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.
Over the next two years, Stepping Stones will deepen its impact by working with women who fulfil multiple participant criteria, including:
By the end of the two year pilot, we aim to have:
Outcomes for participants include:
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:
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.