Wayside Chapel’s Hybrid Social Enterprise

Wayside Chapel’s Hybrid Social Enterprise

Wayside Chapel is ensuring a sustainable mission to break the cycle of youth unemployment through a hybrid social enterprise.

In February 2019, Wayside Chapel produced a Managing Hybrid Enterprises guidebook in collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

This practical guidebook showcases how Wayside is developing a hybrid social enterprise through their youth employment readiness program The Wingspan Project and their Heart Café that opened in Bondi in November 2018.

The Wingspan Project assists at-risk youth (17-25 years old) in finding and developing their careers.

Part of this program includes participants being employed at the Heart Café over a 12-month period. At completion, they will receive Certificate II in Hospitality. The program is holistic, person-centred approach wrapping a supportive community around disadvantaged young people to help them flourish in mainstream society.

The Heart Café essentially delivers and enables the Wayside Chapel’s mission of creating a community of “no us and them.” Surplus funds from the Heart Café goes back into the program to support young people participating in the Wingspan Project.

Wayside’s Head of Innovation Strategy and Social Impact, Lee Cooper, said the program gives participants access to one-on-one support and mentorship.

“We provide 10 to 12 weeks of attentive support, work experience and community and development experience for these young people.”

 “Many of these young people have never worked before. It is a massive investment in them, but we are working with those who are the most challenged and they need the attentive support in order to maintain the changes that they are beginning to make.”

Images: The Wingspan Project develops the careers of at-risk youth (Supplied Wayside Chapel).

The program not only builds confidence and skills. It also assists participants to move into mainstream employment with the Wingspan Project offering a further 12 months of employment support after participants complete the program.

Mr Cooper said it was a conscious decision to produce the Managing Hybrid Enterprises Guidebook and begin research alongside the opening of the café and the Wingspan Project rather than at the end.

“We wanted to understand the type of impact we could expect to have and make a long that way,” explained Mr Cooper.

Scaling impact

The research behind the guidebook was led by UTS researchers Drs Melissa Edwards, Danielle Logue and Gillian McAllister. The research project was sponsored by ThirdLink, a prominent Australian investment fund.

The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW and the ACT, Chief Operating Officer, Albert Olley, was at the launch of the research guidebook and heard first hand of the impact a hybrid social enterprise can make.

“The element that I found most impressive about the research and the collaboration was the willingness of the University and Philanthropic sector to engage with the Wayside and consider different models for operating various business operations that may arise within a church or NGO, specifically in this case the Heart Café,” Mr Olley said.

“The real benefit for the church and other third Sector organisations is that this type of research engagement provides validation that there is more than one way to consider operating a community engagement / service-oriented operation.”

Mr Cooper said that the guidebook explores a holistic view of what a hybrid social enterprise entails in terms of both internal and external success.

“To look at not just the impact of the project and the enterprise on individuals which is our main purpose of doing it but also what is the impact on incorporating a hybrid enterprise within in an existing organisation.

“What we’re trying to do in social enterprise is to scale and sustain our mission impact and that has cultural impact as well.”

Breaking cycle of unemployment

This research continues to enable Wayside’s Wingspan Project as it focusses on providing support for the young people and tailoring the program to their particular professional development needs.

There are currently six participants who are working in the Heart Café through the Wingspan Project. 

“These young people will be provided with up to nine months of paid employment,” said Mr Cooper of the participants who started in February this year.

“The purpose of this is that many young people are not given a chance to show what they can do, they don’t have the experience and then they can’t get the work which would give them experience.

“We are breaking this cycle with significant paid experience.”

Images: Wayside Chapel’s Heart Cafe in Bondi Sydney (Supplied Wayside Chapel)

In the near future Wayside is anticipating to have up to 15 participants in the second group to move through the employment readiness program. 

When asked how the current participants are going, Mr Cooper said the response has been positive.

“There are moments of challenge, but these are part of the learning journey.

“They are showing us that in the right environments all people can thrive,” said Mr Cooper.

Mr Olley said that the success of Wayside’s initiative is a valuable case study for congregations looking to make a missional impact.

“I think that the Wayside initiate provides an opportunity or example for other congregations to look at the way in which they govern and oversee their local shops and cafes through the lens of maximising their mission and community outreach outcomes as first priority whilst still maintaining an appropriate level of governance and oversight to manage the risks involved.”

Ways to help

There are a number of ways that your congregation can help the Wayside’s Wingspan Project and mission to break the cycle for at-risk youth unemployment. First you can support the Heart Café by dining there or donating directly to Wayside Chapel. 

“With enough funds we can help more people but we will also need more work places to support Wingspan participants. Uniting operate other services for the community including child care, retirement homes, and social services,” said Mr Cooper.

“Wingspan could place people, provide the support and help create future Uniting employees. It doesn’t just need to be hospitality. Wingspan is enterprise agnostic. It could be in areas of IT, admin, personal care, or maintenance.”

Melissa Stewart


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