From 2021 to 2022, the Rotary Club of Brighton (RCB) partnered with Young Change Agents (YCA) and Bayside City Council to deliver YCA’s Explorer and Youth Incubator (YINC) programs to young people in the Bayside region as part of the Be Your Own Boss initiative. This Rotary 100  program was run in celebration of 100 years of Rotary in Australia and NZ aiming to inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs and change makers in the local community. 

According to the Victorian Government’s Commission for Children and Young People, young people have been disproportionately affected as a result of Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown, with more than half of Victorians between 18-24 years unemployed during the height of the lockdown. Promisingly, research by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) shows youth with enterprise skills are 17 months ahead of their peers in gaining full time employment.

To tackle this challenge, the Rotary Club of Brighton and award-winning not-for-profit social enterprise Young Change Agents, co-led an innovative new program series, Be Your Own Boss. The program’s aims were to raise the profile and visibility of what young people are capable of and how they can positively contribute to their local community. The program launched in July 2021, with young people aged between 12 - 25 years in Bayside and Kingston invited to take part, with a focus on involving people from diverse backgrounds, experiences and skill sets.

Participants started with a Young Change Agents Explorer program, where they developed enterprise skills through identifying a community problem and reframing it as an opportunity in the form of a social enterprise. The next-stage was a YINC (Youth Incubator), where young people will work with mentors to grow, test and build their idea. The workshops culminated in a Community Showcase, where young people will presented their solutions to a prominent panel of industry and community members for further support.

YCA empowers young people to identify problems, reframe these as opportunities and develop solutions with an entrepreneurial lens. As a non-profit social enterprise, they are leading the way in youth entrepreneurship in Australia and deliver a range of education programs that develop the entrepreneurial mindset, skillset and toolset of young people aged 10 - 25 to help prepare for their future. 

During the Explorer, 252 students from Bentleigh Secondary College, Beaumaris Secondary College and Berendale School, as well as 18 young people aged 18-25, participated in a series of virtual and face-to-face workshops to help them identify problems in their community and work in teams to create a social enterprise solution. During the next stage of the program, both cohorts participated in a YINC program to accelerate their social enterprises and develop advanced entrepreneurship skills with masterclasses and mentorship from local business leaders.

The 18-25 stream of the program culminated in a showcase and celebration in which participants pitched their ideas to a panel of judges to secure seed funding, business coaching and additional support to make their social enterprises a reality. The winning idea was Best Bark, an app that connects dog owners with willing carers and walkers to foster a sense of companionship during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Another team, which was comprised of Future Youth Facilitators, has had their idea successful in obtaining a VicHealth Local Government  Partnership Grant of $39,500 for Thrive in Bayside to help connect young people in Bayside post-Covid through a health and well-being program.
“We’re thrilled to have been partnering with Rotary on this initiative. The Be Your Own Boss series is intended for young people to learn invaluable real world employability skills and get a better understanding of how learning to reframe problems as opportunities and develop solutions through design thinking can lead to an exciting career,” said Margaret O’Brien, CEO of Young Change Agents.

“We’re excited to have selected this project as our Rotary 100 initiative. It’s given our youth an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to some of Bayside’s most influential business leaders and policy makers and create change in the ways that matter most to young people”, said Dale Hoy, District Governor 2021/22 of Rotary District 9800 and member of the Rotary Club of Brighton.

The Be Your Own Boss initiative was generously supported by The Rotary District 9800 Foundation, Flora and Frank Leith Charitable Trust, Bayside City Council, Elwood Community Bank and Bendigo Bank Brighton.
This pilot initiative has been used to inspire YCA and Rotary Club of Rosebud Rye to use this model in District 9820, where they have successfully obtained $135,000 grant funding over three years, as part of the Engage! 2022-24 Grants Program from the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. The Rotary Club of Brighton’s Be Your Own Boss initiative was awarded a Rotary District 9800 Recognition Award for Vocational Service on the 25th June 2022.