Social Impact Report 2019
Australian women are disproportionally excluded from mainstream employment and economic participation due to their circumstances. Data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) estimates that in 2016, 4.5% of men aged 18-64 years and 3.6% of women aged 18-64 years were unemployed (actively seeking work) while the remaining men (14.4%) and women (26.8%) were not in the labour force. Women’s greater representation in the category ‘not in the labour force’ is attributed to the major role women take in primary caring responsibilities of children and family members who are often disabled, frail or ill.
Our experience working with women across Australia is that carer roles plus additional barriers in the form of access to affordable childcare, poverty, lack of flexible employment, domestic violence and English language skills are also impacting on women’s economic participation. Increasingly we are seeing that single mums and older women face even greater barriers, particularly in regional areas, in accessing suitable work that fits their circumstances.
The outcome is that there are 55,000 women classified as “discouraged job seekers” (ABS), 250,000 single mums on parenting payments and 350,000 women receiving Newstart Allowance.
Women accessing Centrelink, are however, not being encouraged to create their own jobs that work around their situations. Apart from New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), which is largely inaccessible to the women we support, there is a sole focus on getting women into jobs. In fact, it is not only a disincentive but a barrier to start a business when you receive Government benefits.
women classified as “discouraged job seekers” (ABS)
Business Starting Point
The business start-up and incubator/accelerator sector in Australia is, as its name suggests, focused on the start-up stage and beyond – that is, people who have a clear business idea and need the support to get that idea off the ground. Typically this can only be accessed by well educated and networked people, who conform to the mainstream start-up world and dominant understanding of business success and sustainability.
Global Sisters intentionally targets women who are also excluded from the start-up sector. Not just because of their circumstances but often because they have not even contemplated self-employment or business as a viable option for them. By supporting women at the pre-idea stage of business, we are addressing a gap in the market that has not been tackled head-on, with an end-to-end, one-stop-shop approach, by any organisation or group nationwide.
of Sisters start their Global Sisters journey at Pre-Idea or Idea stage
In our recent survey we found that 86% of Sisters started at Pre Idea or Idea stage of business, with the remainder starting between the Set-Up and Early Marginal stages.
50% of Sisters start their Global Sisters journey at the “Pre-Idea” stage, meaning they have no business idea (yet), a loose idea, too many ideas or lack of clarity on whether the idea is viable. Typically these women are being told by support services, and the dominant narrative in our culture, that they need to “get a job”.
Accessing mainstream employment is however not a realistic option due to their circumstances, often complex, cross-cutting issues. Global Sisters not only helps women to launch a business but to ideate- to create a viable business idea and vision for self-employment.
Our Impact To Date
“The long term flexible nature of our programs, as well as our growing Sister Tribe community, have proven critical elements of our support. We are creating hope, opening up possibilities and, most importantly, providing the pathway to turn those possibilities into reality.”
Mandy Richards, Founder/CEO
Global Sisters has pioneered a solution to help make business possible and support women to become financially independent.
We are at the end of our first three years of operations, after having launched in January 2016. We now operate in 5 locations around Australia.
As of end December 2018:
311 Sisters currently engaged in our programs
513 participants in My Big Idea, our business ideation program
416 participants in Sister School, our business education program
755 women participated in our programs since inception.
133 ‘engaged’ Sisters with an ‘active’ business
164 active businesses that have begun as a result of Global Sisters support.
Communities & Business Ecosystem
12 place based, focus communities
176 active Business Coaches
180 new referrals from over 20 different organisations (community partners)
The result of these figures is measured at an individual, business, financial and empowerment level, as well as at a family and community level through our social impact measurement framework.
Correction, September 2019: the reported Sister numbers for the Sydney region was incorrect. We reported that 75 Sisters were engaged, as of end December 2018. A data clean up and field verification uncovered that this data was out of date, and there were fewer Sisters actively engaged in our programs. Whilst our system does not allow us to report on the correct figure at that point in time, the verified number of engaged Sisters in the Sydney region (as of September 2019), is 43. In addition, a Coaching audit was undertaken in early 2019 and the figure reported was registered Coaches rather than current, active business Coaches. Global Sisters is working hard to ensure accurate data and reporting.
