Hackham West ‘Business not as usual’
In Adelaide we were invited to facilitate a brainstorm session at the Community Centre of Hackham West. The Community Centre of this rather poor neighborhood, does great work running more then 50 programs and services for the community and although the Centre runs mostly on volunteers, running these activities still costs a lot of money. David Kelly, one of the board members of the Centre, asked us to organize a brainstorm, that could explore the possibility of setting up a (social) enterprise in order to become less depended on government funds.
David invited the around 20 participants, both experts from outside the community and community members and we prepared a program for the whole day. The program was aiming at 3 goals: that the participants should generate real ideas what the enterprise could look like; we facilitate the discussion whether the community even wants to start an enterprise; but mostly the program should provide the participants with the tools to start this process and identify business opportunities even when we left Adelaide.
A short movie of the workshop: ‘business not as usual’ at the Hackham West Community Centre is included here
When community Centre’s or NGO’s like Hackham West consider starting a (social) enterprise they tend to think of it as another project and seem to forget the specific dynamics of an enterprise. Starting a successful enterprise is already hard on its own. Starting a successful social enterprise is taking it even a step further. It is not enough to start with a good idea, or with the right social output in mind. You need customers willing to buy your product and that is a new dynamic for NGO’s, but even more importantly you need an entrepreneurial mindset that makes it possible to pivot your ideas when needed and this often means having a real entrepreneur on board. We wanted to include this element in the workshop and ended up doing that by splitting the brainstorm about ideas for the enterprise into 2 groups of which the first group focused on “strengths / recourses within the community” and the second on “business opportunities inside and outside the community”. Then we made these ideas clash into a matrix to see which ideas were both feasible within the community and financially viable in the Adelaide market. Did this ensure we came up with the right ideas? We weren’t a 100% happy with the outcome; mainly because the group focusing on the business opportunities still tried to include a lot of social aspects in their ideas as well; which is logical if you looked at the demographics of the participants. So when we (or Hackham West itself) would do this again, it would be wise to invite as much entrepreneurial minded participants, as social-minded participants.
So what happens now? What does the board of the Hackham West Community Centre needs to do in order for this idea of starting a (social) enterprise to become a reality?
– Use the Business Model Canvas to look at the costs of the Community Centre as well. Bringing down the costs by for example providing your own electricity with solar cells doesn’t need as much of this entrepreneurial mind-set as setting up an enterprise, but can result in the same outcome: less dependency on funding.
– Continue the discussion on whether this new (social) enterprise needs to provide meanly financial or social / environmental profit. And if it is really financial profit you are after, make that really your main objective and don’t try to water it down (at least not in the beginning of the business) with helping unemployed community members to employement or only providing your community member with a service they lack and is maybe socially very important, but might not be willing to pay for.
– Learn form the successes and mistakes of others that tried similar projects!
– Foster that entrepreneurial spirit within your own staff members by stimulating your staff and volunteers to keep their eyes open for business opportunities.
– Set up some small scale experiments with the resources the Centre already has, just to get more feeling of what it would mean to start enterprising.
– Bring in a local expert – possibly an entrepreneur that can help with finding that one business opportunity that is really going to make you money. And that can help you make these quick pivots; adapting your enterprise to the real market.
– And let us now how things are going: so we can also share this with the readers of our blog!
Good luck Hackham West! Thank you for making our stay in Adelaide so enjoyable!
Authors: Boukje & Jeroen