One small social enterprise is driving big change

For deprived youth, empowerment comes within the type of a garden mower.

This article was created in partnership with Westpac.

Pat Ryan, CEO of Dismantle, is straight to the purpose when he explains the not-for-profit’s latest program – ReNew – aimed toward serving to Perth’s deprived youth. 

“ReNew is a garden maintenance business,” he says. “It’s a ute and trailer with a staff chief and two or three younger individuals offering landscaping and property upkeep companies for business purchasers.” 

But while the program appears to be straight forward, it is one part of an impressive social enterprise changing the lives of many young people.

Selected for ReNew by one of the 200 organisations, schools and job service agencies that Dismantle has a relationship with, these young people are keen to work but lack experience. A placement at ReNew offers them not only a steady wage, much-needed references and trade experience, it also provides them understanding and support.

“We’ve got young people that are desperately crying out for a job. The problem is that some workplaces aren’t necessarily that supportive of young people with complex needs,” he says.

“For example, if I’m a full-time carer for my mum, who has a mental health disability, then I need to have a flexible workplace that accommodates that. Or I might need someone to hold my hand for the first three months so I can juggle the two commitments.”

Offering those simple things – support and understanding – has seen the young people at ReNew excel and “go over and above for the opportunity to work,” Mr Ryan says.

Just one example he gives is a young man called Liam. He wakes up at 3.30am to ride his bike for half an hour to get to the train station before 5am. From there, Liam catches two trains to get to work before 6.30am. He has to do that commute twice a day.

“We’ve found that with real opportunity, real wages and real support, young people are extremely enthusiastic about working,” he says.

With several councils and corporate contracts on the books, ReNew offers opportunities and benefits to the young people it employs. This past calendar year alone, the program paid out $300,000 in wages.

“By the time you factor in insurance, rent, admin and wages, there aren’t any excess funds at ReNew, but the intention is to be able to self-fund the wraparound support for our youth employees,” he says. “So, when someone doesn’t come to work on a Monday because there was a domestic violence incident on the weekend, we have resources available internally to be able to provide that support.”

Regarding set-up costs, Mr Ryan acknowledges that programs like ReNew take a lot of time, energy and money to form, which is why funding from other sources is necessary until they can become self-sustaining. For Dismantle, Westpac Foundation has been instrumental in its growth strategy.

“Just recently, we’ve been awarded a Social Enterprise Grant from Westpac Foundation. It’s $300,000 over three years to put money into ReNew, which is a recreation changer,” he says.

The funding is a part of Westpac Foundation’s mission to assist create 10,000 jobs for individuals overcoming obstacles to work by 2030. In 2021, the Foundation awarded $2.95 million in grants to social enterprises and not-for-profits creating jobs and coaching alternatives.

Beyond funding, grant recipients additionally obtain professional bono assist from Westpac and entry to management improvement applications, authorized assist and monetary functionality coaching.

“Westpac is proud to support local West Australian organisations like Dismantle through Westpac Foundation,” Westpac Western Australia state normal supervisor Larissa Shepherd says.

“Dismantle’s ReNew social enterprise has had a significant impact on the lives of young people doing it tough, providing youth development initiatives and traineeships that help build essential life skills, and access to education and vocational opportunities.”

With Westpac Foundation’s assist, Ms Shepherd hopes ReNew can proceed serving to younger individuals experiencing drawback and drive “meaningful long-term change”.

Mr Ryan is assured it can. ReNew has employed round 100 younger because it started two years in the past, and Mr Ryan expects that to develop considerably over the following three years. The not-for-profit is even planning to increase ReNew’s scope within the second half of 2022 from business and council-owned properties to residential properties.

“A very easy way for people to get involved with ReNew is to get us to mow their lawns,” Mr Ryan says. “And from an organic organisational perspective, we encourage people to choose social enterprises, like ReNew, where they can drive the value of their dollar beyond the bottom line.”

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