Who Are Our Sisters?
Source: Socialsuite data, June 2018
“I’ve got kids with special needs so I couldn’t get a conventional 9 to 5 job.”
Kimberly, Brisbane Sister
First and foremost, women are motivated to engage with Global Sisters for the connection and the support to try. This is closely followed by the motivation to learn the skills they need to grow and develop their business idea and supported to try business for the first time. It is validating to hear that one of the primary reasons women join Global Sisters is the core purpose we exist as an organisation – to provide the opportunity for flexible work through self-employment.
The Sister Chat feedback highlighted the following:
Connection, networks and community
The women Global Sisters support are typically excluded from the start-up sector and business networks in Australia due to being at the earliest stage of business ideation and other forms of discrimination and exclusion.
Swinburn University & Good Shepherd Microfinance research has identified the importance of local, place-based communities, peer networks that recognize gender and socio-economic circumstances that impact on entrepreneurship and business ecosystem with an explicit gender lens (Enterprising Women, 2019). The majority of Sisters cited the Sister Tribe (our peer and coach business network & support community) as the main motivation for joining Global Sisters.
There is a plethora of business education programs available in Australia but they are largely inaccessible for our Sisters due to digital literacy, cost, confidence and other barriers. Our business education is delivered flexibly, tailored to the individual and specific cohort, focused on practical application, places value on peer learning and is facilitated by women with lived entrepreneurial expertise.
Flexible, Circumstance Appropriate Opportunities
For many Sisters, they have not even conceived of the idea that business is an option for them but they know they want to be economically active and have a job that works around their circumstances.
We know that being unemployed and taking time out of the paid workforce to look after children has a significant impact on women’s confidence. Sisters have sought out Global Sisters specifically as it intentionally supports women to build their confidence.
Sisters consistently report that the reason for joining Global Sisters and establishing a business is financial independence- this may be from their partner, from low paid, unstable work or Government benefits.
“I’ve always had a business idea, but have gone “Aghhh, I have to do it all on my own!” So it was always about connection. Being connected with like-minded people”.
Jess, Brisbane Sister
Sister Case Study: Lina
After moving to Australia 4 years ago from Jordan, Lina was unable to get her qualifications in IT recognised or access employment in her field. One-third of all recent migrants report difficulty in getting jobs due to factors such as lack of local Australian experience. Following the birth of her daughter, Lina needed flexible employment and decided to use her skills to create her own business that would develop kids STEAM interest and capabilities. Lina founded Robofun, an educational academy to teach kids robotics and coding. Robofun is a mix of “Make, Code, and Play”.
Framework & Methodology
Our Framework & Methodology
Global Sisters was founded with a determination to effectively track social impact at an individual, place and national level, and do so continuously over time.
Thanks to some key supporters, particularly Thyne Reid Foundation, who invested in the development of our social impact framework and methodology, we have a robust social impact system that is starting to provide timely organisational performance information and change data. This data will be used to not only communicate to donors and supporters but inform the development or our programs.
Impact Levels & Domains
Change happens at many levels
Global Sisters believes that positive change for women, and their communities, comes out of simultaneous and complementary changes at three levels. Within the Sister themselves, within their household and within their community.
Domains of change
When Sisters have the business acumen, confidence, connections, skills and opportunity to learn safely and in the right environment, are listened to, healthy and safe, and given opportunities both financially and in-kind they thrive.
When those in their household are enabled to live in a safe, engaged, informed and healthy way they can partner with their greater community and, together, flourish. Likewise, cohesive and enabled communities can support households and women at an individual and collective level.
All these levels make up important components to create sustainable impact. That is why Global Sisters works across individual, household and community levels to achieve change.
The Sisters we work with are important partners in creating positive change for themselves and their communities.
