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Connecting community service providers to innovative solutions in tough conditions

Published:18 June 2020

Vice-Chair of QSEC and CQUniversity Social Innovation Program Manager Steve Williams (left) pictured with The Honourable Shannon Fentiman, and QSEC Chair and Executive Director of Food Connect Foundation Emma-Kate Rose at the Queensland Small Business Week launch.

CQUniversity is helping support community service providers through the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing advice for increasing capabilities with operators across Australia.

Social Innovation Program Manager Steve Williams has participated in a webinar for disability service providers, coordinated by the sector’s Community Services Industry Alliance.

Mr Williams shared his experience of social innovation in a session named Building Financial Resilience - Business Models for Financial Resilience, presented online and free on Tuesday 16 June 2020.

With considerable experience in developing entrepreneurial and innovative ways of addressing social problems through social enterprise, Mr Williams outlined how he’d worked with not-for-profits who had established social enterprises.

“At SANDBAG Community Centres and Services, more than 10 years ago we established SEED Parks and Property Maintenance, as an inclusive pathway to employment for Sandbag clients, which went on to have a $500,000 annual turnover,” he explained.

“Running social enterprises for non-profits, I’ve really seen that the structure of the social enterprise is as important as the business model.”

Mr Williams said in his current role, he could see increasing corporate demand to source goods and services from for-good businesses.

“It’s really important to CQUni, how do we buy from local social enterprises? So a lot of the work that we do in our regional areas is around how we stimulate the local social enterprise economy.”

Mr Williams recommended community service operators considering social enterprise reach out to local networks, and also warned that a not-for-profits could expect a lead-time of years for a social enterprise to become profitable.

The session also heard from chair of Queenslanders with Disability Network and NDIS participant Nigel Webb, and ARC Disability Services CEO Benjamin Keast.

Mr Williams has previously designed the Homelessness Hackathon for not-for-profit Marist180, connecting the tech sector with the homelessness sector, and is the co-founder of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council.

At CQUniversity, he has been coordinating work to catalyse regional ecosystems, which supports social enterprises across CQUni’s regional footprint through education and network initiatives.

In January this year CQUniversity was re-accredited as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, after becoming Australia’s first-ever educator to achieve the title in 2016.