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Team Spotlight: Global Action Plan Oceania

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Three words to describe Global Action Plan Oceania? Waste, bold and growth.

And I don’t mean waste in the typical sense of that word. They certainly aren’t rubbish. I use that word because what others see as waste, GAPO sees as opportunity. So much so that they have created a business out of dealing with other people’s waste. And a very successful one at that.

At their core, GAPO are a community recycling centre, but have also identified a range of other business streams including sustainability consulting, education and recycling services to the Auckland community. One day of the week you may find them on-site at their Devonport Community Recycling Centre, another day out at their Otahuhu shop, another on Waiheke, and then the rest of the week you may struggle to find them as they are around New Zealand consulting to larger organisations on how they can better manage their waste. As a living wage employer, they create opportunities for people who face barriers to employment, improving environmental outcomes by diverting waste from landfill, repurposing waste into value products, and teaching people to “do the right thing” with their rubbish: GAPO’s aim is to transform the waste industry for the good.

This is a bold goal. Luckily backed by a pretty bold team, with a great deal of professional and industry experience. The driving force behind GAPO are Andrew Walters, Jane Walters and Adam Benli. Andrew and Adam met when they both worked together within a local government sustainability team. They both enjoyed the work, managing the sustainability practices for a region, but they both experienced first hand the inevitable inefficiencies of local government, and knew there was a better way to achieve the impact they wanted.

So, they started a business on the side of their day jobs providing waste consultancy services to organisations on their own terms. And when they got their first major contract, both Andrew and Adam resigned from their day jobs and made this business full time. Andrew also managed to convince Jane to leave her day job to help steer the ship, and it’s fair to say since then they’ve seen some pretty phenomenal growth.

When they created their first business plan, their five year goal was to have five permanent employees and be earning a reasonable income. One year later – yes only one year later – they have found themselves with 17 employees, a reasonable income and are cashflow positive. Fair to say they have smashed their goals, and have even more ambitious ones going forward.

What’s even more impressive is the fact that, in hiring these staff, GAPO have committed to hiring those who face barriers to employment, and working with them to help them find rewarding employment. Some of their staff have intellectual disabilities, but with a bit of patience and support, the GAPO team have helped these employees excel at their job, and greatly improved the quality of life of the worker. On top of this GAPO have committed to paying the living wage, a higher salary than the minimum wage, to help their employees maintain a better standard of living.

Growing at this rate is difficult to sustain though. Whilst there is still growing demand in the industry, there comes a point when a business needs prioritise and strengthen the streams of work that have the most impact, in order to consolidate and organise itself to ensure it is stable enough to continue to grow. And this is one of the key reasons GAPO applied for Launchpad Work. With the support of their Venture Manager they are looking to create some order amongst the growth, enabling the founding team to step out of the doing and into a more strategic managerial role, so the company can grow in the right directions going forward, as they build self-sustainable operations that can scale.

We’re really pleased to have GAPO as part of Launchpad Work, and to work with them as they solidify the broad foundations they’ve created in their first year, and further identify exactly where and how they are creating impact. Already they are starting to prioritise business opportunities which create impact that most aligns with GAPO’s purpose, and we look forward to see where this takes the business next.

Team Spotlight: The Fresh Desk

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Three words to describe The Fresh Desk? Fresh, hearty, hungry. It’s an infectious combo. So we are extremely happy to have them as participants in Launchpad Work.

Founded by Caroline de Castro and Nicole Oxenbridge, The Fresh Desk is a commercial cleaning company which was started in Wellington three years ago after the founders took a situation many of us have faced before, and did something differently to solve it.

After moving to New Zealand from Australia, the pair began applying for jobs to continue their careers here. However, they pretty quickly discovered that getting a job wasn’t as easy as they expected. In fact, even getting a reply from an application was hard to come by. It didn’t take long before, between them, they had applied for more jobs than they could count, but still hadn’t found suitable employment.