The Global Sisters Social Impact Framework © was developed in 2016, with and for our Sister Tribe. Sisters, Business Coaches, Community Partners, Funding Partners, Board and our team came together to identify the change we wanted to create when business is made possible for all women. An initial 20 impact domains were identified and refined down to 5 domains, with measurable outcomes for each one.
Theory of Change
Global Sisters is about making business possible. We are supporting women to ideate, launch and grow sustainable businesses. Our program enables women to start working with us at any stage along this continuum, however the majority start at the pre idea and idea stage. It then enables them to self-determine and direct how and when they move from stage to stage, taking into consideration their business goals and life circumstances.
We track where Sisters start and their progress along the continuum, both as part of our social impact monitoring and our empowerment process for the Sisters. We believe it’s important to acknowledge that the primary goal is to see women financially secure and creating opportunities for herself. However, the journey many Sisters take may not be entirely linear.
*weekly income around $400 per week for individual or $800 per week for family **(weekly income greater than $600 per week for individual or $1200 per week for household)
National & International Comparisons
The Global Sisters social impact framework set out to be comparable both nationally and internationally.
National Financial Resilience indicators
“Financial resilience is being able to bounce back from a financial shock. There are a number of things that help people’s financial resilience including income, savings, a willingness to seek financial advice, connections with family and friends, support from community and government organisations and access to appropriate banking products like credit and insurance” Centre for Social Impact (CSI) and National Australia Bank (NAB), 2018.
In 2018, 2.1 million people in Australia were experiencing financial stress. Financial resilience indicators include:
- Being prepared for a financial shock, with 3+ months’ worth of savings to provide a buffer for unexpected costs or situations
- Ability to meet the necessary costs of living
- Access to affordable and fair credit, for example, not having to pay a high cost of credit from payday lenders (CSI, NAB 2018)
All 5 of Global Sisters impact domains are connected to these indicators, particularly the Financial Resilience domain.
There are 11 points in the Roadmap where Sisters complete a survey and the data is housed and analysed in Socialsuite, our social impact tracking tool. Baseline data was collected in early 2018 and we started collecting outcomes data in mid 2018. By late 2019 we will have a significant enough cohort of Sisters well into the Accelerate phase of their business to be able to report outcome level change within the five domains.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
Global Sisters was established with the aims of:
- Poverty eradication and reduced inequalities for women and their families
- Quality business education
- Decent living wage, sustainable self-employment
- Responsible production and consumption: we promote businesses that are good for people, planet and kind to animals.
These goals align well with 6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Business Development Principles & Approach
Women have different needs, challenges and support requirements in entrepreneurship including confidence, agency, carer commitments and access to education and networks. Family, friends and non-business resources, women’s networks and relational learning are critical to women’s entrepreneurship. (Swinburn & Good Shepherd Microfinance, Enterprising Women, 2019). Our experience over the last 3 years has shown how differently women approach business start-up and development – and we aim to embrace and value those differences.
Place-based, ecosystem model:
The businesses our Sisters create do not exist in a vacuum – they emerge from their local community context and need, and develop when they are well connected to the business ecosystem.
The Swinburn & Good Shepherd Microfinance research, along with the Asia Foundation research into female entrepreneurship, advocates for a place based, gendered approach to women’s entrepreneurship support and argues for better access and inclusion of women in the business ecosystem.
Our approach in the 12+ communities we currently work is what is being recommended- place-based, gendered and ecosystem inclusive. We intentionally connect Sisters into the business ecosystem and actively facilitate getting them “a place at the table”. For more information on what our place-based approach looks like in practice please head to our blog.
Online, remote access:
Accessibility for women in regional and remote areas, and women with other barriers to participating in face-to-face programs such as disability and carer responsibilities, led Global Sisters to start to develop and integrate an online, remote program into our Roadmap. Thanks to the support of Restore Hope Australia, we are expanding our pilot online Sister School programs to the full roadmap of support to women who have accessibility challenges.
