Social Enterprise

Richmond Social Enterprise Partnership

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Questions and Answers

What are the roles of a social enterprise ?

Posted by Francis

1. A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits for external shareholders.

2. Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form of a co-operative, mutual organization, a disregarded entity, a social business, or a charity organization.

3. Social enterprises do not aim to offer any benefit to their investors, except where they believe that doing so will ultimately further their capacity to realize their social and environmental goals.

4. The term has a mixed and contested heritage due to its philanthropic roots in the US, and cooperative roots in the UK, EU and Asia.

5. Advantages of the social enterprise as a business:

-ability to raise capital at below market rates due to the ethical investment industry
-easier access to publicity
-labour costs below average, "as staff seems willing to work for below market rates in support of the -values of social enterprises


Is a bus service a social enterprise?

If not then what are some.

Posted by tree girl

Social enterprise is the act of trying to bring about social change by trading. They can be businesses or they can be charities and there's a spectrum of types of organisation.

Fairtrade products are a really good example of this kind of work. The money they make is secondary to the benefit they wish to see. The farmers they buy from will make a reasonable profit but the fairtrade company itself may only seek to recover its costs. It's main purpose is to ensure that its suppliers earn enough to live on but they don't exist purely to ensure shareholders see a return

You also can get social enterprises that recycle all sorts of products. The good they are trying to achieve is in the sustainable use of resources. The profit they make is ploughed back into the business or into campaigns to raise awareness of recycling and educate the public. The profit is a means of doing other stuff rather than the purpose of the business

Bus services are generally not social enterprises. A bus company will only run a service if it makes a profit. If it can't make a profit it will stop the service or ask for additional subsidy from a public body that will ensure it generates enough of a profit to be worthwhile. A bus company will generally be there just to earn a profit with which to deliver shareholder value.

Some bus operators are social enterprises though – these are called community transport operators and will tend to operate vehicle hire rather than run a designated route. Some community transport operators are starting to take on routes that the major operators won't touch and so it starts to become a grey area.

A good example of most of the above is Bolton Community Transport – they provide vehicles for hire to community groups, use vehicles to pick up unwanted furniture, recycle it and run a furniture showroom – the profits from that are used to bring down the costs of vehicle hire.

Social enterprise questions?

What is the purpose of a social enterprise?
Who does a social enterprise benefit?
How does a social enterprise make money?

Posted by loopylane

Social enterprises can function for many different purposes, and each one will be set up to pursue the social objectives of the people involved and their target community.

Who does it benefit – the intended or target community as mentioned above, but also the wider society and economy in moving more money toward achieving socially and environmentally sustainable goals, as well as of course the employees who all gain jobs as a result of a social enterprise being created.

How does it make money – government grants and private donations are the usual starting point, but of course they can always compete in the free market the same as all other enterprises. Membership fees are also a way of doing this, and many member fee charging organisations often wish to describe themselves as social enterprises.

Note that if a social enterprise makes a profit through trade, this is often referred to as a surplus instead, as it is likely to be spent on achieving the original social objective, rather than a financial objective like paying dividends to shareholders.

Social Collaboration" becoming more common in European companies ...