Social Entrepreneur of the Year TOP 5 NOMINEES - Vote Now!

Paul Brown

Jigsaw Australia

Paul co-founded Jigsaw, a social enterprise which trains and transitions people with disability into mainstream employment, with childhood friends Laura and Jordan O’Reilly. They were exploring the power of social enterprise to address sector failings, inspired by their brothers’ lived experience of disability. Paul’s own unconventional career path has cemented his belief that approaches to employment should be flexible and tailored according to individual need. This is particularly true in the disability sector, which Paul first experienced working at a specialist school, initially as a stop-gap between a photography degree and applying for a career in the military. There, for the first time, he experienced the absurdity of trying to force people with significant support needs through the same structures as the mainstream along a singular path to achievement. Paul has led Jigsaw since its inception in 2014, growing it from one customer and two employees with disability to a competitive, multi-site digitisation business which has delivered on $1m+ commercial contracts, employed 86 people with disability, provided over 600 traineeships and transitioned 44 people into mainstream employment. Paul is a graduate of Academy Global’s Emerging Leaders Program and will spearhead Jigsaw’s national expansion into six states and territories by 2023.

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Ali Warsame

Local Transit

Arriving in Australia in the early ’90s and coming from Somalia in the grips of civil war, my first thought wasn’t how to set up a business.

After years of navigating a new language, culture and raising a young family, I found myself in the transport industry. And it was during this period I was able to see first-hand two key societal issues plaguing our sector; reliable and humane employability for drivers, and equality in transport accessibility for People with disabilities (PWD).

Fellow drivers are reeling from a struggling taxi industry going through a rapid transformation. With language barriers and limited skills to pivot, drivers are weathering inhumane working hours to break even with the flow-on effects on their mental health and quality of life. Simultaneously, accessible transport infrastructure is left wanting for PWD’s. Inefficiencies in the customer journey experience are creating an unmet demand and isolating a growing portion of our community, particularly in the forgotten fringes.

In 2017 I set out to solve these issues with the help of the Social Traders CRUNCH mentoring program. Today I am the director of Local Transit, a small for-purpose social enterprise with big ideas that provide work for migrant drivers and innovative human-centred transport solutions that fully enable PWD to participate in society.

Since launching two years ago, we have provided over 15,000 trips for over 3,000 PWDs. Thanks to our industry partners, we have also provided over a million dollars worth of job opportunities and direct income for affiliated drivers

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Alison Harrington

Moove and Groove

Alison Harrington is a passionate social entrepreneur with a background in technology having previously founded several tech startups. More recently Alison has dedicated her passion and skills to social impact and has completed post-graduate studies in social impact at UNSW.

It was during her studies Alison applied her technology expertise to create an innovative project that utilised silent disco technology to create better physical and mental health outcomes for seniors. From a university idea and a small NSW government grant, the Moove & Groove program was born, a world first. The program has flourished and has proven benefits for those living with dementia and assists to reduce social isolation. Alison has presented at Aging 2.0 in San Francisco, is a 2020 finalist for She EO and the 2020 Westfield Local Hero program and a recipient of the 2020 Federal Government Boosting Female Founders grant program. The Moove & Groove program was a finalist in the 2019 and 2020 innovAGEING Awards. Prior to launching Moove & Groove Alison was the CEO of 10×10 Philanthropy a millennium crowd funding not for profit.

Alison is committed to transforming senior’s quality of life by utilising technology to assist those living with dementia and their families and creating connections, conversations and joyful moments.

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Victor Lee

Communiteer

Victor is a social entrepreneur who believes in cross-sector collaboration and the strength in diversity.

Having immigrated to Australia when he was nine, he has embraced multiculturalism and volunteerism from a young age. Undeterred by prejudice and discrimination whilst growing up, he believes that everyone has a role to play in society and would actively seek out collaborative opportunities that would bring out the best in people.

Victor began his career as a consultant in HR, change management and governance and operated in the intersection between CSR and staff engagement.

His career in the community sector spans across the areas of mental health, youth unemployment, disability, social housing and social justice. Whilst his day job involves building organisational capacity, he also volunteers on the Board of youth organisations and on the frontline for community centres.

His experience revealed the importance of cross-sector collaboration and to shift the way we leverage resources from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance. Communiteer was conceptualised to tackle this very issue.

As an alumni of Social Leadership Australia, The Growth Project and AICD, Victor is constantly looking for opportunities to better serve the community and how he can be the change he wants to see in this world.

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Like most people I’ve always tried to do good – whether it’s trying to be a good parent or good businessperson. In 2003 I co-founded a business that helped anyone with a phone, a computer and the internet to launch their own telco. My insights and knowledge were helping people with good ideas to start their own businesses and live their dreams. I often thought Australia needs a telco that would do good for the planet and those in need but somehow time got away.

In late 2018 I had the opportunity to start something new. I knew I wanted to “do some good”. That good is now Goodtel. It’s called Goodtel, because that’s what it is. It’s a telco that commits 50% of its profits to help people and the planet.

Since launching in late 2019, the Goodtel community has contributed over $45,000 to great causes that help protect the planet and those in need.

After 25 years in the telco industry there are no words to describe how happy it makes me to finally put these skills to good use.

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