Women of the World – a cohort business program offering economic independence and health literacy programs for migrant and refugee women.

TDi in partnership with Contribute Group.

Migrant and refugee women often face barriers to entry in Australia’s workforce. In June 2021, The Difference incubator and Contribute Group partnered to launch a new program called Women of the World (WOW) to address this challenge.

During the program, the selected culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women will have the opportunity to run a social micro franchise business, Parentmedic, as well as receive support and training in running a business and facing mindset barriers.


A conversation of possibility

The genesis of this program began with the passion and dedication of a single social entrepreneur, Nataly Tormey, who saw a social challenge and created a business. Her story intersected with TDi last year when we began dreaming of what might be possible together.

Women of the World (WOW) is a pilot program designed to test if a well-designed model of social franchising, and a business accelerator, can support migrant and refugee women to run sustainable health education businesses that meet the health literacy needs of their own communities.

First, we saw that the program could provide refugee and migrant women with an empowering pathway to self-employment and business ownership addressing the barriers to economic participation.

Second, we saw that it could allow refugee and migrant women to adapt health education messages to suit their own communities and address the health literacy gaps in culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

How it began: identifying issues with low health literacy in Australia and the lack of workforce participation opportunities for women in culturally diverse communities.

Founder of Contribute Group Nataly Tormey had discovered that less than half of Australians aged 15-74 have adequate health literacy skills* which has a significant impact on health, safety and quality of health care in Australia.+

Nataly created Parentmedic and Harry Helper in 2014 to improve health literacy and ultimately impact the health outcomes of Australians. In 2020 she established Contribute Group to continue to bring these products together and expand the potential impact.

The Parentmedic© program is an affordable 2-hour in-person education program, teaching parents and carers what to do if a child is sick, injured or in an emergency, and how to keep them safe. The program has existed for seven years and delivered over 80,000 hours of parent education in Australia.

Several years ago, Contribute Group recognised that there was an increasing demand for (and gap in) health literacy in culturally diverse communities and began to explore options for addressing this. But it needed to allow for:

  • cultural adaptation and community ownership
  • individuals from diverse communities to run their own Parentmedic© business
  • support and structure to sustain the individual

When looking to engage culturally diverse communities, it was also important to understand the barriers that migrant and refugee women often need to overcome. These include confidence with English language, re-skilling costs, family responsibilities and limited childcare as well limitations to being genuinely considered for employment.

Nataly recognised that the greatest impact happens when a product is owned and delivered by the communities they are intended for. This became an important part of Contribute Group’s community investment models to enable communities to own and provide their own health products and services.

This led to the growing and scaling of impact through social franchising – the only one in Australia to date, and was recently accepted into the international social sector tasks force for social franchises.

The next step was to provide a supportive pathway for refugee and migrant women to be equipped to effectively run their Parentmedic social franchise business.

TDi partnered with Contribute group to design and run a cohort-based business program that combines business skills, ability to earn an income within community.

TDi has been providing accelerator programs for 10 years supporting difference makers to do good and make money. We work to reclaim entrepreneurship and demonstrate new models that bring diverse voices together to support societal well-being. Together with Contribute Group, we designed the WOW program to address these challenges and opportunities and with the support of Ecstra Foundation, we have been able to bring the program to life.

Ecstra Foundation is an independent charitable organisation committed to building the financial wellbeing of all Australians within a fair financial system. In May this year Ecstra announced $2.1 million in new funding to social enterprises and charities boosting women’s opportunities and economic security, as an initiative of the Women’s Economic Security Project. The WOW program aims to do this through providing access for women to business training and business ownership, mainstream employment opportunities which were not previously available to them.

The 12 month pilot program begins in November 2021 and will run with a cohort of 10 women. WOW participants will be legally able to start and run Parentmedic© social micro franchise, whilst simultaneously accessing a year-long, custom designed, business accelerator workshops that build business skills and coaching that addresses mindset barriers that come with starting a business.

We believe the combination of a proven Parentmedic© product, with the support of a cohort-based business program, provides the best opportunity for participants to feel confident, gain knowledge in business, and begin to build their own income. This in turn increases financial literacy and creates financial independence for the women promoting their economic integration and security.

A big vision

Our long-term vision for this program is to design and build a model that would allow all women of diverse backgrounds, across Australia, to have an affordable pathway to owning a Parentmedic© business.

We have recruited the first cohort and we are excited to get the pilot program underway.

We are also looking at piloting this program with 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in 2022. We have spoken to several stakeholders who believe that there would be strong demand for this program amongst First Nations women. We are currently seeking partners who will help us extend the existing pilot and test this approach with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.


If you are interested in partnering with us, please get in touch via the contact form below.





*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s Health Report, 2018

+ Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2014)


Spread the love

Meet our WOW participants

We introduce you to some of the participants of the Women of the World program, due to begin in early 2022.

PNG Local Business Coach focus: Mari Ellingson

Empowering women in business is something we’re very passionate about. So when we get to build local capacity in our women-led business coaching program it’s even more exciting, as the potential impact is so much greater. Mari is one of our Local Business Coach...

Women of the World

Women of the World – a cohort business program offering economic independence and health literacy programs for migrant and refugee women.

PNG Local Business Coach focus: Mary Handen

We are excited to be partnering and building local capacity in our women-led business coaching program in PNG. Mary is one of our Local Business Coach (LBC) participants and we have loved working with her over these past few months. We caught up recently and want to...

Business and mindset coaching offers key to covid recovery for women-led businesses in PNG

TDi are working with PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre to recruit and coach a total of 100 women-led SMEs (or deliver 800 hours of coaching) over four rounds of coaching from May through to December, with an average of 200 hours of coaching per round. Alongside, 4 Local Business Coaches are being trained in TDi’s method to continue to support women-led SMEs in PNG. Here are the results for the first of the four rounds of coaching.

What 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us

Last year TDi celebrated 10 years, and over that time we’ve had the opportunity to travel with a number of organisations and often get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. Recently, TDi’s CEO Anthea Smits, had the opportunity to reflect on what the past 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us. This article is a reflection on our top 6 learnings.

Meaningful Conversations about Reconciliation

This month’s Meaningful Conversation coincided with the start of National Reconciliation Week so we took the opportunity to explore the notion of reconciliation, and particularly this year’s theme which invites brave action.

Using the Business Model Canvas

When it comes to creating a new business, one question looms larger than all others: “Does this have potential?” The Business Model Canvas is a great starting point. This blog by TDi’s Isaac Jeffries describes how to fill out it out.

Hope in a challenging environment

A reflection by TDis, Carlo Demaio, on the PNG Highlands township of Porgera.

Mitch Wallis puts his heart on his sleeve about working with TDi

We were so grateful to Mitch from Heart On My Sleeve for sharing this video story of his experiences working with TDi.