ELP launched our first crowd funding campaign with Start Some Good recently. We’re extremely excited to announce that we have gone past our ‘tipping point’ and still have 22 days to go!
We’re aiming to raise $15,000 to launch an online store. The communities we work with are isolated from mainstream markets and have asked ELP to develop this online marketing platform to assist them with the sale of their products.
Featuring an informative, and quite amusing video starring some of the community involved in Papulankutja Soap Enterprise you can see the campaign with more detailed information and some innovative rewards for contributors here.
Creating the video was a lot of fun, and we’re overwhelmed with the positive response and attention is has gained. We’re looking forward to bringing you online shopping opportunities soon!
Introducing the ELP team
Laura Egan has had a passion for using innovative business models to address social issues since 2005. After completing a double degree in Arts/Commerce, she volunteered with a small organisation in India that was working to create economic empowerment opportunities for women; it was here that she first saw microenterprise being used as a tool for community development.
When she returned to Australia in 2006 she began working in the remote Ngaanyatjarra Lands as a Youth Development Officer with the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku. She started exploring how microenterprise would work in a remote Australian context and found that it was well suited to remote Aboriginal communities as it:
Once she realised there was a dearth of support in this area, she began developing an organisation to help people living in remote communities develop the skills, confidence and experience to explore and develop their ideas.
Steve Fisher is ELP’s Strategic Development Advisor. Steve is the Director of Community Works and brings his extensive experience in participatory training and facilitation in a wide range of community, Indigenous and cross-cultural settings. His specialised skills include international development practice, monitoring and evaluation, community development and appropriate technology, as well as professional coaching, strategic development and attracting resources for new ventures. Steve’s knowledge and expertise have been invaluable to the growth and development of ELP.
Shannyn Palmer is the lead facilitator of ELP’s Ngaanyatjarra Lands project. Shannyn is based in Alice Springs and is currently working towards a PhD under the theme of Deepening Histories of Place. She is passionate about working alongside people in communities to create spaces where Aboriginal people can realise locally driven ideas and projects, and believes that learning and capacity-building in a cross-cultural context go both ways.
Sharratine Campbell is our community-based facilitator in Yarralin community. Sharratine is a Traditional Owner of the Ngaringman people and has been working with ELP since September last year to explore and develop enterprise initiatives with community members in Yarralin. Sharratine has a two-year-old son Tayo and also works part-time at the Yarralin Safe House.
Dominique Costello recently joined the ELP team to support ELP’s work in Yarralin community. Dom is a very proud third generation Kamilaroi woman, with family connections to remote central New South Wales. Dom is passionate about facilitating a space for Aboriginal people to be expressive, self-determinate, cultural, engaged, encouraged and valued within the broader community. As a business owner herself, Dom is excited about the ways in which micro-enterprise can enable the growth of strong and sustainable communities into the future.
Rhett Hammerton is a freelance photographer based in Alice Springs and contributes his skills to ELP through his role of Creative Director. He provides photography and design expertise across a range of projects and has assisted a number of enterprises with logo design. Rhett’s current work with ELP involves assisting members of Yarralin community to develop a calendar. He looks forward to sharing his passion for photography with people living in remote communities and will continue to work alongside ELP to support individuals exploring photography-based enterprise opportunities.
Blackstone Community is in the far east of Western Australia, close to the tri-state borders of WA, SA and the NT. It is about 800 km (300 km gravel) to Alice Springs via Uluru (click on the map for a bigger image).
ELP has been involved with Blackstone Community since 2006, when Laura Egan was there as the Youth Development Officer with the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku. In this capacity, she supported the start-up of a soap-making venture, which engaged a number of the women in the community in 2006 and 2007. That work was a great example of microenterprise to people in Yarralin, who started up a similar project after seeing what the Blackstone Community had achieved.
The interest in rekindling the bush medicine soap-making enterprise continued to be expressed to staff at other organisations through 2009 and 2010, and again as part of ELP’s scoping activities for Grassroots Microenterprise Development for the Ngaanyatjarra Lands project in 2011. This was possible at the Blackstone Festival in May 2012, when Jane Avery from Papulankutja Artists encouraged ELP to run a number of workshops about how to make soap, as well as about the microenterprise aspects such as pricing, packaging and promotion.
