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August 24, 2021

As a new member of the Shared Value Project community, we sat down with David Williamson, CEO of the Melbourne Innovation Centre to learn more about their organisation and how shared value is influencing their work.

Tell us about your organisation . . . 

Melbourne Innovation Centre (MIC) is one of Victoria’s original and longest running business incubators. Our mission is to assist and stimulate long-term economic and sustainable employment in Melbourne’s northern region and beyond by supporting new and existing small, start-up and scale-up enterprises.

MIC’s business incubators are home to approximately 80 client businesses, ranging from horticulture, environmental technologies, and costume design to sculpture and agritech. We work closely with the local government, economic development organisations, TAFEs and Universities to nurture and develop start-ups and small businesses. In turn, graduate businesses successfully enter the wider business community, supporting local economy and providing sustainable employment opportunities.

MIC also oversees several high-scale Government programs, Australian Small Business Advisory Services, Bushfire Business Recovery Advisory Services and Partners in Wellbeing.

How are you currently engaging with or practising shared value?

At its Alphington Incubator site, MIC is working to establish a Headquarters for Outback Academy Australia (OAA) – an organisation dedicated to accelerating economic freedom, employment and well-being among Indigenous Australians through strategic joint business ventures; job creation and local jobs for local people; relevant training; and targeted social investments.

The premise of the MIC/OAA partnership is to assist in the commercialisation and development of value-add products utilising Indigenous ingredients such as bush tomato and wattle seed; and in turn, provide enterprise development education, training and mentoring to emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs. It will create greater efficiencies in the supply chain by adopting contemporary sustainable and urban agriculture processes, and foster the growth of an existing cluster of urban agriculture enterprises at MIC’s Alphington site.

We have a long history of engaging in economic development initiatives to support Indigenous Australians, specifically in the area of enterprise development and business ownership through training and mentoring programs. MIC operates the Indigenous Business Incubator which is focused heavily on skills transfer and empowerment, to assist Indigenous owned and controlled entities to develop sustainable and scalable business models; leading to prosperity through business ownership, training and employment opportunities.

Adopting shared value isn’t always easy. What challenges have you faced?

The initial challenges have included:

  • Complex stakeholder engagement processes: With multiple organisations involved in the above project, there has been a need to develop a new governance model, including the establishment of several operational and strategically-focused working groups in order to execute the project
  • Funding: For key components of the project, including the establishment of key physical infrastructure for horticultural/agricultural training processes, there is a reliance on grant income from multiple sources
  • Measurement: Setting a clear model to measure both the impact and business success of the project. In searching for relevant models, MIC was introduced to the Shared Value Project – having been aware of Professor Michael Porter’s theory and philosophy as a broader concept

What are some of the most pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating shared value?

  • Youth unemployment: Through the development of models which provide training and education pathways towards emerging industries such as advanced manufacturing – including the development of bespoke services/product development to support NDIS/NDIA participants.
  • Construction: Through the development of new and emerging construction technologies/materials supporting the use of sustainable recycled/repurposed materials and creating a new labour force in the process.
  •  Renewable energy: By encouraging large and medium-sized firms to use renewable alternatives, encouraging providers to adopt a longer-term view.
  • Housing/homelessness: Through the development of sustainable and integrated social housing models.

In a sentence, why do you believe is shared value is important today?

Shared value has never been more important than it is right now. Through partnerships, organisations large and small can create significant impact in the new economy.