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Innovative social enterprise supports children and young people

Upstream co-founder Mitch Shaw

A creative way to raise sustainable income for charity has led two young youth workers to develop a social enterprise.

Upstream founders Mitch Shaw and James Harris have helped local businesses earn a whopping 2.2 million dollars in new revenue and over $130,000 in donations.

Their goal is to raise one million dollars in donations for local charities that work with children and young people.

Mitch Shaw and James Harris are two youth workers based in Christchurch who became overwhelmed with the support needed to help generate positive outcomes for young Kiwis.

After youth working for 13 years co-founder Mitch began managing a charitable trust where he learnt first-hand how difficult it was to secure funding for essential charitable services.

Mitch found that it was not that people and businesses didn’t want to give regularly, it was that life events and an ever-changing economy meant that this wasn’t always possible.

At any point, and especially with the advent of Covid, donations can drastically dwindle.

Struggling to secure funding also coincided with Mitch and James’ increasing concern about New Zealand’s youth mental health statistics.

They wondered what they could do to help.

Their creative idea has slowly but surely been gaining momentum since January 2018 since its conception.

The idea was born

Concentrating on finding a way for charities to have a sustainable ongoing stream of funding led Mitch to reach out to a friend who owned a heat pump business.

After discussing some ideas, they came to a solid concept that they believed would benefit everybody involved.

If Mitch and James could somehow figure out a way for new clients to use his friend’s business, he would donate a certain percentage of that profit to their charity.

Upstream co-founder James Harris

The platform Upstream was developed and now has over 120 suppliers who donate proceeds from any revenue sourced through the enterprise.

This means that local charities and businesses are making money at no extra cost to anyone.

It works because as a buyer you are spending the money anyway. So why not do good with it at the same time, says Mitch.


Sales and Relationship Manager Stephen McQuarrie says, “This is a win win win! The supplier wins because they gain a new client and new source of income.

“The buyer wins because they are choosing a vetted service at reasonable cost that is ethical. And charities win because they are gaining a sustainable, ongoing funding revenue.”

Empowering customers

The biggest surprise and source of growth they are seeing is in business-to-business supply.

“Businesses are choosing to use each other on Upstream to make ethical supply chain decisions,” says Stephen.

“It’s as simple as using a certain tradie, real-estate agent, or printing company and you’re contributing to counselling subsidies, conductive education, early intervention services and community work.”

“It’s a solid model where everybody wins!”

As Upstream gathers momentum and the suppliers increase in size and variety, the 20 chosen youth-based charities and schools are starting to see real usable contributions that are directly impacting their ability to help and empower young people.

With 20 possible charities to allocate the money to, the client is in the position of deciding which one of these charities they would like to support.

Upstream tracks every enquiry and job that is completed through its platform so it can make sure any contributions go directly to the customer’s chosen charity.

It is a 100% non-for-profit enterprise.

This creative and successful concept has seen co-founder Mitch Shaw win the Westfield local hero award in 2021 for his efforts.

Charities include Moral Compass, EPIC sports project, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Christchurch, Conductive Education, and Opawaho Trust.

They have together received the equivalent of nearly 6,000 hours of community support that did not exist before Upstream.

The most astounding aspect of this concept is that these donations have not come out of anybody’s pocket.

The growth and success of Upstream means that Mitch and James will try and service charities outside of their local area.

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For more information:

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