Social Enterprises in Australia and India
"The issues are not absent in Australia but are different."
by Annika Sutter 11 Aug 2016
Dr Gavin Melles
Swinburne's Dr Gavin Melles is travelling India to assist in his dissertation on livelihood oriented social enterprises. Gavin is undertaking MSc Sustainability Development (Development planning), at SOAS, University of London.
The focus of Gavin's research is the links between social enterprise, in the various ways it is conceived and social development- especially as understood from a sustainable livelihoods perspective
Gavin's interest in social enterprise began 30 years ago when he was living and studying in Costa Rica.
"I started to think about how the society in Costa Rica was divided with the indigenous people at the bottom," Gavin told Indian news website, Chennai Online.
Gavin continued to focus on culture and social issues through his academic research and now volunteers as a social business mentor for the School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), in Delhi, India.
"You can’t understand social enterprise in India or Vietnam or Australia or UK unless you understand the socio-cultural and institutional environment in which it operates…all these organisations make the environment favourable to change or development," states Gavin.
"In India, from what I know, you have the caste, gender, socio-economic status—all of these influence the extent of which social enterprises is acceptable and for whom"
In Australia, we have an excluded population of aboriginals who have a much lower life expectancy and health problems. The issues are not absent in Australia but are different, and the attitude towards social enterprises—there is growing acceptance."
Gavin explains India is more like Europe than the USA; "It is like a bunch of different countries with different languages put together. These regional and district level differences affect how social enterprise works or is accepted.
"When you talk about social enterprise, and even the basic division about the poor north and the more developed south, in India; it would only make sense to talk about social enterprise with a regional understanding.
There are a lot of claims about how social enterprise is changing India, but whether there is a good connect with government social policy remains to be seen.
The entrepreneurial spirit, affordable innovation, and the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid; there is so much to do and as an outsider, I can see that change is happening!"
Lastly, Gavin believes social enterprises need to focus on needs-based impact assessment and be more explicit about their work; "I see the problem, globally, wherein people are not assessing but just telling good stories. It is not enough."
Gavin is Swinburne's Senior Lecturer for Social Innovation through Design and supervises PhD candidates in Design for Social Innovation. He has links with Swinburne's Centre for Social Impact (CSI), Okapi Consultancy in Villgro, DesiCrew in Tamil Nadu, and the Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CSIE) at IIT Madras.
He is a researcher with the Collaborative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, is a social business mentor for the School of Social Entrepreneurs (Australia) and assessor for the Australian Research Council and Swiss National Research Council.