The mainstream VC, start-up world values speed and profitability. Global Sisters advocates for a slower approach that leads to businesses that last and take into consideration the wellbeing of the entrepreneur and her community. By slowing things down and supporting women to take the time at the beginning to market test, build confidence and develop her networks- and then continuously learn and iterate – it is typically taking longer for businesses to incubate but when they do we believe they will be viable and last longer.
We see business viability and success more holistically. Beyond the black and white lines of the P&L, the drivers and goals of the individual women entrepreneurs are measured and celebrated. These measures of business acumen, financial resilience, empowerment and influence are key to our social impact system.
Global Sisters is passionate about being a social enterprise that is good for people and the planet and kind to animals – and supporting our Sisters to set up businesses that hold the same values.
“Global Sisters advises Sisters to conduct regular and on-going market research. We do the same. We speak directly to our Sisters to learn about their motivations, needs and goals - and to deeply understand the intended and unintended impacts in their family and community”.
Heather, Chief Operating Officer
Socialsuite surveys (on-going):
Outcomes surveys track change in the 5 impact domains for each Sister. There are 11 points in the Roadmap where Sisters complete a survey and the data is housed and analysed in Socialsuite, our social impact tracking tool. Baseline data was collected in early 2018 and we started collecting outcomes data in mid 2018. By late 2019 we will have a significant enough cohort of Sisters well into the Accelerate phase of their business to be able to report outcome level change within the five domains.
Sister Chats (point in time):
Semi-structured group and individual interviews with 23 current Sisters in 8 places across Global Sisters operations. During November/December 2019, 23 Sisters in 8 locations across NSW, VIC and QLD participated in “Sister Chat” with our Chief Operating Officer and Social Impact Lead, followed up by anonymous surveys.
We used eight questions as prompts for a discussion around Sisters journeys with us, their needs and priorities for future services. We also gained information on how they want to engage with the Sister-Tribe and with Global Sisters as an organisation. Some of the questions asked also related directly to our outcome areas, and some of the data is used as complementary to our surveys and the quantitative impact data we are collecting.
A key finding has been that although we were not measuring change related to the Empowerment and Influence outcomes until the Accelerate phase, many Sisters were reporting significant changes in themselves, their families and their communities even from their earliest interactions with Global Sisters, at the My Big Idea workshops.
Sister Case Study: Kagi
At the age of two Kagi fled South Sudan to Kenya, where she lived in a refugee camp until arriving in Australia with her three sisters on a refugee visa in 2014. She left her mother, two brothers and two sisters behind in Kenya. Feeling lost on arrival in Australia, Kagi used her art as a way of connecting with her culture and addressing the exclusion and isolation new arrivals often experience. She now sells her art and runs ‘paint and sip’ art workshops through Nubia Designs. She is a passionate advocate of creating a welcoming experience for refugees, and has built this into her business, where paying customers subsidise the participation of refugees.
Our strength based approach helps Sisters identify and draw on their existing knowledge, skills and experience- and that is built on through a continuous learning and application cycle, not only at the beginning of our programs but throughout the 3+ year roadmap.
We believe business acumen and entrepreneurial qualities can be learnt and we provide opportunities for continual practical education that addresses specific business skill and development needs. Our business education is blended digital and face-to-face, and flips the classroom, enabling real entrepreneurial experiences and peer learning to come to the fore. Developed business acumen is when a Sisters says “I have established and embedded strong business foundations, through the enhancement of knowledge, skills and networks.”
Business Education & Learning
The Global Sisters inputs to develop business acumen and entrepreneurial competence are:
- My Big Idea workshop and Sister School program
- Incubate first sales opportunity
- Monthly Business Meet Ups: Learning and business development sessions
- Digital learning through our “Tuesday Teachings” in our evening online Sister-Tribe (Facebook Live format)
- Blended digital learning and application support of LinkedIn Learning business development content
- Peer learning and local business ecosystem education opportunities
The immediate outputs are:
- Active and on-going engagement in learning. For example, Sister-Tribe engagement peaks on Tuesday evenings during Tuesday Teachings, with an annual average of 19 comments at that time.
