Social enterprise on the coast

Article image - Social enterprise on the coast The Entrance Community Café
With a growing interest in social and community enterprise on the Central Coast of NSW over the last few years, Wyong Shire Council is working hard to help educate and assist the community implement their own initiatives.

Social enterprise is a means by which people come together and trade a product or service to achieve social, cultural and environmental outcomes. By using a business model, groups can generate income and reinvest profits into the community.

Some of the most well known examples include The Big Issue and op shops, which assist the less fortunate in our society.

Julie Vaughan, Manager of Community and Cultural Development, said Wyong Council were involved in the creation of the Social Enterprise Strategy Document for the Central Coast in 2011 along with other government departments, non-government organisations and the business and community sectors.

“We learnt a lot through this process and thanks to funding from the Department of Family and Community Services, we were able to shift our focus to help create opportunities for our community to build their own wealth and become more self-sufficient.

“So far we have implemented a number of initiatives including free workshops for people to gain the tools to implement their own ideas and have kept the community informed through a quarterly newsletter.

“We also facilitate networking meetings to give individuals and community organisations the opportunity to keep up to date with the latest news relevant to the sector, share their experiences and develop partnerships.”

Wyong Shire Council has also developed a couple of their own enterprises – Lakeside Art and The Entrance Community Cafe.

“We partnered with Lakeside Shopping Centre at The Entrance to activate a vacant shopfront into a gallery and art studio,” Ms Vaughan said.

“Each year artists make use of space developing their own business and management skills, while giving back to the community through workshops and events.”

The Entrance Community Café helps address social isolation by providing hospitality training and employment opportunities, with profits reinvested into growing the facility and related community projects, such as the community garden.

Currently being operated by the Samaritans Foundation through their Supported Independence Program, the café offers real-life work skills and social engagement opportunities to people living with a disability, as well as providing work experience opportunities for students studying Hospitality as part of their HSC.

“These types of projects help create community connections, but also contribute billions of dollars to the Australian economy every year,” Ms Vaughan added.

“The Social and Community Enterprise sector attracts some of the most passionate and inspirational people and we consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to assist these people every day.”