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Accelerator helps social enterprises get marginalised employees into work

16 Jan 18

Six months, eight social enterprises, and $1million in major contracts and funding later, Launchpad Work is now complete.

Launchpad Work was New Zealand’s first business accelerator for ambitious social enterprises whose purpose is to provide jobs or training for individuals who face the greatest barriers to work.

Whether this barrier is a disability, a lack of skills, or anything else which has led to an individual being marginalised, Launchpad Work is a programme which wraps support around organisations tackling these problems to enable them to grow their business, and in doing so increase their impact.

Internationally, social enterprise has proven to be an effective model to support people into employment, largely due to the fact that success to a social enterprise is not just making a profit, but achieving a positive impact in the world.

In Scotland, 45% of social enterprises aim to create employment opportunities, whilst the broader social enterprise sector adds almost $2 billion to their economy each year.

With the ability to benefit both the local community and the wider country, Ākina Foundation, the Ministry of Social Development and SkyCity Auckland Community Trust were excited to create a programme which accelerates the growth of employment-focused social enterprises.

To do this, Launchpad Work took the ‘startup accelerator’ format, made famous by programmes such as Y Combinator and TechStars, and tailored it to create a more bespoke programme to better suit social enterprise.

Rather than having a predetermined outline of workshops and learnings, it assigned each business a business coach, or Venture Manager, at the beginning of the programme who was tasked with providing the Venture with wraparound support in whatever form they needed to enable them to accelerate through the programme.

One of the key ways this support was delivered was via a pool of mentors with deep experience within their respective fields.

At the beginning of the programme, the participants had a ‘speed dating’ session with the prospective mentors, leading to ‘mentoring matches’ where the ventures secured amazing mentors to provide insights, challenge and support to them along their journey.

The other key structure of the programme was fortnightly ‘check-ins’, where we brought all of the participants together to reflect on progress, discuss goals, and enable them to learn from (and be accountable to) each other.

This was valuable time to enable the teams to ‘step out of the weeds’ and ensure it was the longer-term strategic goals they were focusing on and taking actions towards.

At the end of the accelerator, more than 15 jobs were created within the teams, more than 70 people were supported into employment outside of the teams, and over 200 people were provided with employment training.

This all occurred over just a six-month period.

Based on the goals these participants have over the next couple of years, the Ākina​ Foundation is really excited to see their impact continue to grow and, alongside this, more and more people who face major barriers to employment find themselves in a rewarding role, and on a new life trajectory.

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