- A business canvas (visual business plan) and ability to pitch the business
- Ability to apply learning in business as evidenced by their stage of business progressing.
The outcomes we are seeing are:
- Self-reported increased business competency and acumen being the second most important turning point for them (following confidence and self-belief as the most important change- see Empowerment)
- Evidence of increased competency in businesses being incubated and progressing (see Enterprise)
“I did both face-to-face and online Sister School. I felt the online was more substantial but the personal touch of the face-to-face has been better for me.”
Jelena, Sydney Sisters, Visual Capture
Our unique business education programs are:
Delivery is highly flexible and adapted to the needs of the individual and cohort (for example, ESL learners).
It is a blend of digital and face-to-face learning to allow for different learning styles, digital literacy and location (or other barriers to access).
All our education programs are experiential learning – we create the space to learn by doing.
Our learners are the experts and we draw on their strengths and experience.
Business Ecosystem Integration
Our business education is integrated into the local business ecosystem opportunities.
“I now have the confidence, self belief and skills to know I CAN DO IT!”
“I’m now working ON the business, rather than just IN in the business.”
Glenis, Brisbane Sister, Glenis Wilkinson Yoga & Meditation
of Sisters graduate from Sister School strongly agreeing or agreeing that they now have new knowledge and skills to do business well
of Sisters graduate from Sister School with a completed business canvas or plan
of Sisters know that Global Sisters helps you access business networks and opportunities such as Sister-Tribe & Business Coaching
Sister Case Study: Glenis
After a marriage breakdown, Glenis was supporting herself by working in retail. The trauma of losing her son led to Glenis being unemployed and at risk of homelessness. Glenis was introduced to Global Sisters and received the support needed to turn her yoga qualification into a career that she is passionate about. Glenis provides yoga and meditation in beautiful places and has a focus on people suffering from trauma and mental health problems.
Sisters’ businesses are a vehicle to financial independence, empowerment and choice, so we want to track enterprise, growth and sustainability. Layered on top of this are the specific goals of the individual Sisters and her motivation for establishing the business. The indicators we are tracking over time are the stage of business (and the time it takes to move between stages), business practices, enterprise productivity, access to networks and business performance. When a Sister says, “I am developing a sustainable business”, she means she is creating a business that will last and enable her to reach her goals.
Current Stage of Business
As of end December 2018, the Sisters currently engaged with Global Sisters were at various business stages, with the majority in Start-up and Marginal stage. Given that 86% of Sisters start their journey with us at Pre-Idea or Idea stage we can see that there is rapid progression to incubating the businesses. Supporting Sisters to accelerate the businesses to Late Marginal and Growth stage is, as anticipated, taking time.
*weekly income around $400 per week for individual or $800 per week for family **(weekly income greater than $600 per week for individual or $1200 per week for household)
Global Sisters supports businesses to be established and developed through our ‘Roadmap’ of long term support. The length of time it takes to incubate their business (Set up and Start-up stage) and accelerate their business (Marginal and Growth stage) is dependent on a number of factors:
- Type of business – our experience is that food sector businesses take the longest to incubate due to regulatory and licensing
- Employment and Government benefits status
- Carer responsibilities
- Housing and general stability of personal circumstances
- English language proficiency and tech capability
Overall, we see a strong preference to spend a period of time (6- 18 months) market testing, conducting action research and iterating so that they are confident that their offering is meeting customer needs before starting to grow. Global Sisters not only encourages this but actively supports it through our “incubate” support.
The diagram to the right maps out the starting point and progress of business stage compared to time period of a sample of 18 Sisters nationally. The variation of businesses and circumstances is reflected in the business incubation period.
We find that Sisters take a slow, sustainable and holistic approach to start-up whereby they often dip in and out of the business start-up, as they find ways to generate income for their initial investment or alternative ways to finance it. We see this as a success, as a Sister approaches her business with a balanced and long-term view.