The workshops began on the first day of the festival, with Freda Lane and Angilyiya Mitchell taking Laura Egan and Shannyn Palmer out on a bush trip to collect the irmangka irmangka. Once the raw materials were collected, 10 women and girls from the community participated in the soap making.
Veronica Scott was particularly keen on the process and took a lead role in the workshops straight away, designing a logo for the business which was developed into labels with the graphic design assistance of ELP Creative Director, Rhett Hammerton.
Papulankutja Artists was a ready customer, buying and marketing the soaps for sale through the Arts Centre. The most sales were made on the Market Day that came at the end of the festival, but across the whole week $720 worth of soap was sold. The soaps were purchased by local residents and by staff from health programs such as the Trachoma Program and from the Department of Child Protection.
The partnership with the Arts Centre was critical to the success of the workshops, as they provided space to conduct the soap making and are a guaranteed buyer. Papulankutja Artists now have another product line in addition to their paintings, tjanpi (baskets) and punu (wood carvings), which provides the basis for an enterprise hub through the Gallery they hope to develop at the Arts Centre.
Soap making could be the start of a microenterprise in bush medicine products, with Veronica Scott keen to learn how to make bush medicine cream and shampoo as well. Other markets are possible, such as in Warnan, and in Tjuntjuntjara, where Janice Stevens is interested in starting similar initiatives in her community. Both women say that soap making gives them something to do and they would like to develop the ideas further. Janice says that her local council could be helping support this kind of activity, and Veronica feels a sense of ownership and engagement, with many ideas coming to her about what could be done.
More microenterprise in Blackstone
Soap making is just one example of how ELP provides support for microenterprise that is driven by community members. As in Yarralin, access to cheap, affordable clothing is an issue that makes an op shop particularly suitable and many people in Blackstone and other Ngaanyatjarra Lands communities are expressing interest in this sort of business. Shannyn Palmer, ELP’s lead facilitator in the Lands is working with a number of organisations, such as Wilurarra Creative, to create strategic enterprise development plans.
ELP has been running a number of projects since May 2011 in Yarralin Community, which is about 385 km south-west of Katherine in the Northern Territory. We are able to work there through our partnership with The Smith Family, with support from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ Communities for Children Initiative.
People at Yarralin had approached The Smith Family for help with providing parents and caregivers with opportunities to create child-friendly communities. The Smith Family engaged ELP to come up with creative ways to improve outcomes for children aged 0–12, and after talking to people at Yarralin, we could see that microenterprise could be a tool to respond creatively and inclusively to issues in the community. In the first visit during May 2011, four main ideas were developed: running an op shop; providing health takeaway food; making soap for sale in the community; and taking family portraits for sale.
People in Yarralin said that the clothes available from the community store were very expensive, and they expressed a need for a more affordable alternative. In partnership with the Vinnies store in Katherine, which gave us an initial donation of four boxes of stock, we had an op shop sale to gauge community interest in the venture. We made $367 from this first sale, and the success of it meant people were interested to keep it going. We set up an arrangement with Vinnies to buy clothes from them regularly at a discounted price.
The op shop has been running ever since then, with over $1500 generated, 15 people involved in its running and more than 100 customers.
Healthy takeaway food
We also ran a healthy takeaway food sale in May 2011, making a profit of $100 after taking out money for the ingredients and paying nominal wages to the people who had helped. The most popular item on our first menu was kangaroo stir-fry with oyster sauce and fried rice, for $8. This has also been an enterprise people have been interested in continuing, with takeaway food regularly being cooked and sold at community events, including discos and movie nights.
In our first trip to Yarralin in May 2011 people there were very interested to see the microenterprises we were developing with other communities, such as the soap-making venture at Blackstone in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands. People at Yarralin expressed immediate interest in doing the same work, so we went to see what local bush medicine plants we would be able to use as ingredients. In the following trip we collected bush medicine and wattle flowers to add to the soap base; people who used the soap said it made their skin feel clean and smooth. We continued this work in July and November at Lingarra Outstation, approximately 30 kilometres south of Yarralin on the Humbert River Station road, each time making batches of soap that we could sell at Mimi Arts in Katherine, and in the Yarralin Store.
