Global Sisters vision is to enable financial independence for women, supporting them to create businesses that have a ripple effect of change to the individual, family and community.  We support individual women, Sisters, to create economic opportunities and sustainable businesses and we do this within targeted locations and through our community partners.

Place based, collective impact work globally tends to focus on education or employment as a driver of more systemic, holistic community change. Employment programs are usually centered around job placement, and the people who experience barriers to employment due to their circumstances are still left behind no matter how many job programs there are. This is why Global Sisters focuses on self-employment and creating jobs that fit in with those circumstances.

Our Beenleigh program is an inspiring example of place based, collective impact work in action. The goal is to shift the dial on employment for women who cannot access mainstream employment due to intractable barriers, and create new businesses that bring wider socio-economic benefits to the whole community. We are bringing together a diverse group of exceptional people and organisations from the public and private sectors who share our vision and are committed to creating lasting change.

Why Beenleigh?

The Global Sisters Brisbane program is focused on the Logan-Ipswich corridor (an area of high unemployment and disadvantage, and host to a large  number of job placement organisations).

Beenleigh is a residential area, bordering on rural areas with agriculture in sugar-cane, dairy, cattle and other crops. It is one of three strategically identified communities in our focus area. We chose Beenleigh as it is a high unemployment, low income area with significant numbers of women in our target cohort including single mums, new migrants, women escaping violence and coming out of the justice system.

What does the collective impact work look like in Beenleigh?

Drawing on a world-recognised collective impact approach, we bring Government, philanthropy, not-for profits/ community organisations, corporates, the local business community and networks and Sisters together to achieve common goals around employment and financial & social wellbeing in the community.

Rather than a traditional Collective Impact model with a ‘backbone organisation’ that leads the diverse stakeholders together, we see our leadership role more in terms of inspiring an ecosystem of like-minded organisations and individuals that want to collaborate to create new economic opportunities in Beenleigh.

We focus on women as research globally shows us that by investing in women the ripple effect to family and community is greater. When women and girls over 16 earn income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families, compared to men who reinvest only 30% to 40% (UNFPA & UNICEF, 2011)

Importantly Global Sisters ensures that our Sisters have “a place at the table”, where previously they may have been externally excluded or self-excluded from the start-up community, accessing microfinance and participating in business networks. Through our place-based, collective impact approach they are now valued members or this community, creating social good through their businesses and providing support to the community as well as receiving.

Unlike other place based, collective impact programs, we have done this informally and in a highly entrepreneurial way so we can iterate quickly, adapt to circumstances and the needs of specific cohorts of women and connect with like-minded partners. Whilst we are less structured than traditional collective impact approaches, we are agile and fast moving and able to embrace opportunities, partnerships and networks easily and quickly.

We’re mobilising our community’s resources to ensure that every woman who wants to be participating economically and earning an income to support herself and her family has that opportunity.  ‘Making business possible’– that’s our commitment to every woman in Beenleigh. We know we cannot do this alone and only by working together can we shift the dial around the complex problems of generational/ long term unemployment and disadvantage in this area.

Our Program, Partnerships and the Business Ecosystem

Business, corporate and not for-profit engagement in the ecosystem

Essential to any enterprise start up is a supportive business ecosystem. For women with university degrees and networks this is straight-forward to access in Australia, with the vibrant start up communities proliferating across the country. This, however, is not as accessible for our Sisters in Beenleigh and Global Sisters creates that ecosystem by partnering and connecting the dots between organisations:

  • NGOs and social sector organisations
  • The local and regional business ecosystem (ie Chamber of Commerce, Councils etc)
  • Entrepreneurship/ start-up hubs and networks
  • Educational institutions (ie TAFEs and local universities)
  • Business and corporates
  • Government, corporate and philanthropic funding.

Over the last 18 months we have established relationships with wonderful community partners such as ParentsNext Accoras (Beenleigh)  and Logan Woman’s Health and Wellbeing Centre. ParentsNext supports women who want to be economic participants but face barriers due to their circumstances, which include being young mums with carer responsibilities and an inability to access affordable childcare. It is a mutually beneficial partnership as they introduce us to women in our cohort who want to start a business, and Global Sisters helps those organisations to achieve their employment outcome targets.

Logan Women’s Health works with women coming out of domestic violence and who have health/ mental health challenges. This partnership creates mutual value by building on the outstanding employment readiness work Logan Women’s Health does with their clients, and providing entrepreneurial expertise that traditionally social sector organisations do not have. As Global Sisters continues to provide enterprise development support, the community partners provide on-going and holistic, wrap around life support. Furthermore Global Sisters works closely with their Be Ready job ready program as an important connection to women who emerge from the program wanting to start a business. Similarly, if Global Sisters encounters women who have completed My Big Idea or Sister School and uncovered a desire to work or study this partnership allows for these women to continue to be supported in their dreams.

Our roadmap of support means that we walk with women over a course of three years (minimum) to support them to ideate, set up, start up and grow a new business.

Women who do not have an existing business are invited to participate in the My Big Idea workshop, which has been intentionally designed to identify and nurture existing skills sets, interests and qualifications, whilst simultaneously being paired with uncovering their bigger dreams, and the key drivers required to allow the growth of this business idea to have a valuable effect ripple into their everyday life.  

As participants have shared their stories of adversity, challenge and the reality of their everyday life it is clear that the emotional resilience is paramount to their success in bringing their business dreams to life. This sharing instigates a camaraderie and sisterhood that is the beginning of the SisterTribe, a network that provides both practical business and emotional support.

