Social Enterprise progress for the UK

  • Social Enterprise Network of The Guardian recently did a live Q&A with Christine Wilson, head of youth and society from the British Council about Social Enterprise in the UK.

    Defining social enterprise:

    I like the Social Enterprise UK definition - A social enterprise is a business that trades for a social and/or environmental purpose. It will have a clear sense of its social mission, which means it will know what difference it is trying to make, who it aims to help, and how it plans to do it. It will bring in most or all of its income through selling goods or services. And it will also have clear rules about what it does with its profits, reinvesting these to further the social mission.

    NGO to social enterprise:

    A lot of the organisations we work with are supporting NGOs in transition to social enterprises. It's not often cut and dried - in the first few years at least, they are still in receipt of charitable donations or other sources of funding. Other NGOs I have seen start up an enterprise of some sort - perhaps a charity shop, or some other sort of trading arm - as an additional source of income. A couple of organisations I recently visited in Burma fit these descriptions - FXB Myanmar and Proximity Design.

    Reasons for growth:

    In some places, social entrepreneurs are looking for more sustainable ways of tackling issues they face. They feel charitable donations or foundational funding don't offer stability, so they look for more reliable sources of income. In other countries, such as China, there is an interest (as there is in the UK), of delivering better public services (or trying to), by putting power in the hands of the people and communities in receipt of those services.

    The ability to measure social impact is key:

    It's certainly vital in seeking finance - investors want to know that their money is being well managed and that the organisation is achieving its stated goals. But in addition, I think being able to demonstrate social impact - people being brought out of poverty, young people having new skills, jobs being created, pollution diminished, whatever the aim of the social entrepreneur - is crucial to show the world that this is not "business as usual".

    Umbrella organisations:

    There is the umbrella organisation route, where social enterprises fund a central body to represent them, offer support and so on. We are trying to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs in the UK and the rest of the world to engage, share practice and have dialogue on policy, so keep an eye on the International Hub.


    To see the remainder of Christines responses please follow the link below. There were also responses from International representatives to give their perspective from their country. ... -best-bits


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