Ākina Foundation launches social enterprise accelerator

Launchpad Work is Aotearoa’s first accelerator programme for social enterprises, creating jobs for people who need them the most.

Powered by the Ākina Foundation, New Zealand’s social enterprise support agency, Launchpad Work will run in Auckland in early 2017 and will take up to 10 early-stage and growing social enterprises for a six-month business growth accelerator. Participants will get access to business support, funding, talent development, and access to a network of mentors, partners, customers and funders and investors. The programme will build on the success of the Contact Energy Launchpad in 2014, and Ākina Foundation’s support for over 750 ventures in 2015.

Ākina Foundation chief executive Alex Hannant believes this is a great opportunity to solve an important issue for New Zealand. “Evidence shows that employment in social enterprises delivers benefits to individuals, communities and society,” says Hannant. “People gain self-esteem, skills and greater life-stability. Society gains a productive and more inclusive workforce. We’re excited and privileged to offer this new programme as an ambitious next step in growing vibrant social enterprises that make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders.”

The Ākina Foundation has formed new partnerships with the Ministry of Social Development and SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust, both of whom are supporting this project.

Sifa Taumoepeau, SKYCITY’s general manager for group government & community relations says the SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust is thrilled to be involved. “The accelerator programme is a proven model that helps create meaningful jobs for Kiwis who might otherwise struggle to find employment. The objectives of the Akina Foundation meet those of the Trust, in that we are committed to supporting community groups and programmes that encourage financial capability, employment and economic prosperity for families. We believe the Akina Foundation’s Launchpad Work will do just that.”

The accelerator is open to social enterprises that have a primary purpose of providing employment for people that face barriers to employment, such as former refugees, sole parents, people with disabilities, individuals with experience of homelessness, the criminal justice system or mental health difficulties. Applications close 7 February, 2017, and can be made at akina.org.nz/launchpadwork.

The Launchpad Work comes amid a rising consciousness of social enterprise around the world and new ideas being trialled. In the US, the startup accelerator Y Combinator announced earlier this year that Oakland would be the site of a pilot experiment to give about 100 families a minimum wage. The city was reportedly chosen because of its economic and social diversity – similar to US demographics at large.

There’s a few Kiwi companies also working in the space. Claire Conza’s Make Give Live helps people who might be struggling with depression and social isolation (and won the first Idealog/Cointreau Creative Kickstart Competition in August). There’s also Adriana Christie’s The Pallet Kingdom. Earlier this month, she toldIdealog’s Ben Fahy that the company works closely with people that are struggling through mental illness and depression.

Check out Ben Fahy’s interview with The Pallet Kingdom’s Adriana Christie: