Most people are happiest when they are doing things to help others.
What is a social enterprise?
A social enterprise is an enterprise that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in social, community and environmental well-being. This may include maximising social impact alongside profits for external shareholders.
Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit and may take the form (depending on which country the exist in) of a co-operative or mutual organisation.
Social enterprises are positioned between the traditional private and the public sector not-for-profits and is best understood as a hybrid commercial model that blends economic and social value creation for customers, employees and their community.
“When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognising the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences”. Mahatma Gandhi.
By focusing on the social enterprise concept, many new initiatives and sustainable solutions can be build to address various issues that hinder profitability, growth and sustainability.
Although there is no universally accepted definition of a social enterprise, their key distinguishing characteristics are the social and societal purpose combined with an entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector.
Social enterprises devote their activities and reinvest some of their profits into achieving a wider social or community objective with benefits for all its stakeholders.
While every business in every industry has its unique challenges, building stronger connections with customers, employees, volunteers and everyone that matters to your business, is vital for all industries today. As a social entrepreneur or facilitator, when you implement the social enterprise concept your entire practice can work together to engage with each other and with customers like never before.
Social entrepreneurship has been defined by Dr Alex Nichols at Oxford University as “innovative and effective activities that focus strategically on resolving social market failures and creating new opportunities to add social value systematically by using a range of resources and organisational formats to maximise social impact and bring about change”.
[read more=”Personal Experience” less=”Personal Experience”]
Many commercial enterprises would consider themselves to have social objectives, but a commitment to these objectives is motivated by the perception that such commitment will ultimately make the enterprise more financially valuable.
These are organisations that might be more properly said to be operating corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Social enterprises differ in that their commitment to impact is central to the mission of the business.
Some may not aim to offer any benefit to their investors, except where they believe that doing so will ultimately further their capacity to realise their social and environmental objectives,
There is a huge amount of variation in forms and activities and the rhetoric and actions surrounding social enterprises, this can make their status a little confusing. I believe the best way to become involved with social enterprises is to change the conversations surrounding social issues and challenges in your community and how they might be addressed.