What’s going on? – part 1

This is the first in an occasional series of updates about things going on in the world of social enterprise (and related fields) that I think readers might be interested in.  To avoid any confusion, none of the mentions below are paid-for ads but the activities I’m personally involved in will (like this blog itself) mostly be work I’ve been doing as part of my day job at Social Spider CIC. The regularity of the series will depend on its popularity.

Book of the week:

On current evidence, it would be easy to think the future of UK social enterprise was partly as a mechanism for outsourcing public services and partly as a competition to see which Shoreditch-based geniuses can come up with the silliest, most expensively innovated idea for convincing people who don’t want to volunteer to volunteer.

As discussed previously, top social entrepreneur, Colin Crooks, has a different view. He thinks social entrepreneurs can actually play a role in creating real jobs in the real economy. He explains his ideas in How to make a million job – a charter for social enterprise, which is available here for a bargain price of £6.65. I’m going to buy a copy and I hope you will too.

What do you mean ‘selling things in a shop?’:

Colin Crooks isn’t the only social entrepreneur defying convention, Common Capital‘s Dan Gregory has taken a leap even further into the unknown by helping to set up a shop that actually sells things to the general public.

The shop, Pop Shop Wiltshire, offers the residents of Chippenham and the surrounding area the chance to buy a range of locally made ethical stuff. It’s also providing opportunities for unemployed 18-23 year olds and is already attracted significant press coverage.

Why social enterprise? 

That’s a big question. A few suggestions are provided in a new booklet, Why Social Enterprise? – a guide for charities, which I’ve written for Social Enterprise UK and Pilotlight – with expert legal advice provided by Bates, Wells & Braithwaite.

As someone who both runs a social enterprise and sits on the board of trustees for two charities, it was interesting to consider some of the possible ways that those charities who are currently primarily dependent on grants and donations can move towards more socially enterprising approaches. The booklet’s available as a free pdf download, so do have a read and let me know what you think of it.

What’s going on? – part 2

If anyone’s got any suggestions for things I could mention in future ‘What’s going on?’ posts, let me know.


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4 responses to “What’s going on? – part 1

  1. There are omissions in that guide – the work of those who conceived the profit for purpose approach.and shared it for others to use.
    In 2003 we made a clear case for deploying this in preventing terrorism for example.


    Attribution is the key word. If social; enterprise becomes a matter of taking what others share with us, to build our own reputations, we’re not doing anything social.


  2. Beanbags admin


    There’s no attribution to you in the booklet for two reasons:

    1. The general idea of running businesses that make a profit and using that profit for a social purpose wasn’t invented by you and your colleague between 1996 and 2003. The Salvation Army – one of the case study organisations in the booklet – are just one example of an organisation who’d been applying the general principle over 100 years before that.

    2. The specific idea in the linked post – around supporting profitable community-based enterprises and using them to support credit unions – is not discussed in the booklet.


  3. David, There’s a distinction to be made in that the Salvation Army is a charity which generates revenue from subsiduary organisations to ‘hand over’ money to the Salvation Army and its charitable cause.

    This pamplette is about charity shifting to a business model, as our white paper had done some time ago.

    What P-CED introduced in 1996 was the concept of self sustaining business which would displace charity as an alternative to traditional capitalism. Profit could be applied directly, it argued to stimulate a given local economy. Rather than charity which is spent once, money would continue to flow in the local economy, to resolve the social problems which hampered the community to begin with.

    It is follwed by proof of concept in Russia and several subsequent papers in which the application of profit toward a social outcome is argued. This wasn’t something that came from the Salvation Army or any social enterprise support organisation or our government.

    It was introduced to the UK in 2004 with a business plan to replicate and scale what had been achieved in Russia. We weren’t selling a book, we were laying out on a plate, our proposal to create jobs, warning that failing to do so could develop into uprisings. We know what happened in 2011.

    To the Social Enterprise Coalition our work was beyond their focus.SEL couldn’t help, neither could RISE SW.

    I invited Colin Crooks to discuss the issue of job creation on the RSA network. He didn’t respond.


  4. Beanbags admin


    I accept that distinction but would re-iterate the point that the distinct ideas you’re talking about are not what ‘Why social enterprise?’ is about.

    The booklet is primarily about charities using social enterprising approaches while continuing to be charities rather than displacing charity as an alternative to traditional capitalism.

    I don’t have a strong idelogical position on this but I can’t imagine many situations where it would be practically advantageous for an existing charity in the UK to give up charitable status entirely to operate as a non-charitable social enterprise.


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