My Big Idea workshop enables women to identify both long and immediate revenue generating ideas and develop both creative and strategic ideas. The process positions them to discern the ‘fitness’ of their proposed ideas and examine the reality of how this idea, and the associated time and responsibilities, looks within the landscape of their current day-to-day life.  

In the last 12 months, Global Sisters has delivered 4 My Big Idea workshops in the Logan region, including 3 in Beenleigh, supporting a total of 64 women to create a viable business idea.

This dynamic of building confidence and circling back over business concepts and skills is further reinforced throughout a nine-module business education, called Sister School.  Sister School facilitates the creation of their business canvas, a holistic overview of their business and a mind-map of ideas and possibilities. Choosing a business canvas over a traditional business plan at this point allows for the flexibility around building confidence, reducing overwhelm and building capacity and capability in our participants to be working on practical tasks, that are accessible, feasible and in reach.  In short, it allows the Global Sisters team to meet the Sister where they are at and work with them from this point, and not stop the train in its tracks before it has even had an opportunity to leave the station.

At the end of Sister School, the women have the opportunity to present their business ideas at a pitch with the ultimate goal being a celebration of the work achieved in Sister School and opportunity to receive practical feedback. The pitch introduces aspirational role-modeling and support that continues throughout the post-Sister School period, into the Incubate and Accelerator part of the Sister Roadmap.

In the last 12 months we ran 2 Sister Schools in the Logan region, and 1 online Sisters School with participants from this region, with a total of  57 women participating.

The most recent Sister School in Beenleigh was tremendously successful, with not only new businesses being created but a number of social enterprises launched. In June 2018, we welcomed an outstanding panel to the pitch event. Monica Bradley (Head of Purposeful Capital, SheEO), Induwa Cummings (SHIFFT, and League of Extraordinary Women), Kylie Lowe (100 faces small business, Owner of Joining Hands) and Jacqueline Nagle (Speakable YOU) provided not only valuable feedback to the Sisters pitching but on-going support and connection to business networks and opportunities.

After Sister School the ecosystem of aspirational role modelling happens through three key activities.

  1. “Level Playing Ground” Networking Events – Sisters are invited to participate in existing networking activities of small business from supporters within our community, and are welcomed in.  Our Queensland Accelerator Lead, Asja Svilans, has seen the development of confidence from women standing in the room, observing, to being the woman introducing other women to each other in a few short weeks.  This low risk networking model is important in the development of the social skills required to speak about your business, be seen, and simultaneously build the skills required to follow up on leads and opportunities in a professional and timely manner.
  2. Inviting other Small Business owners to Global Sisters events.  This has been valuable in exposing our Sisters to the challenges and obstacles that all business owners have regardless of life circumstances.

Local Council plays a critical role here- the business development section of Logan City Council has connected Global Sisters to the Logan Chamber of Commerce and existing businesses in Beenleigh and Logan who can assist with Sister business coaching and social procurement (see below).

  1. One-on-one coaching with experienced, successful business owners who work on consulting style projects to help move the Sister’s business forward. This is presented as a ‘give back’ opportunity for business owners who have had the opportunities, networks and connections that our Sisters have not had.

Additionally, Global Sisters creates opportunities for Sisters to achieve important business milestones whilst further connecting them into the community:

  1. Soft business launch: We grow our supportive community, and coaching pool, through Sharing Circles and mini, testing markets.  This initiative is a ‘low risk’ first or early stage sales opportunity, and opportunity for Sisters to soft launch their business, make a first sale or gain a first customer. It allows them to market test their ideas, or aspects of their business, in a supportive environment that is a few steps further away from the Global Sisters Team and other Sisters.  This is emerging as a wonderful way to celebrate our Sisters, and share their work and Global Sister’s mission with potential coaches, partners and the wider community.
  2. Social procurement: Global Sisters is advocating for and making connections to enable B2B social procurement. For example, a new social enterprise to come out of Beenleigh is Jams for a Cause. Our Accelerator Lead has connected the founder, Jessica, to a large café in Brisbane where they are buying her jam in bulk. Next on the agenda is to get Jess’s jam into six of the major social enterprise cafés within Logan City Council. Rather than selling jars or jam at a market, Jess will be selling kilos of jam each week.

Government, Philanthropic and Academic engagement in the ecosystem

After Sister School, Business Meet Ups are held each month to provide on-going business education, access networks and individual planning and support. Logan City Council plays a vital role here through provision of a meeting space and wifi at the Beenleigh Library, promoting Global Sisters events and activities and referring new Sisters, particularly women escaping domestic violence and coming out of the justice system.

There is an opportunity for the State Government to get involved via the Advanced Regional Innovation Program (part of Advance Queensland) – Global Sisters works with a cohort and achieves outcomes for economic participation and empowerment that is not being touched by other stakeholders in the start-up space.  

Global Sisters has been working with Griffith University Centre of Social business, and the entrepreneurship program, at the Logan campus since inception. In addition to hosting events and including our Sisters in their programs, we see significant potential for further collaboration including the engagement of students to further report and monitor key outcomes of the emerging ecosystem, and more general outcomes for Sisters as they continue to play a role in this growing ecosystem.

Our Beenleigh program has been generously funded by private and corporate philanthropic foundations including AMP Foundation, Citi Foundation and Thyne Reid Foundation.

What’s Next?

The first cohort of Sisters in the Beenleigh program are now at incubate or accelerate phase, and accessing out roadmap of support in marketing & sales, technology, microfinance and coaching. Global Sisters will continue to walk alongside their business as they move forward and become financially independent through business.

Global Sisters looks forward to welcoming a new cohort of Sisters in early 2019 and continuing to work together with the diverse and wonderful partners that make up our collective impact ecosystem.