This soap making provides a connection to traditional culture through the bush trips to gather ingredients, and it also responds to health and hygiene issues. Now that confidence in making the product has been developed, we are taking the next steps of developing our packaging and marketing, with a new logo design label for our raffia-wrapped soap stacks.
Another microenterprise idea developed at Yarralin was that of having family portraits taken. In June 2011, we took a colour printer out to Yarralin and were able to print photos that people had taken on digital cameras. These prints were sold at $5 for A4 size, and generated a lot of interest and discussion. In September 2011, Sharratine Campbell and Jessica Robinson set up a small photography and printing business called Natural Photos. Further discussions in May 2012 about how to keep this idea going resulted in ELP engaging Rhett Hammerton, an Alice Springs–based photographer to take quality professional portraits of individuals and groups. In June these photographs were taken, with more than 90 people being photographed. The extent of the interest in this microenterprise resulted in current discussions about how to develop the idea and led to support for a calendar that could be sold both in Yarralin and further afield.
ELP is now powered by Podio, a new type of free collaboration software where sharing, communicating and getting work done takes place in one online platform – fully customisable through the unique ability to create your own apps.
We’re thankful to Podio for making our workflow more efficient and our lives much easier!
We are currently working with community members in Yarralin community (382km south-west of Katherine), in partnership with The Smith Family as part of the Communities for Children Initiative. We are supporting community members to use enterprise to respond to a range of issues in their community in a creative and sustainable way. Some of the initiatives that have been developed include:
Community op shop
ELP supported women in Yarralin to establish a community op shop to provide affordable clothes and household items to community members. The women are learning and applying a range of skills including financial management, stock control and customer service.
Bush medicine soap making enterprise
Inspired by bush medicine soap produced in the Western Desert, community members from Yarralin and nearby Lingarra outstation are producing their own range of bush soap using local plants and bush medicine. The soap is being sold locally in Katherine through a partnership with Mimi Arts. In addition to soap making skills, those involved are developing skills in marketing and promotion.
Photography and photo printing business
Natural Photos is a business formed by two women in Yarralin, providing an opportunity for people to purchase photos within the community.
Disco catering collective
A group of young women in Yarralin have begun to stage community discos, where they sell a range of delicious healthy food to the community. After not having a Sport and Recreation Officer for over two years, the young women are filling an important role in the community by creating events where people can come together and enjoy themselves.
With support from the WA Social Innovation Fund, ELP is also providing 12 months of capacity building and support to organisations and communities in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands.
Following a two week visit in October, ELP is now working on the following initiatives:
Collaborative design and facilitation of a footy merchandising project in partnership with Wilurra Creative
This project will enable young people in communities across the Lands to participate in graphic design workshops facilitated by a graphic artist, with selected designs being reproduced on items such as t-shirts, bandanas and hoodies to be sold at community football carnivals and/or local stores during the footy season.
Development of a ‘bush café’ pilot project in partnership with Warakurna Women’s Centre and Warakurna School
This project seeks to create opportunities for high school students to engage in enterprise development and learn the skills required to operate a ‘bush café’, including hospitality and basic business management skills.
The development of a strategy to enhance the capacity of Wilurarra Creative to support enterprise development
The strategy will explore opportunities for young people to generate income from their creative practices, identify opportunities for young people to learn the skills that will enable them to do this effectively and on their own terms and act as a resource to support Wilurarra Creative staff to embed enterprise components into their current and future projects.
Exploring opportunities for enterprise development with Ngaanyatjarra Media
This includes exploring the feasibility of a photography enterprise and creating food-based enterprise opportunities at music festivals and events.
Working with NPY Women’s Council to promote the procurement of enterprise products and services from the Ng Lands for events such as the Kungka Career Conference
This involves mapping enterprise opportunities, communicating these to individuals and groups in the Lands and supporting them to take advantage of these opportunities.
