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)


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