Photo by Natalie Grono
White Box Enterprises
White Box Enterprises has a bold vision – a thriving jobs-focused social enterprise sector that creates secure, long-term employment for the most vulnerable people in our communities. They have big goals – creating 5000 jobs for young job seekers by 2030 and transforming Australia’s youth employment system via social enterprise.
The poor employment outcomes experienced by people facing the highest barriers to employment are well documented. There is a growing call for alternative approaches and employment-focused social enterprises are playing an increasingly important role in addressing the barriers to getting and keeping a job.
VFFF commenced discussions with White Box after their successful pilot phase established Hotel Housekeeping, Australian Spatial Analytics and Spring Services Group as operating businesses. This early success led to White Box being presented with opportunities to work with government, for-purpose and corporate partners.
Our discussions highlighted big opportunities and big challenges. White Box needed additional in-house capacity to respond to the rapidly emerging pipeline of opportunities. Specifically, they needed access to property and commercial expertise to undertake robust due diligence of properties and develop the business cases to support the development and growth of jobs-focused enterprises.
With VFFF’s support confirmed for three years, White Box recruited a Commercial Analyst and a General Manager Property to accelerate capacity to undertake high-quality assessments and respond to property-based projects.
Separately, VFFF and White Box recognised the opportunity to leverage VFFF’s capital through an investment in property to support the creation of more new jobs. White Box will launch a new social enterprise, Lighthouse Laundry in 2022, bringing employment to young people and those with an experience of mental illness, within a commercial laundry operation. At full capacity, the laundry will employ 70 people. Through a $2 million social impact investment, VFFF leads a group of six investors who made a combined $4.5 million investment to provide secure, long-term premises for the laundry.
This transaction illustrates VFFF’s capacity to partner with grantees across a spectrum of capital solutions. The investment supports the laundry by de-risking their critical early days of operation and providing certainty of premises for the long-term. It also provides investors with a social and financial return on capital.
Rural and Regional Media
Supporting rural and regional media is a fitting way to honour the heritage of the Fairfax family. A gift of $1.38 million over three years will support Guardian Australia to develop a rural and regional media network and the Centre for Media Transition (CMT) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) to undertake research on business models, to support and sustain commercially viable news media enterprises in rural and regional Australia.
Strong local media fosters a sense of cohesion and pride and is fundamental to a functioning democracy. It helps power commerce, sets local agendas, and keeps elected representatives honest. Rural and regional stories build connection and understanding to a mainstream audience. Regional media has been in decline for some 10 years. Between 2008 and 2019, 194 rural and regional publications closed and in the past five years, more than 3000 journalists have lost their jobs. COVID-19 has escalated this decline. The role of journalism to uncover, oversee and be a voice for communities in the country is being damaged by the problems in identifying viable business models for rural and regional news. How to make it sustainable is a burning issue in the sector.
Headed by the well-credentialed Gabrielle Chan as Commissioning Editor, Guardian Australia will build a network of trusted regional contributors and employ five graduate journalists to be based in a rural community and report directly on local stories. The network will provide the ‘eyes and ears’ and local expertise to help commission stories to then be fed into mainstream media.
CMT will conduct research on models which envisage a post-philanthropic future for rural and regional media, with a heavy focus on the benefits to democratic institutions of having rural and regional issues more embedded in national discourse via mainstream media. The research will culminate in an annual Rural and Regional Media Report to inform government and industry of the current state of play.
SILA – Social Impact Leadership Australia – is the culmination of three years of research, planning and development, involving a collaboration of four funding partners, leading to a joint investment of $9.6 million over five years in the leadership of Australia’s for-purpose sector. VFFF is delighted to be working alongside The Myer Foundation, Sidney Myer Fund, Paul Ramsay Foundation and our delivery partner The Centre for Social Impact.
The announcement of the first cohort of 24 CEOs in NSW and the ACT is a significant milestone in leadership development for the Australian for-purpose sector.
