Community Commerce – an initiative that aims to unlock the potential of humanitarian arrivals through business assistance, networks and interest-free loans.
Community Commerce is a Rosemount Good Shepherd Youth and Family initiative that recognises the breadth of skills and experience newly arrived refugees and migrants bring to Australia. It is designed to unlock this pre-existing ability and enable the refugees to participate in social and economic activity in Australia by providing the business assistance, networks and small, interest-free loans necessary for successful candidates to begin and operate their own business.
Currently around 15 people from refugee backgrounds, 15 university interns and five volunteers provide support have participated in the program.
As research such as RCOA’s paper on the Economic, Civic and Social Contributions of Refugees and Humanitarian Entrants shows, people who came to Australia as refugees are more likely to undertake entrepreneurial ventures than other migrants or Australian-born residents and, when given the chance, contribute significantly to Australia’s economy and society.
Rosemount Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services believes that every person deserves the opportunity to engage on an equal basis in both economic and social activity. However, due to language, cultural and political hurdles, this is not the case for many refugees. Rosemount Good Shepherd provides the necessary support to overcome the hurdles for members of newly arrived communities to start their own businesses.
Rosemount Good Shepherd runs weekly business development sessions involving collaborative activities with participants, mentors and university students.
Rosemount Good Shepherd also works in partnership with other community organisations and settlement services, including Settlement Services International, Metro Migrant Resource Centre and Asylum Seekers Centre of NSW to identify and assist newly arrived communities.
They also receive support and interns from the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong and Macquarie University.
The project, including interest free loans, is funded by Rosemount Good Shepherd, philanthropic grants, the Scanlon Foundation and individual donations.
The most successful part of the program has been the collaboration between students, professionals and clients, which has both enhanced business success and also social connectivity.
The program is filling the fundamental need for all people to use their skills productively for the good of society, their family and themselves.
10 new businesses by former refugees have been established or are pending.
Over 100 separate social connections between refugee communities and the wider community have been created.
15 university business students have been exposed to a different way of using their skills.
Three academic reports have been written on the project.
Learning what would work from a commercial perspective, while also balancing the social aspect of the program has been a challenge.
Translating business ideas from other cultures to the Australian context.
In order to address these challenges, Rosemount Good Shepherd applied a rigorous approach to researching and evaluating the pilot phase and as a result were able to learn clear lessons and implement them to the next phase of the project. This was done through an external evaluation and presentation to the Steering Committee to decide on and implement changes to the program.
Advice for others
Don’t expect immediate success but instead be willing to adapt and change as you learn through implementing the program.
Be clear about commercial and social objectives with all stakeholders, and manage expectations from the outset.
Remember that it is the client’s business and you are a service provider but also be willing to say no when it is appropriate.
Ph: (02) 8571 7800
Mobile: 0424 186 638 (Michael Katz).