What do academics do during breaks?

6 Oct

During this mid-semester break, Jenny Cameron got to do some field work on her Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project entitled “Reconfiguring the Enterprise: Shifting Manufacturing Culture in Australia”. This research is looking at innovation in Australian manufacturing—and not just technological innovation, but social, economic and ecological innovation. One trip was to the Wollongong region to visit Soft Landing. This is a social enterprise that recycles old mattresses that would otherwise take up precious space in landfills. Consider that there are over 1 million mattresses thrown away each year in Australia (and not just from households but from places such as hotels and hospitals).

At Soft Landing, the wire is compressed and sold as scrap metal for recycling; the timber is “shredded” and used for garden mulch; and the filling was used to stuff punching bags (although this activity is on hold for the moment while Soft Landing expands into Western Australia and the ACT). As a social enterprise, Soft Landing prioritises employment opportunities for marginalised groups such as the long-term unemployed, and it currently has over 100 employees.

Jenny also visited Work Ventures in Sydney. This is another social enterprise that employs marginalised groups, but in the IT sector. Work Ventures has a great array of initiatives from training people in Software Testing (e.g. testing new software for “friction” and “interruptability” – just some of the new words Jenny learned during this visit) to repairing Telstra’s switchboard parts (which is why the enterprise is located adjacent to Sydney airport as these parts have to be on planes asap when things happen such as the blackout in South Australia!).

Jenny’s co-researchers on this project are Katherine Gibson and Stephen Healy from Western Sydney University. Below is a photo of Jenny with Katherine and Stan from Soft Landing in front of the specially designed machine that compresses the mattress springs into small bundles for recycling.

Jenny Cameron


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