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Today, November 16, is World Social Enterprise Day, the perfect time to reflect on what we’re doing at Bedford with our social enterprises.

Bedford’s purpose is centred on supporting people to live the life they choose. For 78 years, Bedford has been providing people with disability opportunities for supported work, which remains an important part of our service offering today. However, we saw that there is a need for greater choice in employment options and opportunities for people with disability in the open market. In line with our purpose to provide choice to people with disability, so they have the opportunity to learn, grow and make the most of their lives, we now offer skill-building opportunities and career pathways to open employment, should they wish. This is where our social enterprises come in.

In an Australian-first, Bedford’s five-year strategic plan involves developing a portfolio of commercial businesses that provide a diverse range of open employment opportunities for people of all abilities. These businesses lead to more career pathways and an opportunity to earn a full award wage. Not only does Bedford now offer more choice to people with disability but we’re also being part of the solution when it comes to reducing pressures on the NDIS budget, by reducing the number of participants. Transitioning participants into open employment supports them to become truly economically independent.

Bedford Social Enterprises are run as 'profit-for-purpose' entities that are generating a financial return and social dividend for shareholders. Bedford Social Enterprises do not rely on NDIS or government funding to be financially sustainable.

Our first social enterprises have entered the market this year: Cultivate Food and Beverage, Dovetail Advanced Manufacturing, and GreenInc Landscape Construction. These social enterprises offer world-class commercial products and services, while accelerating social impact through a social impact investment strategy.

By attracting external capital to these social enterprises, Bedford will be able to scale to the broader market in the industries we have had people working in for 78 years.

To support the transition of employees who wish to do so, Bedford has launched a new Advisory Services business unit, which includes job coaches who ensure employees are ‘set up for success’ in the long term. Every time Bedford transitions an individual to open employment there is a cascade of social, financial and health benefits to the individual and broader community, including economic benefits to the government.

We know instinctively that this is the case but to quantify it, we have partnered with the Centre for Social Impact at Flinders University to calculate these social and economic benefits, so we can measure and value the impact these social enterprises will deliver to the disability community. Early research shows an impressive social return on investment for every dollar invested.

Take a closer look at our GreenInc social enterprise here and if you’d like to be part of what we’re doing at Bedford, you can contact us using the buttons below.