Green Connect is a not-for-profit social enterprise in Wollongong, Australia that employs young people and former refugees to do environmental work, including an 11 acre urban permaculture farm focussed on zero waste services and growing fair food
Green Connect tackles three challenges: refugee and youth unemployment, an unsustainable food system and too much waste going to landfill. Wollongong has a big refugee population, and only 31% of refugees have a job 5 years after resettlement and youth unemployment is as high as 36%. Green Connect focuses on creating more jobs for former refugees and young people. Young people and former refugees deliver a weekly box of fresh, seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs to local communities. Green Connect’s business model focusses on less waste, and fair food – good for those who eat it, those who grow it, and the planet.
What do you/your organisation hope to achieve after your success in the Innovation Awards?
“We hope that people are inspired by this project and that it will be replicated in other parts of the world, because it shows that it is possible to bring about social change and environmental regeneration while running a business. This is social enterprise. It’s the best of business and charity brought together to solve the biggest issues our communities face.”
What are the biggest challenges you are facing to nurture and expand your innovation and its impact?
“The biggest challenge is the perverse incentives currently in place through large subsidies for synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, and into employment services that have been proven not to help vulnerable people. If those subsidies were shifted to organic growing and to subsidise employment-generating social enterprises instead, we would see vast improvements to human health, the environment, jobs for people who need them most, and improved community wellbeing. Interestingly, both represent better value for money for government than the status quo.”