Helping budding social entrepreneurs in Australia



Monday, March 30 2015 - Sarah Sharlott, chief executive of the Ipswich-based Realise Futures, has been giving budding social entrepreneurs 'down under' under the benefit of her experience of heading up an award-winning social enterprise in the Eastern region.


Last week, Sarah took part in a seminar by the Australian School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) - which runs courses for people that have an idea for a business with a community benefit.


By Skype from her Ipswich office, she talked to students for an hour-and-a-half about leading culture change within a social enterprise, answering their questions about how to run a business with a social benefit. The students were from Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.


Realise Futures was set up two-and-a-half years ago and specialises in providing a range of employment services to help people who are disabled and disadvantaged.


Since its formation, the business has created more than 100 jobs and last year won a national award for being a "trailblazing newcomer". It was among five winners chosen from 1,365 social ventures listed on the RBS SE100 Index in the UK.


Today, Monday, it launches its new website


Students from Australia asked Sarah a wide range of questions and were interested in how the company runs its chain of seven cafes across Suffolk.


Sarah, who has 30 years' experience of working in the social care sector, said: ""It was a very interesting thing to do - I've never used Skype to take part in a forum in Australia like this. They asked lots of questions about our business, particularly in relation to the transition of services from the public sector, with a disability focus.


"The Australian model is different - social enterprises are mainly from either charity or faith-based backgrounds. But, like us, they are experiencing public funding cuts and so are keen to learn about model for replication, and they are interested in disability and welfare changes whereby people have individual budgets and buy the services they want.


"There are around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK but a lot less than that 'down under' - but it is a growing sector, like it is in the UK," she added.


Sarah will be talking to the students again next month.


Amanda Blake, student services manager at the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Australia said: "Sarah's imparted knowledge and passion was warmly appreciated. Students appreciated her openness to share more about her journey and experiences."