To make ends meet during this time the pair started cleaning at the house they were staying at in exchange for reduced rent. And whilst doing so, the idea dawned on them. There is always something that needs cleaning. And there are a lot of cleaners working in pretty tough conditions. Maybe they could start their own cleaning company, and give up the job seeking game. And maybe, just maybe, they could one day grow big enough to recruit new staff. And when they did, they would be sure to reply to every single applicant they got!

And it was that dream which made them apply for Launchpad Work. Through the program the Fresh Desk are looking to scale their business, especially into the Auckland market.

One of the things which stands out about the Fresh Desk is that this hunger for growth is equally matched with the heart to do good with their business. Because of this, very early on they decided that, on top of creating a successful cleaning company, they want to reduce the poverty rate in New Zealand. This is no simple task as it is a rate that is much higher than most are aware, and is an extremely complicated issue to tackle. While this might put others off, it simply fuelled the Fresh Desk’s motivation to make a difference.  

1 in 4 Kiwi kids, or 270,000, live in poverty. It stifles educational achievement, reduces labour productivity and earnings ability and increases the costs of healthcare and crime. 2016 data from the Dunedin Study found that poverty is the single greatest threat to child wellbeing. Its negative effects endure and escalate across the entire lifespan, and poverty has the single greatest direct impact upon New Zealanders’ health, educational and social outcomes. It’s a pretty big problem. But, the Fresh Desk want to change this.

To do so they have committed to paying their staff the living wage. And they are the first cleaning company in New Zealand to do this. They have also committed to employing those who have been marginalised or discriminated against previously in their employment. Refugees, LGBT, solo parents, anyone who may have struggled with employment because of prejudices held against them. The Fresh Desk is committed to justice in employment, and support them along their journey. It’s certainly not the easiest path for them to take, but with their commitment to their vision of fair employment for all, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Along their journey the team have jumped at the opportunity offered by the Ministry of Social Development to implement a flexi wage subsidy to do this, to help them with some employees. Flexi-wage is a subsidy which MSD grants to employers who commit to hiring employees who require support to gain the required skills for the specific role. Receiving this subsidy enabled the Fresh Desk to employ someone who may have otherwise remained unemployed, and spend the time with them they needed to upskill and help them maintain a rewarding role within their company.

And around all of this, they still manage to get a lot of work done, demonstrated by the seven day a week hustle they’ve shown throughout the program so far. Whether it be doing the cleaning, managing their staff, meeting new clients in Auckland, or even having a go at legal agreements, these two do it all. Which is why we weren’t surprised to hear that only a couple of weeks ago the team landed their biggest cleaning contract yet, and biggest by a considerable margin. If we were betters we’d quite comfortably put money on them landing an even bigger contract before the end of the program.

Over the next few months this team have an ambitious list of goals to achieve, and have already surrounded themselves with extremely strong mentors to guide them on this journey. Whether it be creating a new legal structure, better identifying their customers and how to communicate with them, or better defining the impact they want to make and how they are going to achieve it, these two have a lot of work ahead of them, and are climbing each mountain as if they had been doing it forever.

Work: What’s Working?

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With a son who looks Māori and a daughter who looks pakeha, Jody Hamilton was surprised by their radically different experiences growing up. Statistics show that you are three times more likely to be suspended if you are Māori, two times more likely to find yourself NEET and three times more likely to commit suicide. Jody realised that if her son and others like him were to succeed, there needed to be better pathways to employment, and that she could be a part of the solution. Now, eighteen years on, Jody has broad experience in economic and social development with a focus on indigenous and youth employment, and runs a consultancy business that connect communities and companies. “Business can only prosper in communities that prosper.”

This personal reflection formed part of a powerful introduction to Launchpad Work’s second speaker event, titled Work: What’s Working. At this event we gathered the wisdom of three social impact forces – Jody Hamilton, Andrew Nicol and Tania Pouwhare – to discuss the barriers facing New Zealanders in the workforce, and the role of social enterprise in tackling them. Of the many themes emerging throughout the session, some of the strongest were the importance of building careers, future proofing skills in a changing world, and the power of embedding social value into procurement practice.

