach to doing business and to take the opportunity to connect more deeply with themselves and with others. The closing statement of the Summit was to slow down, to listen and to learn from the heart of Northern Australia.
The Summit had 129 registrations from all over Australia and the innovative platform that it used allowed the participants an amazing level of interaction and networking. The feedback from participants was very positive about the themes addressed as well as the exciting speakers. The feedback will help to guide further plans for the coming year, especially in the leadup to the Social Enterprise World Forum in Brisbane in 2022.