Launchpad Work

social enterprise; accelerator; launchpad work;

Social Enterprise Disruption


We have ambitious aims for Launchpad Work. First and foremost, we want to support the 8 amazing social enterprises going on this six month journey with us to accelerate their growth and maximise their positive impact. Following closely behind that is a desire to shine a spotlight on social enterprise and the impact it can have, contributing to a conversation that is only just starting here in New Zealand.

Conveniently for us, these two goals complement each other nicely. A crucial part of any organisation’s growth is growing awareness of that organisation, the sector it is in, and why it needs to be there. Launchpad Work’s three part public speaker series brings together some of New Zealand’s leaders in the social enterprise space to share their insights and experiences with both the participants of the program and the general public who attend.

‘Social Enterprise Disruption:’ the first speaker event, catalysed a conversation around social enterprise, its potential, and some of the awesome enterprises who are creating significant impact here in New Zealand. Vic Crone, CEO of Callaghan Innovation and Chair of Figure.NZ (a kiwi social enterprise which helps people understand data) observed that the potential of social enterprise is something that people across government and business in this country are now waking up to:

“Social enterprise is unique because it understands community in a way other sectors cannot. There is increasing understanding of what social enterprise can achieve; the wider outcomes and their impact, and the fact that social enterprise is here only to deliver community outcomes.

Before challenging us to do what it takes to move the sector forward:

“…it’s important for social enterprise and government, in particular, to come together, and to foster an environment in New Zealand that supports social enterprise. With currently over $17bn social investment globally – and a predicted one trillion over the next decade – we need to be thinking about how we tap into that global investment, because even just a small percentage of that could mean amazing things for New Zealand.”

Ākina’s very own CEO, Alex Hannant, then took the stage to outline how Ākina is working to build a system of support around social enterprises in New Zealand, with the Launchpad Work programme being one example of Ākina’s work in this space.

“It takes a village to raise a social enterprise. Launchpad Work provides an environment where social ventures can get support to connect to new partnerships and tap into new funding and trading opportunities.”

Levi Armstrong spoke passionately about his experience as a social entrepreneur. A participant in the first Launchpad programme with his venture, Patu Aotearoa: a gym for Māori focused on improving health and wellbeing. Patu’s aim is to create achievable, affordable and accessible exercise programmes for anyone, to help address the obesity epidemic he was seeing amongst his people.

“We are the third fattest country in the OECD. We believe we are fighting a war, and we want to fight it together. We’re about bringing people together and exercise is a benefit that comes out of that. Our aim at the beginning of our time with LaunchPad was to take Patu national, and we’ve achieved that. We’ve created a movement, spreading our ‘gang’ across Aotearoa to create positive change, and social enterprise was the only way I could see to achieve what we’ve done.”

Having opened 12 Patu Aotearoa franchises around New Zealand, it’s fair to say Levi and his team are well on their way to achieving their aims, and they attribute part of this success to the social enterprise model they’ve chosen to adopt.

The audience then had the opportunity to ask our speakers questions, followed by some networking time. Going by the fact that there were still people in the room talking an hour after we had planned to finish the event, it’s safe to say the event definitely turned up the volume on the conversation around social enterprise, and we hope this will only get louder at future events and more broadly throughout New Zealand.

If you’d like to attend the next Launchpad Work speaker event, please click here for more information.

A series of unexpected events

To launch Launchpad Work, Ākina’s accelerator for social enterprises, we asked the eight participating ventures to go through an intensive two day workshop where they got to know each other, themselves, and decide what they wanted to achieve throughout the six month program. We’re extremely pleased to say that 18 hours, 67 people, and 52 cups of coffee later, Launchpad Work is officially underway, and the ventures are already finding value in some surprising places.

We designed the days with two key goals in mind:

  1. Goal setting: This was the start of a six month long acceleration program. We need the teams to come out of this with a strong and ambitious direction for what they want to achieve over the coming months.
  2. Cohort bonding: We wanted the cohort to get to know each other really well, creating mutual respect and accountability between each other.

But it led to a lot more than that too, with the teams finding some of their primary takeaways in places we did not expect, but places that all businesses can find if they just allow the time.

1) People have more skills than they let on

The first of these was the value you can find in just talking to other people in this sector. Not only about their venture, but also about their life and experiences. Back when they were kids, none of the Launchpad participants said “when I grow up, I want to run an employment oriented social enterprise”. They all had very different dreams, which led them down very different paths, and taught them all very different skills. Despite this, each of those paths has now led them to the social enterprise space, and even into the same room for two days. It didn’t take long for the ventures to realise that this variety of skills acquired in previous careers was both interesting and helpful, and gave them access to expertise they hadn’t had before.  

By having two days together, the participants had time to pause, step back, and ask questions beyond ‘what’s your day job’. In doing so they found new things in common, new areas of expertise, and much more value than they ever expected.

2) Talent follows the brave

Social enterprise isn’t easy. Especially when starting one involves leaving an often much more comfortable job to embark on something completely new. Thankfully, day one of Kickoff closed with a reminder of the sheer volume of extremely experienced people who want to support this sector. This was through our mentor ‘matchmaking’ session, where we had over 30 experienced professionals come to meet the ventures and get an idea of who they would like to mentor throughout the program. After a long day energy was starting to wain before this session, but the enthusiasm from both the ventures and mentors to learn more about each other and build relationships really finished day one on a high.

If you are brave, and challenge yourself for the good of those around you, there is a very high chance there are extremely talented people nearby who are willing to help you. Launchpad participants luckily had 30 vying for their attention, but there is nothing to stop other organisations making a phone call, arranging a coffee, and simply asking for help.

3) You can see better from a distance.

The other key takeaway from Kickoff was one we all are familiar with, but seem to forget far too often. Participating in Kickoff for two days meant the ventures were given the time to step back from the operational running of their startup social enterprise. We forced them to take the blinders off, and look all around them to make sure they hadn’t veered off course at all.

From this removed perspective, the ventures asked themselves ‘what are we doing?’, ‘what do we want to be doing?’, and ‘how are we going to get there?’. Not only did this allow them to take stock of what they have achieved up until now, but it also enabled them to plan into the future with the time and focus this requires. Consequently, they were able to think about their venture a lot more clearly, creating goals that really aligned with their overarching purpose and mission, rather than any immediate priority.

Finding the time to step back is often really difficult, but the clarity doing so brings your business comfortably outweighs any inconvenience, and is a process the teams really appreciated.

Throughout Launchpad Work we’ll be pausing to check in on things pretty regularly, and we know this time will be much needed in between the constant coaching and support they will be receiving throughout the program. While this won’t be to the extent we did at Kickoff, we will still be taking stock to ensure the direction all of the teams are accelerating in is the direction the participants founded the company to go in. Watch this space to keep an eye on how they get there.

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