‘LaunchME’ to get up and running!
Article by Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand,
Province of Australia/Aotearoa-New Zealand.
For over 150 years, the Congregation in Australia and New Zealand has tackled the emerging needs of our time and disrupted the systems that stand in the way of the well-being and empowerment of women and families. Stewards of a centuries-old mission, today, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand (GSANZ), remains focused on ensuring women, girls and families are safe, strong, well, and connected.
Over time, how we do this has evolved to encompass the challenges presented by the fast-changing world in which we live. Our work is to stay agile; to hear and see program participants and respond to them wherever they are today, helping them move towards resilience and independence in their lives.
What resilience and independence look like for each person is different. For one person, it may start with finding a safe place to call home; for another, it may be starting their journey on the way to financial independence. All paths are important, and we walk down each one with them as an ally and a friend.
Good Shepherd Staff and graduates from the ‘LaunchMe’ coaching program 2020.
The ‘LaunchME’ program began in various locations in Australia to assist people with barriers, such as low income or poor financial literacy, to start a micro-enterprise. As well as providing a path towards owning their own business, the program boosts financial resilience and client confidence by improving their financial literacy.
Of our clients, 70% are women, and the program has been providing them with focused and dedicated coaching to empower them to achieve their goals. We have been humbled and amazed by the creativity and drive of the program’s participants.
For Rebecca in South Australia, the program helped her participate in a ‘Doctors for Nutrition’ Facebook live interview with well-known US commentator Dr. Helen Roex. Meanwhile, Theodora from the Latrobe Valley was able to start a small olive oil company and enter her oil in competitions, and Asma started a YouTube channel attracting 148,000 subscribers. These women all came into the program with an idea - and working together with their coaches turned that idea into a reality.
The unexpected reality of living through a pandemic created a ripple effect of financial burden for women and families. Many women reported feeling unheard and invisible in a system that was difficult to navigate and not designed to take them in. In response to this, GSANZ created the Small Business Recovery Program in South Australia.
Within the first 60 successful days of operation, the team revitalized 100 small businesses and sole traders heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic; a further 50 are still participating in the program. Of all the participants in the program, 78% were female sole traders aged between 40-49. Utilizing Good Shepherd’s financial conversation model, all have been armed with a tailored roadmap to recovery plan and referrals to other services such as mental health and family violence support programs.
In Victoria, where bushfires ravaged communities and caused devastating environmental damage in 2019/2020, the new ‘LaunchME Bushfire Recovery’ program will work with locally employed business coaches to help guide bushfire impacted micro-enterprises and small businesses to reflect, restart and revitalize their businesses.
Through these programs, GSANZ, as an organization, challenges the constructs and structures that build and maintain the systemic barriers which perpetuate disadvantage. Today, we choose to challenge biases and inequalities and see that women and girls have equal access to more opportunities and more connected and full lives. Economic well-being and financial independence are just one aspect of what we do to break cycles of disadvantage. Our hope is for all women to make empowered choices, to feel safe and supported so that their choices, for their lives, are possible.
As always, we are lucky to be part of a global family that stands together under one common mission — a commitment to work with the most vulnerable in our community, providing them the safety, resilience, and economic well-being they need.