Pilot: improving inclusivity of Stepping Stones to Small Business program

The Brotherhood of St Laurence

Supported beneficiary groups within Women & Girls
Age Demographic
Adults - aged 25 to under 65
Project Focus
Project Area

Project Description

Stepping Stones To Small Business is a program run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL), tailored to women from refugee and migrant and asylum seeking backgrounds and uses a strengths-based, capabilities approach to build upon each participant’s strengths and life experiences. The program aims to increase economic participation and financial wellbeing through education, mentoring and support. Women who participate in Stepping Stones work towards setting up a small business or take pathways to education and employment. BSL has identified that the following groups of women have limited access to training and support to enable them to participate economically, and in particular set up a small business:
• women with limited English language skills, who typically have limited access to traditional economic pathways
• women living in Australia on family visas and certain asylum seeker visas
• women who have not acquired a minimum level of digital literacy

BSL is seeking philanthropic funds to create a two-year pilot program to provide pathways for women with limited English language skills to set up shared businesses through which they can support each other while taking steps towards greater economic independence. We will adapt the Stepping Stones program training materials and provide bi-lingual/-cultural facilitators to make the program more inclusive and accessible.

Expected Outcomes

Over the next two years, Stepping Stones will deepen its impact by working with women who fulfil multiple participant criteria, including:

  • are from a refugee or asylum-seeking background
  • have limited English language skills
  • have experiences with family violence
  • are living on a family visa
  • are living with disability
  • are over the age of 50 years-old
  • are single mothers
  • are living in remote areas with limited ability to access employment opportunities


By the end of the two year pilot, we aim to have:

  • developed a more inclusive, accessible Stepping Stones program to pilot with women with limited English language skills
  • supported an additional 120 participants to set up at least two group-based businesses, which are sustainable.
  • undertaken ongoing refinement and evaluation of this approach with the intention to scale the program.


Outcomes for participants include:

  • learning skills to set up and manage a small business
  • becoming more confident through identification and use of skills
  • developing personal goals
  • developing transferrable skills
  • demonstrating confidence in financial capabilities in personal and work lives
  • broadening community and professional networks
  • achieving business, employment and/or education milestones
  • being matched to a mentor where this is desired
  • understanding and managing risks associated with a small business
  • sustaining their small businesses
  • learning to be advocates and role models in their communities

Project Data & Lessons

The program will explore and evaluate whether, by coming together and collaborating, sharing risk and rewards, women with vulnerabilities are more or less likely to succeed.

We will conduct focus groups and seek feedback from women with limited English on the impact of the project on their lives.

We will measure the following participant metrics as part of our ongoing monitoring and evaluation:

  • % started a business
  • % supported to get a job
  • % earning income either through a job or a small business
  • % supported into education or training
  • % making better decisions with their money
  • % are saving money
  • % developed skills to manage both personal and business finances
  • % developed social networks that provide support to them
  • % reported improved confidence in setting goals.


We will share the learnings from this pilot project with other program providers and ultimately, challenge the systemic and structural barriers that undermine women’s financial wellbeing and economic security. The long-term goal of Stepping Stones is to advocate for more inclusive and accessible services by demonstrating genuine impact through pilot programs with different cohorts.

Project Dates

Project Commences: July 1, 2021
Project Completes: June 30, 2023

Funding Details

Funding Needed
Current Funding
Total Project Costs
Approved Tax Deductability Status
Approved Tax Concession Charity
Other Funding Sources
Office for Women, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Other Support Opportunities
Impact investment, In-kind contributions, Low-interest or no-interest loans, Pro bono services, Subsidies

Organisation Details

The Brotherhood of St Laurence
ABN: 24 603 467 024


Kate Eddy
Phone: 0491692107

About The Brotherhood of St Laurence

BSL is a social justice organisation working alongside people experiencing disadvantage to address the fundamental causes of poverty in Australia. We believe no one should live in poverty. Our mission is to pursue lasting change, to create a more compassionate and just society where everyone can thrive. Our unique approachWe think differently and take a unique approach to address the fundamental causes of poverty in our community. Our approach is informed directly by the people experiencing disadvantage and uses evidence drawn from our research, together with insights from our programs and services, to develop practical solutions that work. We also believe change can only happen when people work together, which is why partnerships with the broader community and organisations nationally are a cornerstone of BSL. We are proud to be a strong voice for people experiencing disadvantage. It has been our way since the 1930s when Father Tucker’s activism for social reform amid the Great Depression led to our inception. And today, all Australians can be part of the change. Together, let’s make change that lasts for an Australia free of poverty.

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