The Magic Makers

-Written for Poppy Renegade-

“It’s an academic exercise and what they do with that in real life will depend on them, what kind of life they would like to choose.” — Muhammad Yunus

Social enterprises seem to be making a statement of late, growing at a rate of 37 per cent over the past five years — their primary purpose to benefit the community and/or the environment. The sector also makes a significant contribution to the Australian economy, constituting 3.8 per cent of the GDP in 2012–13.

It comes as no real surprise that socially conscious organisations and individuals are also emerging in correlation with this growth. According to a Corporate Social Responsibility study, ‘9 out of 10 consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.’

Here are just a few of the local Australian business set out to make magic happen:

The Underground Collaborative — Perth

Education. Homelessness. Human trafficking. Environment. War. Disabilities. Fair trade. Poverty. Child marriage….

This is only the smallest percentage of societal, environmental and global issues — the list is endless, and rife. An up and coming social enterprise, The Underground Collaborative seeks to address and raise awareness to these matters, through collaborating with other social enterprises and organisations, such as those mentioned above, in the hopes that through working together, a greater and more positive impact can be made to create exponential change.

The gritty stuff fast facts:

- A girl in Africa is 3 times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS if basic education is provided 2

- Domestic and family violence is the number one reason homelessness support is sought 3

- 600,000–800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. 80 per cent are women and children; 80 per cent involves sexual exploitation 4

- One in nine girls in developing countries are married before fifteen 5

- One in four teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and only intervene 4 per cent of the time 6

Inspired by the successes and business models of STREAT in Melbourne, and The Freedom Hub in NSW, founder Katie Liew set out on her own adventure to bringing a similar, combined concept to Perth — a café, Notes From The Underground, which seeks to provide employment for the homeless, disadvantaged and at-risk with 50% of profits injected into providing micro-finance in developing countries. Additionally, through collaboration, a space for workshops, training, events, retail, education programs and catering will be offered to tackle these topics that are seemingly taboo and ‘underground’.

The Underground Collaborative is also working with peak bodies, property developers and local councils and government to specifically address and assist with the transition of the homeless into long-term and sustainable housing solutions.

Although in its very infancy stages, through all of the above initiatives, The Underground Collaborative will provide an opportunity to help create a sense of empowerment to individuals and within the community, all the while tackling global matters on a scalable level.

Elkie & Ark — Sydney

Soft, cuddly, fresh, organic bed sheets. Not that staying in bed all day need any more convincing, but founder Anne Foster crafts her linen sustainably and ethically so meticulously, ‘from farm to finish’ where you can rest assured, knowing your lazy Sunday mornings are spent toxin-free and through supporting this local business, help change lives and breathe positive life in the environment.

Cotton industry fast facts:

- 170 million in child labour

- 200,000 women trafficked

- Contributes to 1 in 5 of the world’s pesticides

- ~10,000 litres of water to grow (but poor farming practices can require up to 3 times more)

Every purchase made from Elkie & Ark funds educational scholarships for school children, literary programs for women and communities, and living wages for workers. Additionally, the factories that produce the textiles use renewable energy, recycle water, and re-use off-cuts in order to minimise waste. Lastly, Elkie & Ark only use 100% certified fair-trade and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) organic cotton, which on top of all of the above mentioned, keep harmful toxins out of waterways and farms.

Love Thread Project — Perth

Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only… Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live…”

Love Thread Project too lives by this. Born from her thriving fashion blog, founder Angeline Lloyd realised through her social following, she was able to target social injustice in her home country in Indonesia, particularly after witnessing the fashion documentary, The True Cost and the ‘fast fashion’ implications.

Fast fashion fast facts:

- World’s second-largest polluter (after the oil industry)

- 80 billion pieces of clothing per year consumed worldwide

- One in six people work in the global fashion industry

- Only 10 per cent of donated clothes to charity or thrift stores are sold

- Majority of workers producing clothing in developing countries are subject to modern slavery

Love Thread Project uses fashion, and the creative industry as a whole, to provide education, restoration and empowerment for women at risk. The organisation’s business model consists of:

- The Dreamer’s Collective: a platform for creatives, influencers and businesses to collaborate through monthly fashion and creative workshops. 100% of the profits from these initiatives fund a fashion restoration program for young women at risk of human and sex trafficking in Bali;

- Love Thread & Co.: a fashion label that collaborates with existing fashion enterprises to address modern slavery; 50% of the profits of the online label contribute towards their fashion program. Local artisans in Bali design and manufacture the limited edition capsule collections, to ensure all clothing is produced sustainably, ethically and environmentally as possible.

Property Initiatives Real Estate & Women’s Property Initiatives — Melbourne

Of the estimated 1.3 billion people living in poverty worldwide, 70 per cent are women and girls. They are also the fastest growing group of impoverished and homeless 1.

Property Initiatives Real Estate, the brainchild of Jeanette Large, provide residential real estate services across inner-Melbourne; having recognised these barriers and vulnerabilities women face, the social enterprise exists 100% to fund affordable housing for women and children at-risk through their NFP partner, Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI).

Women and homelessness fast facts:

- Earnings are 19 per cent lower than men resulting in greater unaffordability

- More likely to be subject to domestic violence/sexual abuse

- Primary care status as single mothers restrict them to limited income and work opportunities

Leasing or selling property through Property Initiatives allows the organisation to help build homes for women and children in need. WPI’s first project was an 11 house development, which was tenanted to 11 women and 26 children. Today in 2017, WPI will own 82 homes tenanted to over 200 women and children.