This post was originally written during NAIDOC week for the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ blog
NAIDOC week is about celebrating Indigenous achievement and I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the Indigenous social enterprises in the Northern Territory that are doing amazing things as well as give an up update on the work of Enterprise Learning Projects (ELP) in promoting and supporting microenterprise development in remote Aboriginal communities.
Three great Indigenous social enterprises, NT
At Tjanpi Desert Weavers women across 18 central desert communities make a spectacular array of quirky and animated sculptural forms as well as magnificent baskets from locally collected grasses.
Aboriginal Bush Traders supports Indigenous people in the Darwin region to engage in economic activities in a sustainable way. These activities include bush harvest, art, product development, tourism and retail activities. Their latest initiative involves exploring opportunities for Indigenous people to develop enterprises within the floristry industry.
Djilpin Arts is supporting artists from Wugularr community to create a wide range of products including paintings, sculptures woven from native grasses, and body products made from native sugar bag. They are also creating opportunities for aspiring baristas with their new café and without a doubt serve the best coffee in the Katherine region!
Behind the scenes at ELP
Now for a behind the scenes look at what’s happening at ELP. We continue to be inspired meeting many Aboriginal people and communities who have aspirations to start their own business. People tell us that one of the biggest barriers they face is accessing the support they need to develop their ideas into real life ventures. We are responding to this need by creating opportunities for remote communities throughout Australia to access relevant and culturally appropriate business development training and support.
From the seed of an idea to piloting and facilitating specialist support, ELP works with individuals and communities to bring their ideas to life. The tailored process we go through with the community helps ensure businesses and the people running them are sustainable and able to grow.
Community op shop enterprise, Yarralin
We are currently working in Yarralin community (4 hours west of Katherine in the Northern Territory), supporting community members to explore a range of business ideas and develop the skills to manage them sustainably. These include a community op shop enterprise, a photo printing venture, soap making using bush products and a healthy take-away business.
This is just the start– there are so many ideas and so much untapped potential in remote Australia. As well as assisting individuals to develop and implement their ideas locally, ELP is also advocating for greater recognition of the role microenterprise can play in generating positive social and economic change. We hope that over the next year, the support available to aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs continues to grow and that next NAIDOC week we will be able to share with you many more examples of thriving Indigenous businesses.
The fundamental motivation driving ELP is to create opportunities for people to undertake occupations they value. After researching a number of these terms, I was surprised to discover that ELP’s philosophy is closely aligned with that of occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy promotes health by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful occupations. Occupational therapists understand that occupation is a basic human need and that occupation brings meaning to life. They recognise the impact occupation has on health and well-being and acknowledge that people value different occupations. They, like ELP, are focused on occupational enablement.
ELP appreciates that a lack of employment opportunities and economic exclusion impedes upon people’s ability to undertake meaningful occupations. Employment opportunities, where they do exist, do not necessarily align with the passions and skills of people.
ELP promotes microenterprise to encourage people to imagine and create occupations they value because we too believe that ‘occupational engagement contributes to a life worth living’ (Hammell, 2004). ELP uses microenterprise development as a vehicle to enable communities to create the types of sustainable and rewarding work opportunities they aspire to. ELP ‘s model deals with the root causes of unemployment in remote communities – lack of job opportunities, limited access to training and skill development, and low self-esteem.
ELP believes that given opportunities, people will use their skills and abilities to engage in occupations they value. This will impact positively on individual and community well-being through life experience, fulfillment, building of knowledge, improved capability and contributions to economic development.
Hammell, K. W. (2004). Dimensions of meaning in the occupations of daily life. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(5), 296-305
Tjilpi Pumpa is a biannual festival organised by NPY Women’s Council which brings
elders from the APY Lands together for two days to celebrate on country and be a
little bit spoilt!
ELP is excited to be running our Bush Medicine Soap Making Workshops at the
upcoming Tjilpi Pumpa Festival to be held near Ernabella Community in South
Australia on the 17th and 18th of May.
We look forward to unrolling our swags, making soap and talking about enterprise
opportunities in the APY lands.