VET Reform: A new (suggested) policy context for VET – The Third Sector

copyright-symbols-and-rules-you-need-to-know-04 2015

Intellectual Property of Dr. Bruce D. Watson, DEd Melbourne and attributed authors as noted.

For Private individual use. All rights reserved.


Guided readings for ‘inductive reasoning’

Attribution: Extracts from: “Micro-business community responsibility – approaches, motivations and barriers” by Dr. Suzanne Campin: Public Access Scholarly, objective and well researched, IMHO.

Part One – bottom up, not top down

“The then Labour Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, indicated an ongoing expectation that businesses would contribute to their communities and be involved with their local area governance, encapsulated in her speech on 22 November 2007 at the Australian Council of Social Service Annual Conference:

We have to change the way Governments at all levels deliver services to tackle disadvantage. It’s going to be about bottom up not top-down measures to tackle disadvantage – we will be asking local governments, non-government organisations and businesses to participate in new place-based governance arrangements that bring together Commonwealth, State and local funds in the most effective way to lift up disadvantaged communities.

This expectation has not, however, been translated into a role for business in community wellbeing in the recently drafted National Compact (Australian Government 2010a, 2010b; 2010c).”

Part Two – social responsibility

“Bowen (1953) wrote one of the most cited seminal works on what he described as the social responsibilities of the businessman in the early 1950s. Since then, the literature on the social and environmental responsibilities of business has grown massively and forms the basis of many extensive texts (Crane & Matten 2004; Crane et al. 2008). For larger businesses this form of responsibility has been referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). For small businesses this responsibility has been referred to as Small Business Social Responsibility (SBSR) (Lepoutre & Heene 2006). For micro-businesses, there is little agreement on nomenclature and this responsibility is referred to here as ‘micro-Business Community Responsibility’ (mBCR). Whatever the size of the business, whether demonstrating CSR, SBSR or mBCR, this behaviour is referred to as responsible business behaviour.”

Part Three – business closing everywhere

“The ubiquitous and embedded nature of micro-businesses in Australia. The lack of knowledge on micro-business involvement in community wellbeing is surprising given their socio-economic impacts and ubiquitous and locally embedded nature.”

“Micro-businesses therefore, are well placed through both their numbers and their distribution to influence community wellbeing. Recent research has shown that communities do rely on small businesses for support of local projects, but little is known specifically of micro-business involvement in their communities (Healy 2007). Scholars have recognised the embedded nature of many very small businesses within their local communities and their importance in community wellbeing. Jane Jacob’s seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, pointed to the rich and robust nature of the relationships of small businesses within their communities (Jacobs 1961). She described the central position of the shopkeeper in what she called the complex ballet of street life where all of those that are part of a place have a role that is practiced and accepted so casually that they are normally taken for granted.”

“….there is scant micro-business research that builds on this knowledge to consider roles of micro-business owner-operators. More specifically, there is virtually no academic research on the responsible business behaviour role of micro-businesses, the most common and most ubiquitous of all businesses in Australia, as is the case internationally. This gap in knowledge is addressed in this thesis at a time of urgency when local independent businesses, many micro-businesses, are closing down at dramatic rates worldwide, before their full impact on communities is understood (Baum & Palmer 2002; Beer 1998; Bromley & Thomas 1995; House of Commons 2006; New Economics Foundation 2002, 2003, 2008).”

Part Four – Government policy neglected

“Although there is evidence of greater integration of CSR practice into larger business operations (Birch 2001; Birch & Batten 2002), a review of the Australian CSR regulatory framework concluded that it consists overwhelmingly of soft law initiatives and light touch regulatory initiatives at both the international and national level (Anderson & Landau 2006). ”

“Anderson and Landau (2006) contend that government CSR policy in Australia has been largely responsive to public outcry based on high profile examples of what can go wrong when a responsible business practice approach is lacking. The thrust of most legislative efforts towards fostering CSR in Australia have been to strengthen the accountability of directors to shareholders through measures including enhanced disclosure and improved financial reporting and auditing (Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee 2005). Further, where there have been recent reviews on what can be done to encourage responsible business behaviour in Australia, these have targeted large businesses (Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee 2005).”