Types of Business
Product & Service
The businesses that are being created nationally are diverse:
Apps, STEM & Tech
Beauty & Cosmetic
Clothing & Accessories (excluding jewellery)
Fabric & Textiles
Food & Beverage
Gardening & Landscaping
Health, Hair & Beauty
Training, Coaching & Educating
Place Based & Ecosystem Connected
Sister businesses are accessing business education, peer support and networks and importantly sales and market opportunities through being connected into the business ecosystem. This looks different for each sister:
- For Jo-Ann (see case study below), this meant being connected into T2 (an international Unilever brand) to stock her bush teas.
- For Jessica (see case study in Empowerment), this meant connecting her to local social procurement opportunities that took her business from selling individual items at markets to bulk wholesale sales.
- For Glenis (see case study in Business Acumen), this meant getting her a place at the table at women’s business networking events and connecting her to higher value corporate clients.
We are seeing businesses accessing opportunities through their local community, for example through church, mother’s groups and English language classes.
“The benefit of a place-based, ecosystem approach to business building means that there are more opportunities to connect our diverse range of businesses into the local economy. It makes sense to keep growing the local economy.
Keeping it local, and connected means confidence continues to be built in a low risk environment.”
Asja, Global Sisters Accelerator Lead, Brisbane
Sister Case Study: Jo-Ann
Jo is a qualified chef and proud Wiradjuri woman. She is one of the few Indigenous female chefs in Australia, and she set up Goanna Hut to share her culture through bush ingredient inspired food. Jo is the sole breadwinner for the family, working part-time whilst running her business. She is the primary carer of her children, one of whom has special needs. She balances work with caring for a family member with mental illness – and still sees herself as a typical woman juggling it all.
The majority of women who connect with Global Sisters are either reliant on Centrelink, or self-defined as financially insecure and socially isolated. Cultivating financial resilience is paramount to their business sustainability and financial independence.
Financial resilience means a Sister feels empowered in times of crisis, has the knowledge and confidence to access ethical financial services and products available to her, and has the resources to deal with financial shocks when they come. She is self determined, controls her own income, has choices about how and where to spend it and has the savings, insurance and access to fair credit to protect her living standards when there are unexpected expenses. Sisters who are financially resilient do not slip back into financial hardship during these times.
Independence & Resilience
Financial resilience was selected as an impact domain as it reflects more than income and business profitability. It takes into account the factors both internally and externally, that need to be addressed to ensure the improvements in income are lasting and the household can withstand financial shocks.
The Financial Resilience impact domain is connected to the measures in the Centre for Social Impact and National Australia Bank’s on-going research and reporting into Financial Resilience in Australia (see Section 2).
64% of Sisters were receiving Centrelink payments, or under or unemployed, when they first engaged with Global Sisters. Our organisation is primarily working with women who are considered to be experiencing severe financial stress and vulnerability.
We are already seeing significant impact in Sisters increased financial knowledge and behaviour, and social capital from being self-employed and earning their own income.
In the long term as Sisters move through the business stages, we will track profitability.
But more important is the impact business profitability provokes in their lives. This will include them reporting on their social capital and the financial safety net that surrounds them and their dependants, their own ability to save, access additional income, insuranceand loans. And ideally will see women out of the welfare cycle, and maintaining a reliable full time or supplement income stream for themselves.
of Sisters are receiving Centrelink payments or are unemployed / underemployed when they first engaged with Global Sisters
“I was motivated to find a way to become financially independent from my husband.”
Sydney based Sister, founder of a design business
“I was staying at home & feeling depressed because I had always wanted to be financially independent”
Ukeme, Founder of UK Gold
(after a long, frustrating period of unsuccessfully applying for jobs)
When surveyed during the Sister Chats, over half the Sisters (58%) reported a belief that they see their business as a source of financial independence. Both the ability to create this for themselves, and the self-belief that it is possible, supports outcome achievement for both financial resilience and empowerment.
For 42% of Sisters, the goal or belief was that the business would be a supplement to their income, reflecting the different reasons why Sisters set up businesses. Connection, community, flexible and meaningful work are being identified by Sisters as significant motivators for business creation.