Building careers is something Andrew Nicol is passionate about, but he is the first to admit that he hasn’t let this be his sole driver. Andrew comes to social enterprise from a business perspective, using strong business cases to address social outcomes. He has already successfully applied this approach as the Managing Director of Agoge, and is now taking it to a new startup social enterprise, coHIRED, which connects people with jobs they love using specialised matching software. He encourages businesses to understand the correlation between valuing their employees and the overall success of their business, as well as the way it can drive the individual employees career.

Going beyond helping someone find the right job, we asked our panel what it takes to turn that job into a career for a person who may need extra support. We know that for people with significant barriers to employment, such as those with drug and alcohol dependency, challenges in the workplace can be enough to deplete their independent support networks very quickly. Tania Pouwhare highlighted research which has found that if a person can stay in a role for 3 months they have a significantly higher chance of staying in employment long-term, and spoke to the role of mentoring in supporting a person to develop their own resilience.  

As an intrapreneur, Tania has been changing the way Auckland Council thinks about their role in addressing social issues – supporting and enabling social innovation with a focus on social procurement in South Auckland.

“In Auckland we’ve been involved in 9 council-family contracts with social objectives. It’s taken five years to get this far. Last year I spent 300 hours trying to convince colleagues to take a strategic social procurement approach. Convince them that instead of funnelling money into addressing social problems in a conventional, piece-meal, grants-based way, if we pulled the procurement lever we can achieve the same positive outcomes through the money we have to spend anyway on the day-to-day core business of local government.”

As councils use their buying power to embed social procurement into the tendering process, new talent pipelines are created with mutually beneficial opportunities. In Europe and the UK 80% of procurement processes have a social component, and there hasn’t been any evidence that social outcomes create more cost for either party. Although still in its infancy, social procurement is starting to grow here in New Zealand, and holds a lot of potential to address social needs. We hope that over time we will see similar rates of social procurement here.

Future proofing of skills was another strong topic of the evening. Faced with the rapid depletion of jobs in the next 20 years as technology continues to develop, the panel discussed the future proofing of skills in a changing world. Tania noted, “resilience – and building resilience – is crucial. There’s a need to focus on problem-solving and innovative thinking – fostering entrepreneurial thinking.” The other speakers agreed that encouraging self-employment, entrepreneurship and creative thinking will equip future generations to face the changing job market, along with introducing technology into training, and building the cognitive and non-cognitive skills that build resilience.

And considering these issues, what role does social enterprise have to play? A very important one. And if you ask any of our panellists, it can be pretty effective at that role. As Jody put it, “you can’t underplay the opportunities that social enterprises create. They’re closer to the ground – they have real, genuine reach into communities and the environment they’re working in.”

Team spotlight: Destination Trades

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The three words I would use to describe Destination Trades are fierce, resilient and capable, with the entire founding team having all of these traits in spades (if you’ll excuse the pun).

We met Destination Trades when they applied for Launchpad Work, Ākina’s accelerator for social enterprises who are helping those who face barriers to employment. Right from the get go this team has always been a force to be reckoned with, constantly seeking answers from us, while always being up for any challenges we posed them. This may be partly down to their experience, and partly down to the clear vision they all share for what they are doing and, most importantly, why.  Destination Trades are looking to increase women’s participation in the male dominated, well paid, and high demand trades industry, and they are looking to accelerate their activity towards achieving this goal.

Destination Trades was founded by Christina Rogstad, Veronica White and Owen Lingard in August 2016. Christina and Veronica are both from corporate backgrounds, and Owen is a qualified Electrician with a passion for teaching. A pretty good founding combination to see their goal become reality.

And they are doing this by running 8 – 10 week programmes for women, and only women, to get them ready to take the next step towards working and flourishing in a variety of trades. This is preparation for careers which women have previously been told, and most believed were, off limits. The program focuses on developing the skills, attitudes and mindsets to be successful and comfortable in these male-dominated environments.

