SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NEWS
So what is it you do again?
What is a social enterprise and how many are there? These ought to be simple questions but of course they are not. No one agrees on definitions, the language and terminology is all over the place and the space between and across the three systems identified by John Pearce and Alan Kay in Social Enterprise in Anytown is awash with folk whom I would never call a social entrepreneur and organisations I would never call a social enterprise.
It is still not enough to tell me about your legal form and think that that covers it. I’m at the stage where I think I have to unlearn stuff about social entrepreneurship and the practice of running social enterprises in order to come at the subject again with a degree of objectivity.
Does any of this matter if folk are receiving services and help with their lives? Where are the lines in the sand and who is drawing them?
Other simple questions that folk have discussed with me are as follows:
The reason I ask these questions is that over the last year I’ve had conversations about all of this stuff (and more) with folk running what they claim are social enterprises or folk who want to run one. I’m certainly not in a position to gainsay them, even if I wanted to. I was often at a loss what to say because of the way the conversations were framed – philosophically and politically – rather than entrepreneurially. A lot of folk blamed their situation on external “others” for a lack of (continuing) support, funding or business. Many were also uncomfortable with markets and “the cuts” but could see no straightforward way to do something about their predicaments. Business risk was an awkward topic because of the nature of the work that folk do and the folk they work with.
So, here is a final question:
Should social enterprises be exemplars of moral, governance, employer and entrepreneurial behaviour and success, or should the vast majority just focus on survival, incremental improvement and a desire to be as good as they can be?
NOTE: This opinion piece blog does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of Social Enterprise Scotland.
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