For Sisters who want to be financially independent the journey is a long term one. As identified in the Enterprise section, typically we see a business incubation period of between 6 – 18 months and business acceleration from the 18 month – 2 years mark. Whilst we do not have the long term data available yet, the trajectory is that it will be a minimum of 3 years before 100% of their income comes from the business, and longer before it becomes a sustainable source of income that impacts their financial resilience.
Headway is being made in ensuring Sisters have access to fair, affordable financial products and services that contribute to their financial resilience. In addition to the business loans Global Sisters offers, we have listened to Sisters who have overwhelmingly said that their primary financial need in their business is insurance. Global Sisters has partnered with Suncorp to develop Australia’s first microinsurance product specifically for Sisters. It is expected that the product will be made available to Sisters in Q1 2019.
“I do want it to be my only source of income, to get off Centrelink and start to give back & support my kids. I see the business as a 3 year goal”.
Brisbane based Sister, founder of a social enterprise
“Yes, I do [see business the business as becoming source of financial independence]…I have to.
Next year I’ll be 60 and I don’t know how long I’ll have but its very important to me that I am able to support myself through this next decade.
Being assessed by the Department of Housing and being told I am at high risk of homelessness is really scary.”
Brisbane based Sister, Founder of a health and wellness business
Sister Case Study: Kirsty
Sydney-based mum of five and Founder/CEO of Sweet CinnaBun, Kirsty McLarry, loves to bake and loves caring for her children. Kirsty wants to be there for her kids and having a small tribe of boys, with another one on the way, means a typical mainstream job will not afford her the flexibility that she needs. Global Sisters met Kirsty at a Sister School in Miller in SW Sydney when her business was running out of her kitchen and demand was starting to outstrip her capacity to supply. She wanted to grow the business to achieve her bigger vision of becoming a truly flexible and supportive employer of local mums.
Global Sisters believes to be empowered is to ‘stand tall’. Its when a woman can confidently say, “I see myself as a real business woman, with dignity, opportunity, freedom and choices”.
Empowerment is an over-used word that is complex, multi-layered and extends far beyond self-confidence and self-belief. But it is the best word to describe women when they are standing tall, challenging societal discrimination, able to make strong, informed choices for a better future, are free from oppression/ violence and feel they are in a position to ‘give back’ to others.
We measure Empowerment by tracking changes in entrepreneurial self-efficacy and perceptions as well as willingness to assert oneself.
“Global Sisters helps me stand tall, stand like a woman”
Tigi, Sydney Sister, at the session where Global Sisters developed our social impact framework.
Empowerment is not an easy thing to define and measure, but that is what Global Sisters is attempting to do.
We define empowerment of Sisters when they are:
- “standing tall”
- challenging societal gender discrimination
- able to make strong, informed choices for a better future
- in a position to ‘give back’ to others
Over time we are tracking changes in women’s empowerment, with evidence of change from our very first interactions with Sisters in the My Big Idea program.
In creating a space, which is contextualised to women through location and content they walk away already feeling supported and often with a sense of value and significance.
Lack of confidence and self-belief is a major barrier to business start up and growth for many women. Particularly those who are; unemployed, single mums, women who have experienced trauma and violence, retrenched at 50+, or returning to work after a period of caring for young children.
In the Sister Chats, the most significant change Sisters reported on their journey with Global Sisters is improvements in confidence and self-belief.
“Even though I come from a family of business people, I must be the only one in my family who has no business confidence. And I couldn’t go to anyone in my family for help because I’m just supposed to know.
My community is very business orientated and coming to Global Sisters was the best thing for me- and I’ll probably never leave this environment because its really inspiring and really does help and motivate people to actually get up and do something even when they feel they can’t do it”.
Sheefa, Brisbane Sister, Catering & events
Sister Case Study: Jessica
Jessica is a mother of four, with a fifth on the way. She is a single mum and dedicated carer of her children, some who have special needs. Jess has lived through horrific trauma and violence. The battles she has faced, and still faces, seem insurmountable, but she is a survivor. There are 250,000 single mums on parenting payments in Australia and Jess came to know Global Sisters through Parents Next, a pre-employment program for parents receiving Government parenting payments. Jess wants to be financially independent but due to her parenting responsibilities of young children with special needs and a high-risk pregnancy, a 9 to 5 job is not a realistic solution for her.
