Not quite finding the Mark?

Interesting report in Third Sector on troubled early days for the Social Enterprise Mark. It’s possible that the ‘surprise’ felt by the Mark team at both the slow uptake of the Mark and the criticism of it is at least partially down to their proximity to the project because you don’t need to be the lady off High Street Dreams to identify the source of the project’s problems.

However well intentioned the Mark might be it’s progress is currently blocked by a very big central problem – in it’s present form it’s a not just that it’s a bad idea for a business, it’s that it’s not even at the point of being a coherently bad idea for a business.

Having failed to make the decision during their committee stages, the Mark team probably have two or three months left to choose which of two very different business functions they’d like the Mark to try to fulfill:

Option 1: A business to commissioner kite mark that enables social enterprises to reassure and explain themselves to commissioners in public sector agencies (and private sector companies with an interest in sub-contracting to social enterprises).

Option 2: A business to consumer (or business to everyone) Mark promoting the idea of social enterprises as a good thing using a logo stuck on project packaging.

As someone running a social enterprise, though I’m sceptical about the project in a general sense I’d be interested in hearing more about option 1 and what it might do for my business.

Option 2 is of no interest whatsoever because it’s of no use to my business – I am one of the 88% of respondents to the SEC’s own (very good) survey who didn’t think that lack of understanding of what social enterprise is was a major barrier to our business’s growth. As a socially conscious citizen the Mark is of no use to me because unlike the Fairtrade Mark, it doesn’t tell me anything about the social effects of the product I’m buying.

And we’re already paying our SEC membership fee towards the general promotion of social enterprise as an idea.

I think option 1 might work and there’s time for the Mark team to go for it but I’d respect the Mark team just as much for firmly and coherently trying to delivery option 2. Whether or not the Mark ultimately takes off it would be real shame if it flopped without deciding once and for all what it’s actually trying to do.

Apologies for this update on a fairly old story. More exciting stuff on The Venture Society will be coming soon.

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