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There are reported to be 68,000 Social Enterprises in the UK.

How is a Social Enterprise defined and what are some of the characteristics of ones that exist?

The UK Government definition is:
'a social enterprise is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners' UK Government: DTI (2002)

Social enterprises are a growing, worldwide movement of businesses that exist to change the world for the better.

A social enterprise is a business that trades to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment.

A social enterprise does make its money from selling goods and services ie it is a business but will have a clear sense of its ‘social mission’: which means it will know what difference it is trying to make, who it is aiming to help, and how it’s going to go about it.

Some Characteristics

From analysing social enterprises that exist, there appear to be various types:
• Some provide employment for people with disabilities e.g. learning or physical disability
• Some provide jobs for people who find it hard to get employment due to life choices e.g. ex-offenders, etc. .
• Some turn the experience of crisis or disability into an earning opportunity e.g. disabled people testing disabled access

The enterprises for people with disabilities tend to employ those people for a long period.

The enterprises for people who find it hard to get jobs a stepping stone into the world of work and so have a transient workforce of ‘trainees’ who are normally gaining an NVQ or similar qualification.

Enterprises for people who find it hard to get jobs can also serve the vulnerable e.g. garden maintenance for vulnerable in social housing. This is a win-win. The businesses mainly focus on manual labour, relatively low skill activities e.g. decorating, gardening, catering.

Supervision and leadership by skilled personnel is essential.

The leaders obviously tend to be entrepreneurial. It is essential to mobilise business people in the church. The wisdom is that if a church runs a social enterprise it gets 'fuzzy' due to volunteer culture and church funding. It should be run by a business person as a business.

However, volunteers still have a role in many social enterprises.

Franchises are starting to appear.

 


Geoff Knott, 20/07/2012


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