Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is using the magic of social enterprise to help people become better prepared for work.
The word 'lively' perfectly sums up the work of Anna Donaldson, the founder of Lively, and her team. The not-for-profit employs young people to care and support older people while helping them connect to their community.
“Lively is a social enterprise with a vision of a world where all young and older people feel valued, connected and supported,” explains Anna. “We exist to alleviate social isolation among older community members, reduce youth unemployment, and build a more age-friendly society.”
The idea for Lively was conceived in 2015 after Donaldson had an eye-opening volunteer experience. After volunteering to write the life stories of older people, Anna was introduced to Patricia, who was living out the last years of what Anna describes as a “rich and incredible life” in complete isolation. After she passed away, Anna became aware of how prevalent social isolation is among older Australians. In the meantime, youth unemployment was on the rise. It is sobering that four in ten older people feel lonely, isolated and disconnected in our community, while young Australians often find themselves unemployed – during the 2021 lockdowns they bore 55 per cent of the job losses – or underemployed.
Anna saw an opportunity to tackle both issues simultaneously – employing young jobseekers to offer support and connection for older people. Lively has since trained and employed 114 young jobseekers as Lively Helpers to support around 2000 older community members. Helpers provide tech assistance and advice on how to navigate the online world, offer companionship and support with activities such as gardening, attending social events and engaging in personal passion projects, as well as essential home care and transport.
The positive impact on both younger jobseekers and older participants has been astounding. Lively Helpers have reported a staggering 82 per cent increase in confidence, employability and respect for older people, while 86 per cent felt a greater sense of purpose and value and 91 per cent are more likely to challenge ageism against older people. Meanwhile, 92 per cent of older participants feel more valued, and 87 per cent feel more socially connected, more stimulated and engaged in daily life, and feel more able to participate in meaningful activities and pastimes.
Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation was one of Lively’s earliest supporters. Their backing helped establish Lively’s Technology Help service and assisted with the launch of Lively Home Care as an approved home care provider in the federal aged care system. Most recently, the Foundation provided additional support through the Next Economy Job Challenge, helping Lively’s model become a powerful springboard into long-term care careers for young jobseekers.
The Foundation has trained its focus on the all-important transition that takes place from school to work, with a particular emphasis on clearer vocational pathways for those facing multiple barriers to employment or training. And due in part to a partnership with Swinburne Centre for Social Impact, whose considerable work in this area has shown that the social enterprise model provides excellent employment outcomes for those facing disadvantage, the Foundation is supporting organisations such as Lively to ensure those supported pathways – from not-for-profit organisations into mainstream employment – remain open.
The Foundation, however, won’t be stopping here. It has plans to expand on this work nationally by funding the creation of social enterprise national strategies and by supporting the Social Enterprise World Forum. They hope to help establish real change that can be applied across the board.
According to Anna: “The ongoing funding from Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation has provided a critical backbone to our operations through our early years of growth and development. The Foundation has also been a valued advisor, champion and connector. The relationship has been one of trust and open communication, and we have always felt that the Foundation not only understands the unpredictable journey of social innovation, but has had our back through the invariable ups, downs, twists and turns.
“As we look to the future, our aspiration is to operate nationally, leading the way towards a community in which supporting older people to live well is a mainstream employment choice for young people. In doing so, we hope to drive a powerful, positive shift in the way that young and older people are viewed, valued and supported in our community. We’re immensely grateful to have Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation on the journey with us and can’t wait to see what our next chapter has in store.”
Inclusivity, resilience and workforce adaptability are vital for our older and younger people. Simply put, they alleviate loneliness among our older population while empowering unemployed young people, creating happy and healthy communities.