Major disability employer collaborates with Partners in Performance to boost employment opportunitie
Bedford Group, Australia’s second largest employer of people with disability, has heightened its commitment to supporting the South Australian community through a joint partnership with leading global consultancy, Partners in Performance.
The collaboration was instigated by a need for Bedford to adopt a more sustainable model, leveraging commercial revenue, in light of changes to funding models. The review of operations has seen Bedford investing $50 million as part of its master plan to revamp and refresh their operations to better support the South Australian community.
“Our partnership with Bedford has led to the identification of an under-served niche in commercial kitchens, and the development of a model that will provide open employment opportunities for people of all abilities,” said Ben Thompson, a Partner at Partners in Performance.
As a not-for-profit (NFP) organisation, Bedford offers a wide range of services — in addition to supporting South Australians with disability into employment opportunities, they provide support for engaging in social and skill-building activities, Supported Independent Living (SIL) services, and will soon launch an advisory service with job coaches.
In an Australian first for disability employment, Bedford strives to become the market leader for creating new open employment opportunities - which don’t currently exist for people with disabilities. This will encompass everything from producing gourmet food in its first ever commercial kitchen, providing a full supply chain solution from production through to distribution.
“By introducing a social enterprise aspect to our NFP model, Bedford is now able to cast a wider net for clients and better support them in achieving their career aspirations within commercial kitchens, restaurants, and the wider hospitality industry,” said Sam Hunter, COO, Bedford Social Enterprises.
Local and national supply contracts have been secured to support the new commercial kitchen, which is expected to produce up to 800 kilograms of product, roughly equivalent to 1,000 ready meals, per each 8-hour shift. Some of these meals will be distributed amongst South Australians experiencing homelessness, as a way to give back to the community.
“This shift will equip our clients with the skills needed to embrace exciting and meaningful opportunities, and assist with overcoming barriers attached to pursuing such careers. An added benefit of Bedford’s revised model also means new opportunities for investors that are looking for both a financial return and social dividend.
“We’re extremely enthusiastic to see the positive impact this project holds for the wider community and investors alike.”
As an external consultant, Partners in Performance has provided valuable assistance and expertise to Bedford in its evolution to an organisation that offers choice — whether that be supported employment, or in an open employment hub within a Bedford-owned social enterprise. The advice has included the planning and implementation of Bedford’s aforementioned commercial kitchen, which is their first.
Bedford is built on the tenets of inclusive employment opportunities for the South Australian community, one where people of all abilities, and from all walks of life, can work together in a supportive environment.
Bedford’s organisation-wide review was initially prompted by recent legislative changes, which compromised the viability of some operations. This instigated a need for Bedford to seek innovative ways to generate employment, social and learning opportunities for their clients.
The construction of Bedford’s kitchen began in late 2021, with doors officially opening in March 2023. Looking ahead, there are plans to gradually expand the network of commercial kitchens across the Adelaide region. This city-wide expansion has been underpinned by the revelation of a new name and branding, known as Cultivate Food and Beverage.
Bedford’s forward-thinking business strategy and performance is vital for the organisation to continue supporting, and adding value, to the lives of South Australians with a choice and meaningful employment options.
“We sought Partners in Performance’s expertise to enhance and improve Bedford’s growth - positioning our brand as a NFP with a business and sustainable focus,” Mr Hunter added.
“The consultancy has also been instrumental in finding new markets to strengthen Bedford’s sustainability, which is crucial for it to continue offering employment to the wider community.”
Bedford's adaptability in embracing ever-changing market conditions ensures the business' future and ability to flourish.
Mr Thompson of Partners in Performance added: “Bedford is a great case study on how NFP organisations can reinvent themselves and how consulting firms can successfully apply their commercial expertise to help the not-for-profit sector.”
“Bedford’s collaboration with Partners in Performance is one significant step of a larger journey toward uplifting and empowering our diverse South Australian community through meaningful employment opportunities for all,” concluded Mr Hunter.