“They don’t want to see me fail. That’s what I get from Global Sisters. I don’t ever feel like I’m being set up to fail. And so many places in life do that. Whether its consciously or sub-consciously they don’t put enough effort into the beginning bits and you get set up to fail. Global Sisters doesn’t do that. They set you up to succeed.
And that was my biggest fear – I was scared of success. Because I’m so comfortable with failure – it was my comfort zone. Even now when I find things getting too big I start to shrink again – and I go to the Global Sisters team – they’re my go to”.
Influence is the change domain where Global Sisters is most focused. It is about the impact a family and community encounters only when women are able to be financially independent and standing tall. Initially we thought that we would only see change in this impact domain in the long term, but in fact, we are seeing change from our earliest engagement with Sisters. We see connections being made, role modelling and skill sharing from My Big Idea which is snowballing throughout a Sisters journey.
Our desire is to have all Sisters confidently say “I am building influence within family and community. I am actively creating a ripple effect of change.”
The Ripple Effect
When Sisters are business founders, financially independent, resilient and empowered we expect to see their influence extending to family and community. Some ways that this is occurring at Global Sisters includes:
- Sisters bringing new Sisters into the program. We have seen daughters bringing mums and mums bringing daughters, siblings encouraging siblings to join and women referring their friends.
- Sisters starting to informally coach and support other Sisters through peer education
- Collaborations with other Sisters’ businesses
- Providing economic opportunities (employment or work experience) for others in the community
- Role modelling to their family and community that business and self-employment is a genuine alternative to welfare or low paid, unstable jobs
- “Give back” programs built into the business from early on and social enterprises being established.
Sister “Give Back”:
Sisters are setting up social enterprises and for-profit businesses with an intentional “give back” strategy from the outset. One example is Huyam in Melbourne who started a social enterprise called Collectively, a monthly cause activation platform and marketplace for expressive apparels. In their campaign collections, they plan to donate 10% of sales to a non-for-profit each month. Global Sisters is their first charity and Huyam is hoping that the donation can fund a My Big Idea or Sister School.
“I personally benefited from the Global Sisters workshops in my start-up journey and would love for them to be the first charity to partner with and support.”
Peer Education and Support:
In the last 12 months, 80% of the 333 members of Sister-Tribe (our online community) are actively engaged, providing peer learning, advice and support to each other.
In this period there have been over 750 posts, 3770 comments, and 12,500 reactions- showing a high level of engagement in the community.
Sisters regularly ask business questions, conduct market research and share successes. The feedback, advice, and solutions are not just coming from the Global Sisters team and coaches but the Sisters themselves.
Sisters have run Tuesday Teaching events (Facebook Live tutorials for our SisterTribe) on topics such as selling at markets and eco packaging.
When Sisters step into the role of coaching, teaching and supporting other Sisters, they are developing a voice, agency, leadership – and of course influence.
“It’s more than just business, more than a sisterhood, it’s family. I’ve got nobody in my corner and I never thought any of this would have been possible. And I find that having the support from the Sisters and team that things are possible that you never thought were. And you’ve got a family you never thought you would have. It’s just amazing.
I want to grow the [social enterprise] and give back. I never saw it as a making money thing. I saw it as a community ‘give back’ thing”.
Sister Case Study: Cindy
A relationship break-up quickly escalated to an arrest and DVO for Cindy’s ex-partner, to be followed by 1800 breaches of the order and fleeing to a women’s refuge with her daughter, half a tank of gas and $12. The desire to help other children who are fleeing violence, and to prevent their re-traumatisation, inspired her social enterprise. Lil Bug Love provides comfort kits to children in crisis – and these have already been distributed to Police Stations and other service providers across Logan City Council area of Brisbane.