Social entrepreneurs for troubled world

Western nations face increased challenges of economic disruption, technology-driven under-employment and social cohesion.  Homelessness is becoming more evident on the streets of Australian capital cities.

So are innovative and entrepreneurial concepts of Social Business and Micro-finance beginning to have applications beyond developing nations for which they were initially designed?

The answer is a resounding yes!

For the past two years Nobel Peace Prize winner and global pioneer of Social Business, Dr Muhammad Yunus, has been an Emeritus Professor at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

Dr Yunus was a torch-bearer at the Rio Olympics where he also advocated  a greater role for social business in helping run the world’s biggest sports business.

On Friday, 19 August 2016 he will be a key player in Australia’s first International Social Business Symposium at La Trobe University’s Melbourne Campus at Bundoora.

Mission to promote Responsible Business

Professor Yunus is an advisor to La Trobe on strategic projects to help fulfil the University’s mission of Responsible Business and community engagement.

Many La Trobe students are also 'first in family' to attend university, often from areas and schools with fewer advantages.

Another main speaker will be Social Entrepreneur Professor Dr Andreas Heinecke from Germany. Founder of Dialogue in the Dark, his companies employ 350 blind people in 40 countries around the world. Australia has just become the 41st.

Symposium organiser and another keynote speaker, Professor Gillian Sullivan Mort, is a specialist in Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Marketing and head of La Trobe’s Yunus Social Business Centre (YSBC).

She said last year La Trobe introduced social business into its compulsory third year level subject of Entrepreneurship – a core requirement for all Business School students.

Powerful small-scale entrepreneurship

‘Social Business involves powerful small-scale entrepreneurship and is a more inclusive business model offering wider community benefit.

‘The two-day Symposium will promote greater understanding of Social Business by government, non-profits, corporates, Small to Medium Enterprise, practitioners, and will profile many case studies of current best practice.’

Professor Sullivan Mort said Professor Yunus was best known as 'banker to the poor' for his foundational work on micro-credit.

‘His work means the poor can be independent actors, self-employed entrepreneurs who can even create jobs for others,’ she said.

‘This new mechanism for growth lies in recasting business beyond a sole focus on profit maximisation. It encompasses two main types of businesses: those dealing with social objectives only, and those where profit is owned by the poor and disadvantaged.’

Community collaboration

The La Trobe Business School is an official collaborator with Darebin Council’s Melbourne Innovation Centre and their associated Heidelberg West community start-up business incubator, Banyule digiDECL.

Albury Wodonga’s Jenny Bevis – a La Trobe student social entrepreneur and joint winner with other students of last year’s national Big Idea Competition for their regional Vibe Collective – will also be speaking at the Symposium. The Collective is helping build the social and enterprise skills of local young people for a better economic future.

And La Trobe senior lecturer in Business, Dr Marthin Nanere from the Bendigo Campus and colleagues from Indonesia, will speak about the Indonesian Tempeh Movement in which he is involved.

The initiative is creating social businesses around soy bean and tempeh food production for the benefit of small-scale village communities and prisoners.

Media Contact: Professor Gillian Sullivan Mort T: 03 9479 1318, E: g.sullivan-mort@latrobe.edu.au, or Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications M: 041 226 1919.

Image: Emeritus Professor Yunus signs an agreement with La Trobe's Business School while Professor Gillian Sullivan Mort looks on.

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