Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A social enterprise stocktake

Now – with the sale of ECT Recycling – is a good time to take stock on social enterprise. There is a timely review in this month’s Director magazine.

If anyone thought the situation was simple, the article will disabuse them of that notion. It warns of charitable and corporate entities being re-sprayed as social enterprises – “carpet-bagging”. It also suggests a distinction between the Body Shop as a social business and the Big Issue as a social enterprise. (I'm not sure about that one: it sounds like the government when it suggests that the "business" in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is something different from the "enterprise".) The article also points to the challenges – such as “scalability” with capacity issues in expanding to be in a position to deliver big contracts.

I have recently worked with one social enterprise that was thinking about seeking growth through mixing commercial and public funding. That poses a whole set of new challenges – not least for governance and accountability.

I suspect this bandwagon will keep rolling.

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