Why Social Enterprise could be the way forward

If, like other individuals, groups or organisations, you are considering starting a project to solve a problem, provide opportunities or bring in new income streams then it could well be worth considering a social enterprise as your business model.? The number of social enterprises in the UK is constantly increasing with the Social Enterprise Coalition believing 62,000 businesses in the UK are defined as social enterprises and that they contribute ?24 billion to the UK economy.

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business.? Like any business, social enterprise offers services or products for sale and has customers, but the reason it trades is to achieve a social purpose.?? There is currently no legal definition of a social enterprise but the UK government has stated that 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.?

A social enterprise is usually set up in order to tackle community or social problems such as poor local facilities, unemployment or to tackle environmental issues.? When a social enterprise is developed it has a clear plan of what benefit it will provide and how.? This is known as its social purpose.? Social enterprises must aim to make a profit; this is then re-invested into the social purpose, which is what stands them apart from other traditional businesses.

Is a social enterprise a charity then?

Like a social enterprise, a charity has to have a social purpose.? A social enterprise has to trade to achieve its social purpose. A traditional charity relies on donations and grants to achieve its social purpose.? What sets a social enterprise apart is that it operates as a business, generating its own income through trading activities.? Some social enterprises are also registered charities, and some charities trade as social enterprises.

During the current difficult economic times many traditional charities are finding their grants are being cut and a reduction in donations, and are seeing social enterprises as a way of helping themselves to bring in much-needed money.

What could you use a social enterprise for?

In reality, you could use a social enterprise for anything which would add value to your local community or benefit the environment.? Some popular ideas I have seen and worked with have included:
-?? ?Home and grounds maintenance
-?? ?Cleaning, gardening, painting and decorating, and general handyman type services
-?? ?Furniture recycling or up-cycling clothes or other items
-?? ?Childcare facilities
– ? ?Producing food such as cakes, outside catering or festival food
– ? ?Making crafts, clothing, gifts
-?? ?A coffee shop with drop-in centre, play area and advice
-?? ?A nursery growing plants for local parks or to sell to the public
-?? ?A shop selling goods made by local people
-?? ?A community shop or pub

In fact, almost any business which is already out there can be run as a social enterprise if you so wish.

Social enterprises can make a real difference in a community by providing quality services and goods which benefit the local community, economy and or environment.? They can be a way of creating jobs for those who find it difficult to get employment with traditional employers. In addition, they can be a great way of bringing people together to provide a solution to a problem for themselves.

For most groups of people, social enterprise is a great fit but they struggle to know how to make it happen. If this sounds like you then call me now on 01570 421301 or?01570 421301 to discuss ways I can help your group develop a social enterprise that will make a difference.

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