Good Cycles is a work integration social enterprise based in Melbourne and Geelong that provides sustainable employment pathways for young people who are at risk of disengagement.
“At our heart, we are focused on employment pathways for young people who have potential and but not the opportunities,” says Good Cycle’s Head of Innovation and Impact, Kirra Johnson. “We provide young people with the opportunities to engage with us in real jobs with real wages, and a tailored coaching program that supports them to identify what their employment goals are short term and longer term.”
Originally focused on training mobile bike mechanics, Good Cycles’ operation has now grown to include retail bike stores and servicing, micro mobility (bike sharing) and car share service cleaning, and also city services related to infrastructure and asset maintenance. Much of the work is delivered via e-bikes.
“We train for work in industries of the future, where young people are learning skills and engaging in places where they can potentially have pathways, both to move to different roles within Good Cycles or with our partners, and then to move out into open employment,” she says.
Good Cycles CEO Jaison Hoernel points to their employee partner Citywide Service Solutions as a prime example of collaborating for change.
“We do a lot of work for Citywide around the city of Melbourne in everything from looking after the electric rubbish bins to the compacting of food waste,” says Jaison. “They're one of our best partners because not only do they believe in what we do, but they also support our people who are working with them and transition them into employment.”
Believing in the mission
Over the last nine years, Good Cycles has experienced a huge amount of growth not only in the scope of what it does but also in the types of channels, the revenue and the jobs.
“Our aspirations, in terms of growth, are being able to create more pathways and more employment opportunities, as well as being able to have influence, whether it's with business or government, about what's important for young people facing these barriers,” says Jaison.
“It’s really about putting some more structure around the organisation, giving us the tools to be able to measure and evaluate and better understand what we're doing,” he says.
On average, young people stay with Good Cycles for nine to ten months, although some stay longer if they choose to move into different types of roles within the enterprise.
“But the biggest success for us has been in realising that it's the culture of our organisation that's driving that. We've got so many people that are working with us because they genuinely believe in what we do, and they're actually expressing that it's a great place to work, so we're looking at this as a secondary kind of benefit,” he says.
“Post pandemic, everyone's burnt out, everyone's feeling exhausted,” he says. “For us, that's been a bit of a reality check. But it's also really powerful, because just by simply being an organisation that’s driven to help people, it means we’re holding ourselves to that. I think that's really exciting.”
Kirra agrees, saying, “I think there's something about us being like a best-practice or exemplary organisation that does the best work. And that goes back to what Jaison was saying about culture — we want to have the best culture, we want to do things the best, because what we're trying to demonstrate here is that you can have a business and have social impact at the same time.”
Supporting growth and development
“Westpac Foundation was one of our earliest supporters,” says Jaison. “Probably the biggest thing they've provided us with is scaling grants for the last six years, which has been fantastic in supporting the growth of our organisation and the development of the programmatic work that we've done.”
Following on from earlier grants, Good Cycles received $200,000 over the two years to 2022 to help weather the impact of COVID-19 and will now receive $300,000 over three years through the Foundation’s Social Enterprise Grants Program.
“We have been extra fortunate, from our point of view, in that we had a little bit to do with the Westpac Board Observership Program in the early days,” says Jaison. “One of the Westpac employees, Lucinda Makrakis, came through to sit on our board and she's actually our Deputy Chair at the moment.”
It is through Westpac Foundation that Good Cycle connected with MinterEllison, which provides pro bono legal support to the enterprise, and Paul Ramsey Foundation, one of the enterprise’s longest-standing supporters.
“Paul Ramsey Foundation is now doing a huge piece of evaluation work alongside us about what it is we're doing and how we're doing it,” says Jaison. “It’s really a learning exercise for us, and hopefully that translates into learnings for the broader sector as well.”
While not completely stepping away from philanthropy, Good Cycle’s next stage of growth will see it accessing other types of investments.
“Westpac Foundation has given us access not only to funding but to other enterprises,” he says. “We can talk to other philanthropists and learn from other organisations as our mentors, and that non-financial support has been really critical.”
Find out more about Good Cycles.