NZ social enterprise centre closes

The New Zealand Centre for Social Innovation - established in 2009 to grow the ‘business for good’ sector in New Zealand - is closing today, lacking investment to grow.

Trustee Faye Langdon says the centre put social entrepreneurship on the map in New Zealand, but its corporate partners wanted measurable results.

“When we did a roadshow across New Zealand in 2010, people were looking at us and saying, ‘what’s social innovation?’ Now people get it and there is some really neat stuff happening. But we were not prepared to continue if we couldn’t scale and get some big projects running where you could actually see some measurable change. As corporate organisations, [the corporate partners] said, ‘how much longer do we keep giving money and we don’t get matching funding to scale projects?’”

Gen-i, Kordia and Vodafone were among those that partnered with the charitable trust. The centre had also established a school for social entrepreneurs.

Langdon says the New Zealand social enterprise scene remains fragmented, with many smaller initiatives happening.

“We called a roundtable about two months ago. There were 70 people from Auckland. We asked what they were all doing and how we could collaborate. I think at the moment [groups are] still not ready to really sit down. People patch protect. That’s what we found at that roundtable.”

New Zealand also doesn’t have the levels of investment in social entrepreneurship as countries like Australia, Canada or the UK, says Langdon. 

"Australia now has about four or five big flagship organisations around social entrepreneurship and have really grown the whole ecosystem. Canada has 250 people in a building they got a loan from the council for."

The centre has asked Auckland Council’s principal advisor for social entrepreneurship, Billy Matheson, to convene the sector in Auckland. Langdon says people interested in social entrepreneurship could contact Wellington co-working space Enspiral or Auckland counterpart The Kitchen.

Langdon, executive director of the New Zealand Global Women Trust, is also focusing on a major social innovation project. Global Women is leading the establishment of Diverse NZ Inc, which has 40 corporate partners aiming to achieve best practice around diversity.

The project will offer toolkits and mentor companies to harness the power of diverse leadership teams, Langdon says. It is set to launch in May or early June.