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Innovators skilling up as CQUni supports social enterprise-led recovery

Published:06 May 2021

Participants at the Western Darling Downs workshops.

Passionate innovators are skilling up to drive economic recovery across regional Queensland, thanks to a CQUniversity partnership to promote and grow social enterprise.

The Reset and Recovery with Impact project supports emerging entrepreneurs across Far North Queensland, Central Queensland and the Western Darling Downs, with $200,000 in funding support from the Queensland Government.

Project lead and peak body the Queensland Social Enterprise Council (QSEC) kicked off the program in November 2020, working with 50 social enterprise and for-impact businesses to co-design a recovery program in the wake of COVID-19.

Then since February this year, program managers from CQUniversity’s Office of Social Innovation have designed and delivered ideation workshops for local social enterprises and entrepreneurs to create new business approaches to meet post-pandemic challenges.

QSEC CEO Elise Parups said CQUniversity’s support ensured the project really understood the needs of business in regional Queensland.

“Ashley Clarke and Steve Williams have helped us frame up the analysis of the needs, and what ideation could do to inform how businesses respond to new and emerging issues,” Ms Parups explained.

Following the co-design “reset” sessions, enterprise and business leaders were invited to participate in the ideation program, which began in February.

Ideation participants included Base Services in the Western Darling Downs, Strong Communities and Upcycle CQ in Central Queensland, and First Nations people driving Indigenous owned and led enterprises in Far North Queensland.

CQUni program manager Ashley Clarke said the two-day sessions offered face-to-face opportunities in regions where people would usually have to travel for development.

“Participants are bringing huge passion to their projects, and a real understanding and experience of local problems they’re seeking to solve,” Ms Clarke said.

“So being able to meet them in their own community, and work with them to develop strategies that address challenges, and maximise opportunities, really fast-tracks their progress through shaping a practical plan.”

Ms Parups said the sessions were having a great impact, and positive outcomes included working with Rockhampton Regional Council to design a community “upcycling” solution for sustainable waste management.

“Entrepreneurs in the program are supported to create solid business plans for new and innovative projects within their business, and that support is so valuable to the whole regional community,” she said.

Ms Parups said social enterprise offered bespoke and fit-for-purpose ways to address local challenges, and generate local wealth.

“We know that for every dollar that’s invested in social enterprise, three dollars are generated in the community – and particularly in the regions, financial support systems make that growth possible,” she said.

Reset and Recover with Impact is also supported by Social Traders and Griffith University’s Yunus Centre, and funding is via Queensland’s Department of Employment and Small Business.