The Emergence of the ‘Social Economy’: the Australian not-for-profit sector in transition

University of Technology, Sydney
Publication Type:
Project Report
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The Not-for-Profit (NFP) sector in Australia is currently in transition. There is a growing recognition, in Australia and worldwide, that government and philanthropic funds are insufficient to address the problems facing society; as well as demands for increased accountability and demonstration of improved outcomes from traditional funding to the non-profit sector. There is also a growing global interest in social enterprises, socially responsible investment, and, in particular, impact investing – where investors aim to achieve a blend between commercial value and social impact. These trends are contributing to the emergence of new organizational forms, partnerships and financial products, and as a consequence, NFP organizations are becoming just one form of organization within the broader spectrum of organizations and activity described as the ‘social economy’. This research project begins to explore this transition by analysing a sample of organizations in Australia that while having formal non-profit structures, identified themselves as social enterprises in a bid for funding from one of Australia’s leading corporate foundations, the Westpac Foundation. The research builds on previous studies, yet also enables more detailed data on the leadership, governance, human resources, financial challenges, and focus of activities of social enterprises and raises questions about the future of the sector and the social economy.
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