Capacity building in Australia’s for-purpose sector is under-resourced, as a result of funding models that limit organisational support and a culture that devalues investment in organisational development and the support and development of the sector’s leaders.
Actually having funders say ‘this is valuable and a legitimate use of philanthropic funding’, is the start, it’s all of it, really. Because most of the reason we underinvest in ourselves…is because we are constantly bidding for money that is closely scrutinised, and generally defined by measurable activity, outputs and outcomes”
For-purpose CEO, from sector research to inform SILA program development, 2019
The philanthropic partners spent considerable time developing the idea of SILA, informed by for-purpose sector research and the specific needs of this sector. The stages involved:
- Researching existing offerings, both within Australia and internationally
- Interviews locally and internationally with philanthropic trusts and foundations, including with major US foundations on their success from investing for over 15-20 years in for-purpose sector leadership programs
- Analysis of the Australian for-purpose sector’s needs including data from sector workforce studies and testing ideas and frameworks with CEOs across the sector
- Commissioning further development of the framework, including further testing with the sector
- Tendering for a delivery partner
This commitment to research and evidence directly informed program design, notably the need for:
- Investment in the leadership development of CEOs and in broader organisational capacity building, including succession planning
- A program that enables peer learning and sharing but is flexible enough for individual needs to be met
- A program that develops leadership skills at the individual, organisation and systems levels
- Individual assessment and coaching to better target support needs
- A tailored three month sabbatical to provide time, space and opportunity to lift strategic thinking, reflect, learn and rejuvenate
The quality of the first cohort of sector CEOs is an early testament to the work that has occurred over the last three years. With Nous Group confirmed as the independent evaluation partner for five years, the evidence of SILA’s outcomes will be systematically captured to improve and adapt the program and communicate its lessons and impact.
Jarjum Centre Lismore
Jarjum Centre is an Aboriginal preschool that has provided accessible and inclusive early education and support in Lismore for the last 40 years. Jarjum’s wraparound services include more than education for local children and families.
Jarjum offers culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal children, who comprise 95% of their enrolments, promoting a strong sense of identity and connection to culture. A trauma-informed program is implemented through additional supports including allied health service delivery onsite. Jarjum families are also assisted with parenting support, family conflict and court matters, hospital visits, financial literacy, crisis support and advocacy, all of which contribute to reducing instances of removal to out-of-home care.
The Jarjum relocation project is a great example of non-traditional partnerships working together, with the best interest of community groups in mind. It’s been a privilege to see our vision come to reality through this process.”
Maurita Cavanough, Director, Jarjum Centre
Jarjum is highly respected and valued by the Lismore community, and community members are affectionately referred to as ‘Jarjums’ long after they have attended the preschool. The Centre is led by Maurita Cavanough, a Bundjalung woman well-known for her passionate approach to community capacity building, early childhood education, transformative Indigenous education and mentoring. Maurita is committed to providing a holistic, family-centred service and over eight years as Director she has transformed Jarjum into a community hub by bringing local partners and services into the space.
For many years, Jarjum operated in a sub-standard building without the space or capacity to meet the local demand. In 2019 Jarjum acquired a block of land in a peaceful suburb, and prepared to construct a new, purpose-built centre for their children and families to stay safe, learn and thrive.
Including VFFF, six funders came together to back the $1.8 million construction project; the NSW Department of Education, the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, Social Enterprise Finance Australia (Sefa), CAGES Foundation and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.
In the new Centre, Jarjum will be able to enrol their waiting list, and triple their capacity to prepare Jarjums for successful transition to kindergarten. The Centre is scheduled to open in early 2022.
Sefa met Jarjum in 2016 and since then has worked with Maurita and a range of dedicated partners on building an applied social impact framework and blended capital structure to triple the centre’s capacity. Many of Sefa’s blended deals require patience, persistence and a good measure of passion but this one is very special to the entire Sefa team. We have been alongside Jarjum on their journey to set up a new home from the very beginning and are immensely proud to see the centre opening its new doors to welcome many more students in the years to come.”
The team at Sefa