Staying True to Your Social Mission
Melbourne’s growing community of social entrepreneurs showed in force for June's Compass Masterclass. Keeping key beneficiaries at the centre of the business and refusing temptations to change track are critical lessons that Grace McQuilten, Founder and now Board Member of The Social Studio addressed. As more consider starting ventures with social impact at their heart, it has never been more important to share how the next generation of founders can to stay true to their social mission.
Keep Your Business Close, and Your Community Closer
As Grace explained, the social sector is engulfed in a tug-of-war between profit and social motives. Too often the focus falls on the entrepreneur, as opposed to the community at the heart of the enterprise. Grace argued that there is only one way to tackle this - by including the marginal voices that you seek to help, at every step. By doing this is it possible to achieve Grace’s ’holy grail’ of both profit and community assistance.
The Social Studio keeps the local community of recent migrants in Collingwood at its core. Grace noted how hierarchies are removed, and different considerations of what is ‘achievement’ are appreciated, giving room for creativity and expressiveness. The Social Studio has evolved to become a fashion label, coffee shop, fabric printer, TAFE institution and community centre. The local participants can express themselves in an unrestricted, creative way, whilst deepening the relationship between a product and its craftsmanship.
Dealing with Success and Scaling with Grace
The Social Studio has been highly successful, so what happened when the enterprise needed to expand? Grace detailed the pressures that this created, as participants feared for the new direction of the program. Instead of expanding to new communities, The Social Studio assisted others elsewhere in setting up their own models. These were specific to their own local communities, and allowed The Social Studio to continue to focus on how they deliver quality programs in Collingwood. For example, they helped Twitch Sewing Collective, a community of South-Sudanese women in Dandenong, Melbourne and The Social Outfit a spin-off venture in Newtown, Sydney. The former is focused mostly on community building and empowerment of the women in Dandenong, the latter focuses on the integration of new migrants to Sydney's centre with fashion forward.
Staying True and Honouring Your Community
Keeping a social enterprise close to its original mission is challenging - with opportunities to expand and make larger profits tempting many social entrepreneurs away from what inspired them to begin with. However, Grace’s example shows how you can still focus on the communities you care about most. Hierarchies should be put aside and voices must be given to the people that drive your enterprise. That will help your social mission stay at the crux of your business.
Catch up on Grace’s Masterclass. Recap HERE.
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