One Year On: Nundah Community Enterprises Cooperative

In 2015, Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative (NCEC) was selected as the winner of the Small Social Enterprise of the Year. A year and a half later, NCEC has continued from strength to strength and are now running workshops to share their knowledge of starting a social enterprise to encourage others to start-up and grow.

“We’ve used the notoriety to reach out to other disadvantaged communities to help them set up their own enterprises. This year we have supported the establishment of 5 refugee and/or Asylum seeker led businesses,” says NCEC Coordinator Richard Warner, “Some people have been saying to us ‘you’re setting up competition for yourself’ but we love it! Our greatest joy is to see people formerly denied the opportunity to chance to take up ownership and control of their economic situation.”

In 2015, Warner decided to enter the co-op into the Social Enterprise Awards in the Social Enterprise of the Year (Small) category. Warner’s main motivation was to recognise the work of the founders – a group of eight people with disabilities who had all been unemployed since leaving school who decided they wanted to make a positive change in the community.

NCEC uses the cooperative business model to create meaningful and sustainable long-term employment opportunities for its members, largely made up of people with intellectual disabilities or mental health issues. NCEC operates Espresso Train café in Brisbane as well as the NCEC Parks and Maintenance Crew who look after public spaces for councils and government.

 “[The founders] were pioneering the concept and practice of ‘social enterprise’ and ‘social procurement’ in Australia in a suburb of Brisbane in the early 2000’s…Obviously there were and always have been social enterprises in Australia, but the co-op were one of the first groups to begin to name and advocate for the sector,” Warner explains.

NCEC was selected as the Small Social Enterprise of the Year winner in 2015 from a field of five finalists which included CERES Environment Park and Melbourne Farmers Markets.

Warner said the NCEC team were ecstatic with the win, “It’s difficult to describe what being considered the potential “best” might mean for a group of people who are commonly told “you’re not good enough”.

Being a part of the Social Enterprise Awards also provided insight into the innovation across Australian social enterprise and provided inspiration for pushing NCEC forward.

“Everyone is doing great things, it’s a really diverse sector which brings strength, we all have much to learn from each other. We have tried to incorporate lessons from a number of the winners into our own future direction,” said Warner.

With the Social Enterprise Awards open again for 2016, NCEC are now hard at work getting their next Awards entry ready to recognise their work in supporting the growth of the sector.

“Our thinking is, that if we as a sector really want to address entrenched disadvantage, more incubators need to work directly with the people facing that disadvantage and build up the particular knowledge and skills required to do this. In our own small way we have started to do that.”

Warner’s advice to other social enterprises or entrepreneurs who are looking to submit an entry this year?

“Get your ship in shape, tell your story, keep it simple, involve the voice of the people in the writing.”

Applications for the Social Enterprise Awards 2016 are now open until Friday 2nd September. See all the awards categories and details on how to enter at www.seawards.com.au

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