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Speech by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Launch of the Centre for Social Impact Annual Report 2008

Location: Centre for Social Impact, Kensington, NSW

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It is my pleasure to be here to launch the Centre for Social Impact’s first Annual Report.

I am so impressed by your achievements after only twelve months, which are reflected in today’s important milestone in the life of your Centre – the launch of the centre’s first Annual Report.

Social Inclusion Agenda

The desire to make a positive social impact is a goal that the centre and the government share.

The government believes that every Australian should have the opportunity and capability to learn, work, engage with their community and have a voice.

This is the principle informing our Social Inclusion Agenda, which aims to find new ways to address disadvantage, remove barriers to participation, increase opportunities and ensure that support services are accessible to everyone.

We want to build partnerships across government and across sectors, and put the individual at the heart of our efforts to ensure that everyone can participate fully in the social and economic life of our country.

The Challenge of Social Inclusion

This task is made much more complex-but even more critical-by the economic downturn.
We need to keep people engaged, help them to stay connected to their community, and provide them with the skills they need to fill labour market opportunities when the economy recovers.

We must continue to develop our national capacity, mindful of the lessons from the global recession: that is, that old ways of doing business need to be reviewed and new thinking needs to be considered.

Promoting the idea of business with a social purpose, and working in partnership with the Third Sector, will help us achieve fairer employment and social outcomes, particularly for highly disadvantaged Australians.

I believe this is a time for all of us-the Government, philanthropic organisations, the non profit sector and business-to re-examine the ways we work-in our own organisations and with each other.

Achieving social objectives and having a commercial focus need not be mutually exclusive.

We shouldn’t just consider the economic bottom line-we need to also consider the implications of our actions in the society in which we live.

To prosper in the future, we need to encourage socially responsible business management practices at all levels.

This will require creative thinking about the types of financial and non-financial support that can be provided to non profit organisations by Government and by the business sector. We also need to think about how innovative business models can support peopled who are disadvantaged and provide opportunities for individuals to actively participate in society.

There is definitely no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. We need to be flexible and innovative to identify what works and help us achieve our goals.

This is where the work of organisations like the Centre for Social Impact can make a valuable contribution.

The Centre for Social Impact

Over the past twelve months your centre has promoted social entrepreneurship and facilitated practical partnerships across sectors.

You have worked with academics to promote not only theoretical ideas, but also tangible and practical steps that we can take to achieve a fairer Australia.

In its first year, your centre has established itself as a leader in social policy research in Australia.

You have done this by bringing together the country’s not-profit, philanthropic, business and government sectors in a collaborative effort to build effective and sustainable social ventures.

For example, your practical research into the causes of, and barriers to, payroll giving-that is, where employees donate to charity through regular payroll deductions-is of great interest to me because of the potential it has to help develop a strong ‘culture of giving’ in this country – something that I know the Prime Minister is also passionate about fostering in Australians.

As outlined in the annual report, your centre has run a comprehensive program of events and courses that covered key issues for the sector; such as measuring returns on social investment, through to case studies by international speakers on innovative solutions to support Third Sector organisations and their service delivery.

I read with interest that you have set an ambitious target for your second year: to organise at least 52 events and executive courses. That works out to more than one event or course each week!

I would like to congratulate you for the commitment this demonstrates to educating people on key social policy issues, which will be furthered through your development of a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact.

Placing ethical and social concerns at the heart of business practice will ensure that a growing number of current and future business people and entrepreneurs consider the social implications of their work.

Conclusion

I have only briefly touched on some of the achievements outlined in your annual report.

As the centre moves forward into its second year, it is important that we continue to share ideas about best practice in social entrepreneurship. We need to increase our knowledge about how this can be translated into practical improvements for disadvantaged Australians.

I would like to again congratulate the staff of the Centre for Social Impact on their first year, their vision, and their commitment to supporting the development of a fairer and more inclusive Australia.

I look forward to continuing to work with you.

And now it is my pleasure to officially launch your Annual Report.