Unlocking the superpower of super funds for social good

| May 12, 2019

A UNSW Business School academic says the major parties need to prioritise their policies on care of the elderly, education and housing during the run-up to the federal election.

Adjunct Professor Michael Traill AM, a renowned social investment advocate, said: “There’s an opportunity, which is quite bipartisan, to enable greater impact investment and mobilise larger pools of institutional capital in aged care, affordable housing and early education.”

“If we can shift the dial and mobilise pools of super fund capital that could plausibly be in the multi-billions of dollars, that can have a quite dramatic and positive effect that ticks both business financial and social impact return areas.”

The Business School academic was one the architects behind Goodstart Childcare chain – one of the largest social enterprise organisations in the world.

Before making the transition to the social investment space, the Adjunct Professor spent spent 15 years in merchant banking, where he co-founded Macquarie Group’s private equity arm, Macquarie Direct Investment.

Traill, who was awarded the title of Adjunct Professor by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) at UNSW Sydney, said: “All the data and evidence suggests that if we provide high quality early learning, particularly to kids aged 2, 3 and 4, who come from tougher backgrounds, we can make a real difference. There are other countries, including the UK, who do this in a significantly more substantial and high quality way than Australia.”

Traill describes the mission as “personal”. He grew up in the small town of Morwell in country Victoria with two loving parents who valued education, but he feltthe lack of opportunity and prospects affecting many of his school peers who had talent but weren’t expected to do well.

Rural Australia State School

Traill says delivering high quality education to young children from challenging backgrounds can have a massive impact.

“I want to see communities like that resourced so that those kids can grow up in schools and communities with high expectations, and for those kids to be resourced to perform as I know they can, because I’ve had that lived experience.”

Traill said applying the Goodstart social enterprise template, tapping best practice expertise with people who have deep social impact experience, is essential across the various sectors of the economy.

“You think about areas like aged care, social and affordable housing, broad chunks of education (TAFE) – there’s a government policy imperative to be involved because it has such a significant societal impact, outcomes and government is a significant funder.”

Traill, who currently has a range of mostly social purpose board roles and was founding CEO of Social Ventures Australia (SVA), said 60% of Goodstart’s $1bn comes from government-sourced revenue supporting childcare.

“My strong argument is, if you can create the enabling conditions where you can mobilise capital for enduring, we can help create more well run organisations in the areas of intersection of business discipline and social purpose. Done properly, they can make a social impact difference and generate reasonable financial returns that tap into that 2.7 trillion dollar superannuation pool,” Traill said.

“I think there’s a very strong case for government being more proactive and thoughtful in helping enable those opportunities to happen, and in terms of whatever bandwidth and experience I’ve got I’m very keen to see how that momentum can be accelerated.”

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