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June 6, 2016

Capitalism with a conscience

As Entrepreneurs Week gets underway here in Adelaide, ideas abound but one thought in particular could change the way society does business.

  • Story: Joshua Fanning

David Paterson is co-founder of Social Capital a private venture concerned with turning social need and disadvantage into sustained socio-economic opportunity.


Get tickets for the Social Capital all day event HERE. The conference is a one-day-only event held tomorrow, Tuesday June 7

He’s spearheading Tuesday’s conference: Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Enterprise as part of Entrepreneurs Week in Adelaide.

In the 40-odd minutes we’ve got with David before he’s due at the City West campus to meet UniSA’s vice chancellor David Lloyd, he manages to walk us through an outline of his career to date, what social innovation and enterprise looks like and the existence of capital without a dollar sign attached.

He’s looking a little tired though.

“The last conference I helped organise had 2,000 delegates from around the world attending,” says David when we ask him how preparations are going for his event.

“It was for the United Nations, hosted at Melbourne’s Convention Centre with a budget of $4million and guards were flown in from the Philippines,” he says before clarifying with a wry smile, “this conference is at the other end of the scale”.

David explains that tomorrow’s event has been funded firstly with two forms of capital other than money – “relationships” and “intellectual”.

These two elements are key ingredients that need to be spent in order to achieve change, David says.

As the former head of innovation at World Vision, David knows about creating meaningful change.

He’s orchestrated conversations about the future of innovation in the humanitarian sector in New York on the extraterritorial grounds of the United Nations, and then he’s also witnessed NGOs in the favelas of Sao Paolo seeing local people do things that blow his mind.

“Both are meaningful experiences,” says David continuing, “but when you see people whom themselves are living in abject poverty,  just determined to do what they can for their own community. When you see people who have very little put themselves on the line for the greater good – there’s nothing more inspiring.”

The conference David’s helped piece together will hopefully be reflective of the types of experiences described above with big names like London Bombings survivor and founder of M.A.D for Peace Gill Hicks and ANZ’s Chair of business growth Jana Matthews in attendance along with myriad small-scale social entrepreneurs who are in the midst of changing business’ paradigm to make room for positive community outcomes.

It’s the cumulative effect of these stories that will eventually change the way we do business.

And it’s not small business either argues David.

“There’s been a lot of relief and applause for the announced $50 billion for the submarines contract,” says David.

“But currently our governments spend approximately $50 billion across Federal, State and Local levels every year in South Australia alone. That’s $50 billion that’s already spent and the vast majority of that is for some form of social good, whether it’s health or education, community services, family violence, police. All of that is up for public good.”

Where social innovation plugs into this market is as simple as an auditing process says David.

“Within that $50 billion market, would we say that all of those systems are functioning really well, optimally and they couldn’t be improved? – No, we wouldn’t say that as a community. But would we say, ‘if we could let innovators and entrepreneurs loose on at least part of that system of expenditure that we couldn’t get better outcomes for the community?'”

Of course the paradigm shift David’s describing won’t happen in a day or even during Entrepreneurs Week but if we can start and manage such a shift, then the skills and intellectual infrastructure developed here in South Australia could easily become one of our largest exports.

The good news is that the shift is already occurring and the Social Capital Conference will be the perfect stocktake of where progress is at.





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