Social enterprise - innovation at its finest?

Inside of a hot air balloonI am very grateful to Parramatta City Rotary Club for inviting me to present to their meeting last week. They not only put on a delicious lunch (I'm always motivated by good food), but were very interested in what Dinner on the Table is doing in the social sector and eager to offer their support. We look forward to staying in touch!

During our discussions the question was raised in a couple of different ways: have you received any grants or funding to provide gifted dinners to families living with disability? The answer is no.

From the outset, Dinner on the Table was set up as a social enterprise. Social enterprise is still relatively new in Australia, but it's a sector that's growing. There are just over 20,000 businesses in Australia which operate as social enterprises, and they operate in all business sectors.

In broad terms, a social enterprise exists to solve a social problem or problems. For example, around 10% of all social enterprises in Australia exist to create employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups. These businesses aim to fill a significant gap in government funded services to provide enough employment opportunities for members of our community.

A social enterprise is different to a charity. Charities typically rely on the financial support of government or other benefactors to complete their work. Social enterprises harness the power of the open marketplace, selling goods or services to fund their cause.

Dinner on the Table started with the idea that a good dinner, done for you, could change daily lives. In fact, based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we estimate that purchasing enough food to feed your household twice saves you around 3.5 hours in planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up.

That's enough time to see a movie (and have coffee and dessert afterwards!) It's enough time to take your kids to soccer and watch the whole match. It's enough time to catch up on emails, or work preparation, or have an almighty veg out in front of the TV with a glass of something. And let's not even think of the amount of ironing that could get done...

We think the impact could be even greater for families living with disability, many of whom are even more stretched for time and resources. Which is why we're taking you along for the ride: changing your daily life and changing the lives of some of society's most vulnerable in the process.

In December last year, Malcolm Turnbull announced a National Innovation and Science Agenda. The idea of eating dinner is hardly innovative. Supporting people with disability isn't noteworthy either. Creating a business that aims to support of entire households living with disability is unusual. Not relying on public funding, but asking members of the public to partner with you in this endeavour... well, that's really out there.

We think it's an idea that could really take off.