“Whereas in the UK, the Compact Joint Action Plan (UK Parliament 2008) and in the United States, the recently released Social Innovation Fund (SIF) (Corporation for National and Community Service 2000), explicitly recognise business interests in community wellbeing, this is not the case in Australian Government policy. In the UK Compact, social enterprises, as trading entities, for example are recognised as having a community wellbeing role. In addition, the UK Compact has led to redesign of government support programs to open eligibility for government assistance to social enterprises (UK Parliament 2008). Further, in the UK there is clear recognition of the role of the third sector and the players involved including for-profit business entities (Business in the Community 2009; Office of the Third Sector 2008, 2010a, 2010b).”

“Although the third sector in Australia is generally described as the not-for-profit and community sectors, Lyons and Passey (2006) defined the third sector in Australia as including the not-for-profit community sectors, cooperatives and mutuals.”

Part Five – only codified legislative provisions

“The public policy context for CSR in Australia is consistent with the view of Crane et al. (2008), that (unlike the USA), Europe, the Far East and Australasia have always had a greater tendency to address social issues through government policies than collective action and business involvement. As Anderson and Landau (2006) found with regard to CSR policy in Australia, Crane et al. (2008) argue that, where social issues are managed by governments, business involvement in community wellbeing is allowed in codified form and enforced through mandatory legislated provisions.”

“In summary, the context of Corporate Social Responsibility, Small Business Social Responsibility and the unrecognised mBCR micro-Business Community Responsibility in Australia, is one that sees responsible business behaviour as primarily a legal obligation in compulsory areas, such as workplace health and safety provisions. This perspective has narrowed Australia’s approach to responsible business practice and appears to have exacerbated a lack of interest in the role of business in community wellbeing.”

Part Six – The need for a new policy perspective

” The current approach of the Australian Government towards CSR, with its focus on little beyond providing an enabling legal and taxation regime, reflects a government-centric approach to achieving community wellbeing. This approach is based in a paradigm, therefore, sitting in a political or mixed economy model, seeing different and separated roles for government, business and society.”

Part Seven – social economy co-exists with the private and public sectors

“Definitional challenges aside, theorists have found a social economy view useful in better understanding what is actually happening in the third sector as different players in public, business and the not-for-profit sectors take on intent and practice, quite removed from their former roles. Gaiger (2000) for example purports these changed roles are a result of an abandonment of the duality between social life and economic life and the market-state dichotomy, that characterise the idea of a social economy.”

“Moulaert and Ailenei (2005) explain the mixed roles in the third sector as the result of a constant process of social innovation in the redistribution of responsibilities and in the changed relationships between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The social economy is also described as a family of hybrids between market, state and civil society, where the features of these hybrids can be seen as alternate allocation systems targeted at improved outcomes for disadvantaged individuals and communities (Moulaert & Ailenei 2005).”

“Moulaert and Ailenei (2005) purport a social economy co-exists with the private and public sectors in many parts of the world today. Social economy theory therefore presents an alternative view of the economic system. Social economy theory recognises entities that, from the perspective of the dominant political economy normative, are seen to take on hybrid roles, mixing social and economic objectives.”

“The literature suggests such hybridity is common amongst smaller business owner-operators (Dawson et al 2002; Greenbank 2001; Spence 1999; Spence and Schmidpeter 2003; Vyakarnam et al. 1997). The idea of a social economy may then place some business hybrids within the third sector, or at least somewhere between the business and third sectors.” {An example: Neighbourhood Houses].

Part Eight – A new policy context for VET

“Despite an absence of public policy to date from the new Australian Office of the Third Sector, its recent establishment may point to a new interest in the third sector in this country. This new recognition could spur development of an Australian-centric perspective of the third sector as part of a social economy and one that may include businesses with social intent, especially micro-businesses.”

Part Nine – Conclusion and My Thoughts

What is your conclusion?

Imagine, for a moment, cooperative and integrated policy development and implementation between the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Human Services.

Imagine, for a moment, the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Human Services utilising existing community infrastructure, such as neighbourhood houses, for at least part of the delivery of vocational education and training.

Part Ten – Example

“VET Reform” could consider using existing community assets such as Neighbourhood Houses (not-for-profit organisations) accredited as RTOs as “the norm” for delivering a range of locally relevant VTE courses – e.g., Aged Care in Upper Yarra Valley with e-learning innovation –

More examples:

More resources

Neighbourhood Houses as RTOs – surely VET Reform can include “community” not just “business” –

Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research Inc (ANZTSR) is a network of people interested in pursuing and encouraging research into private, not-for-profit, community of voluntary organisations and the activities of volunteering and philanthropy.


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