At last, a clear delineation of social enterprise growth stages has been collectively agreed upon by Australia’s emerging alliance of social enterprise capacity builders. This unified framework aims to eliminate the inconsistencies in terminology and definitions that often arise in the support and funding of social enterprises.

Establishing a shared language to describe the various stages of social enterprise development is not just beneficial, but essential. It enhances collaboration among intermediaries and ensures optimal support for social enterprises. A common terminology also enables intermediaries to articulate their distinctive strengths and areas of specialisation, particularly in supporting social enterprises at different stages of development.

But that’s not all. A shared understanding and language allow social entrepreneurs to more accurately gauge their enterprise’s current level of maturity. This understanding allows them to navigate the often complex and unpredictable landscape of their entrepreneurial journey.

Recognising these critical needs, the Council of Australian Social Enterprise Intermediaries (CASEI) has developed the “Five Stages of Social Enterprise Development”. Building on the work of Sefa, The Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Westpac Foundation, and Impact Seed, this resource represents an illustrative diagram equipped with a unified language that succinctly encapsulates the various stages in a social enterprise’s lifecycle.

The “Five Stages of Social Enterprise Development” not only provides a universal language for those who support social enterprise, including intermediaries, government and philanthropy but also offers a roadmap that can guide social enterprises through their growth and evolution. It’s worth noting that not all social enterprises necessarily progress through these five stages; for example, a social enterprise may intentionally decide not to grow.

CASEI is a collective of like-minded organisations, all focused on the common goal of supporting social enterprises in their growth and development journey. Established off the back of the Social Enterprise World Forum 2022 in Brisbane, CASEI was born from a collective sentiment that there was a pressing need for a forum where intermediaries who support social enterprises could discuss matters of shared interest and build stronger relationships.

CASEI does not aspire to be a peak body. Its objective is to elevate awareness and comprehension of intermediaries’ role and importance in supporting social enterprises, particularly in relation to capability enhancement. This aligns with CASEI’s broader aim of harnessing collective wisdom to identify opportunities, overcome challenges, and drive forward the social enterprise sector.

The organisations that comprise CASEI meet several criteria including, but not limited to, the number of social enterprises they support, operational track record and experience, function, offerings, and primary focus. Adherence to these standards ensures that CASEI members are highly experienced, capable, and committed to advancing the social enterprise sector.

CASEI members include ACRE, Collab4Good, Enterprise Learning Projects, Impact Boom, Impact Seed, LendForGood, Sefa, Social Impact Hub, Social Start-Up Studio (CSI), Social Traders, Social Ventures Australia, StartSomeGood, The Difference Incubator, The Mill House Ventures, and White Box Enterprises. By bringing these organisations together, CASEI aims to stimulate productive discussions, stronger relationships and deeper collaboration for the benefit of the social enterprise sector as a whole.

Navigating the Journey: Introducing the Five Stages of Social Enterprise Development