What Destination Trades is doing is different. They are outside the system and purposefully taking a very different approach. The fact is the existing model of long term training before entering a trade is not working for Industry and it is not working for women. Some of the students who enrolled in this programme had never even picked up a hammer before they started, but just because they haven’t picked up a hammer doesn’t mean they are unsuitable for a career in trades. And as Destination Trades are already discovering, once their students get familiar with these tools and build some basic skills and confidence, new careers for them, and new futures for their families, suddenly are not only possible but right in front of them. The impact of the programme is life changing.

Across the programme the women are empowered to learn not only the fundamental skills of a variety of trades, but also supported through the lifestyle change that many face going from other types of employment, or from being unemployed, into the trades. Then, with this knowledge, they can make an informed decision about which industry they may like to work in. And as we have seen even in these early days some students receive job offers before the end of the program.

As we all know  there is a crisis level skills shortage in trades in New Zealand. 50,000 new tradespeople are needed now and that is only going to get worse as the Baby Boomers retire in big numbers in the coming years . There are 130,000 women seeking employment. And yet, the number of women in trades has not increased from 2% since 1972. Have a conversation with the Destination Trades team though, and you’ll start to think this number is about to change.

Of the 20 students that started their first 10 week course, 3 received job offers before the program had even finished. Several others got work placements. And all received first hand practical experience from a variety of industry experts. Prior to the program, none had experience in the trades industry.

After such a strong start, the Destination Trades founders are now well into planning their next program, whilst also beginning to amplify the discussion around this problem within the industry, as they are the first to admit they cannot solve this problem on their own. Instead the team are working more and more with various industry partners to ensure that everyone is aware of the opportunities, and are beginning to take active steps to correct the imbalance.

One example of this was Gerard Roofs, providers of pressed steel roofing which requires a high attention to detail to do well. Gerard Roofs worked with the Destination Trades students to show them how to roof a gazebo they’d made throughout the course. The result? 1) Gerard were extremely impressed in how quickly the students picked up the skill, 2) despite it’s challenges (working at heights and physical work), many of the students are now looking for a career in roofing, and 3) one of the students was actually offered a full time role with Aspect Roofing, one of Gerard’s Distributors following this session. A pretty good outcome from a few hours of a business’s time, and an outcome that the Destination Trades team want to replicate with other Industry players.

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But through all this, it’s important to remember that Destination Trades are a fresh eyed start up, despite what their results may lead you to think. And accordingly they’ve learnt a lot, and are iterating future programs because of this. A simple example is the timing of their course. Initially they made the days 9am to 2.30pm so that it would be easier on the women who are  mothers. They discovered, however, that this just delayed the inevitable challenge of adjusting to work when they got a job, and thus didn’t prepare them for work as well as they could. Because of this the days are now 8am-4pm to better reflect working life, and the tutors help the women make the  transition to work ready throughout the course, not just at the end.

Destination Trades have trademarked themselves as an extremely competent team with an ambitious list of goals. Through Launchpad Work we will be helping them accelerate towards these goals in a variety of ways, including connecting them with industry experts, brokering support, and providing them with mentors and tailored business support through an Ākina Venture Manager.

Watch this space. And the 2% figure. With a bit of support from industry, this team could go a long way to changing the lives of many women by getting more doing great work in these trades.

Social Enterprise Disruption

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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.

Launchpad Work teams announced!

We’re delighted to let you know that the teams that will be joining us for the Launchpad Work accelerator are (drum roll please)…

Continue reading “Launchpad Work teams announced!”

Mentor applications now open

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Mentoring is one of the most important aspects of any accelerator, and Launchpad Work is no different.

Continue reading “Mentor applications now open”

How to apply for Launchpad Work

launchpad-primary-logoIt’s pretty easy really. To apply for Launchpad Work, just follow these simple steps: Continue reading “How to apply for Launchpad Work”

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