Trading responsibly, for a social purpose. Using the power of business to transform.
Social enterprises are all around us; a recent report tells us that there are more than 68,000 in the UK, with a combined turnover of £27bn per year, busy delivering lasting social, economic and environmental change.
The more well-known ones include Cafedirect, The Co-operative Group, the Eden Project and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. Here in MK we have long established social enterprises like Milton Keynes Community Foundation and the Parks Trust, together with newer community driven projects such as Visual Revolution, Secklow Sounds, Branch-Out, The Black Sheep Collective and GPOneClick.
Social enterprises aim to sustain their business and make profits - it's what they do with these profits that's different. The government, in having recognised and promoted social enterprise culture for the past six years, says this:
A Social Enterprise is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally re-invested for that purpose in the business or the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.
Essentially you can run your social enterprise and draw a wage while providing a public service and ploughing excess income back into the business. The social enterprise model principle can apply to individuals or organisations.
History of Social Enterprise
Social Enterprises have been around a long time. In 1844, suffering at the hands of exploitative factory owners and profiteering shopkeepers, 28 working men in Rochdale scraped together £28 to open their own shop - so giving birth to the modern co-op movement!
More recently, we've seen the rise of community enterprises where businesses have evolved in poor and disadvantaged areas with the specific aim of improving the fortunes of their neighbourhoods. This now encompasses the voluntary sector too where their established set up naturally lends itself to the social enterprise model.