Driving community-led rejuvenation through entrepreneurial action
The issues behind the decline of rural and regional Australia are complex and require multi-pronged solutions.
In 2013 the Co-founder of ACRE undertook a Churchill Fellowship study to uncover how rural communities can journey from being ‘on their knees’ to thriving again. Drawing on the experience of more than 100 rural locations worldwide, Matt Pfahlert identified essential ingredients:
- Entrepreneurship to drive social and economic change
- Experiential learning, starting young and leveraging the world’s best social enterprise content
- Building a community culture and ecosystem that are self-sustaining
- Utilising community asset ownership to galvanise action
- Cross-sector collaboration to drive place-based change. These pillars inform the design, delivery and monitoring of ACRE’s multi-faceted approach to community-led rejuvenation. ACRE is working with 30 communities who want to develop the mindset, skills and behaviours needed to build an enterprising culture and a thriving new economy by
- Building enterprise capability in the next generation: more than 4,500 primary, secondary and TAFE students are part of Social Enterprise Schools - a practical, student-led experience that develops citizenship and enterprise capabilities.
- Developing entrepreneurs: The Breakout Accelerator is a dedicated program for rural innovators seeking to scale.
- Inspiring community asset ownership: ACRE led a $2.7 million buy back of the Old Beechworth Gaol - now a vibrant cultural and business precinct
- Growing local ecosystems: ACRE developed the Thrive Framework to support growth of localised entrepreneurship. Communities use the framework to map existing assets and resources, identify gaps and measure progress.
Matt is one of Australia’s pioneering social entrepreneurs.
He started his first social enterprise in 1993 at the age of 23, working with ‘at risk’ young people in wilderness settings. For this work, in 1996 he received the Young Australian of the Year Award.
Matt is co-founder and CEO of ACRE (Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship), a social enterprise that exists to build the renewal of Australia’s rural communities so that future generations may thrive.
In 2016, ACRE led a $2.7M community buy-back of the Old Beechworth Gaol, a neglected Australian heritage icon famed for its connection to Ned Kelly located in Matt’s hometown. The site is being repurposed as an exemplar of social enterprise, impact investment and rural rejuvenation through community owned assets.
Other awards/positions include: 2003 Leadership Victoria - Community leader of the Year 2004 Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow 2013 Churchill Fellow 2018 International Specialised Skills Fellow 2003-2012 Telstra Foundation Board