2016 may well be the year of the startup program here in New Zealand. With new incubators and accelerator programs announced alongside expansions of already running programs. It seems now more than ever before there is an option to fit every need - including, thanks to The Akina Foundation - employment.
The social enterprise foundation recently announced a new accelerator, aimed to help social enterprises creating employment in Auckland. But Launchpad Work moves beyond a simple blanket employment focus, choosing instead to highlight and support social enterprises that are helping individuals who face the greatest barriers to be able to find work. This ambitious accelerator is the first of its kind in New Zealand and supported by the Ministry of Social Development and SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust.
We talked to Akina Regional Director Shona McElroy about the what, why and big picture vision for Launchpad Work.
There have been some big accelerator announcements recently including the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator and the Venture Up Youth Accelerator coming to Auckland. What makes Launchpad Work different?
There’s certainly been a wave of new accelerators. I think it’s recognition that the acceleration process can create great value for participating companies. There’s also recognition that these programmes work most effectively when the needs of the teams are similar - whether that’s by industry or by participants. As a result, we see more and more specialisation and sophistication in how a programme understands the ecosystem and executes its purpose.
Launchpad Work is a great example of that evolution. It’s New Zealand’s first business accelerator programme for ambitious social enterprises whose purpose is to provide jobs for individuals facing the greatest barriers to work.
The biggest difference between Launchpad Work and other accelerator programmes is the social enterprise focus. A social enterprise needs a careful balance of business growth, quality and competitive service with delivery of social impact. The enterprises we’re looking to support in Launchpad Work will provide high quality, employment that meets the needs of employees, especially those in groups like youth, former refugees, lone parents, people with disabilities, individuals with experience of homelessness, the criminal justice system or mental health difficulties, as examples.
It’s challenging but immensely powerful. A US study showed that for each dollar spent by social enterprises, $2.23 of value was generated for society as a whole. Individuals working in social enterprise gained skills and confidence, a greater ability to retain employment and improved housing stability.
Throughout the programme, we’ll also be engaging with potential impact investors. Impact investors are people that are interested in a financial return and a social return on their investment and can take many forms. Our impact investment team has been leading the growth of this and are there to support any new impact investment vehicles.
We’re excited to be partnering with MSD and SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust whose objectives align with ours.
We have been following the participants in the last Launchpad accelerator, was Launchpad Work made with those companies in mind or are you serving an entirely new need?
We gained a great deal of learning from the first Launchpad, and we’re taking that forward into the next iteration. Launchpad Work has a narrower focus and is tailored to the specific needs of these employment-focused enterprises.
We see many social enterprises with employment as primary purpose come through our public workshops, so we know the potential is out there. We also know that in countries such as the UK, USA and Australia where there are more dedicated supports, there are significantly more.
The needs of these types of enterprises include things like access to larger service contracts, access to mission-aligned funders and investors, and shared good practice in providing support to employees with additional needs, among other things. This accelerator is geared towards providing these.
At Akina do you see this accelerator as a project around job creation, or about helping more people being able to access employment opportunities that are there?
There are some great programmes that bridge the gap between those that are ready and looking for work and businesses that have vacant positions. We’re looking for social enterprises that provide employment. This employment may be permanent or for a shorter period.
The working environment in a social enterprise often provides more supports than a mainstream environment - this support is tailored to help build the soft skills and qualifications that make a great employee. Over time these employees may progress into mainstream employment. That means new employees can come through and gain the benefits.
It may take a year of employment with a number of supports for an employee to become confident and capable to take on and maintain a job in a mainstream job market. The transitional role is a place to learn and feel supported but is also a job, and it may last anywhere from three months to a year or more. There is nothing like having a job to feel valued and gain the pride of contributing and earning as well as learning all of the skills needed to be a good employee.
Many social enterprises provide both transitional and permanent positions and its often dictated by the needs of the employees and their particular challenges. Launchpad Work is open to social enterprises that do either, or a combination, of these things.
This announcement is an excellent way to open up the conversation around Social Enterprises. What would you say to someone who was contemplating starting on the social enterprise journey.
Social Enterprise can be a powerful way to create positive change in the world. They are ‘purpose driven’ businesses that have clear and measurable positive impact on society, culture and the environment.
Many people come to social enterprise with a passion that stems from lived experience of a challenge in the world they would like to address. Social Entrepreneurs are driven by personal passion and values rather than personal profit.
Pursuing social enterprise can be challenging. They are charitable by purpose but business by operation. That combination means that there’s the need to be creative about how they’re constituted and how they raise funding and investment. But there are also huge opportunities emerging. B-Corps certification, Impact Investment (where impact is considered as part of the return as well as the financial return), and equity crowdfunding, are all enablers that are increase the options for new businesses that drive impact.
Interested? Here are all the details you need!
Applications open on the 15th December | Applications close in 7th Feb
The accelerator will run from May to October
Info sessions on Jan 24th (4.30 - 5.30pm) and 25th (8.30 - 9.30am) click the button below to express interest and get more info
Akina is also interested in hearing from potential mentors, funders, investors and partner businesses who are aligned with the purpose of Launchpad Work.