Social enterprises are businesses that trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community.

Wherever you turn these days, it seems that a loose interpretation of the above statement is utilized creatively to set up a business venture. I don’t per se have any issue with the social ills these various projects are addressing.

On the contrary, some of these are very inspiring. My ‘objection’ is more towards the funding allocated to some of these projects under the umbrella of ‘enterprise’ when in essence there is NO enterprise which generates any longevity following the cash injection.

So are we funding enterprise ? Or giving away money to these groups similar to charitable giving, where no self funded solution is required ?

Give vs Earn

Let me be clear again. The issue is not that people commit to solving society issues. Might be semantics to argue for the ‘ENTERPRISE’ element of social enterprise to be considered more, but there is reason behind the statement.

Funding isn’t readily available to fund all social entrepreneurs and ideas. With ‘ENTERPRISE‘ taking a back seat and plasters being applied over social issues by funding organisations, in essence GIVING them funds with NO CHANCE of any longevity in the project(s) we are NOT solving the social issues. We are merely applying some cream and a fat plaster. The issue is still there and we will need MORE resources allocated in future just to deal with the social cause.

If on the other hand the focus when funding SOCIAL ENTERPRISE was on both elements in a similar measure.

  • Is there a Social Issue that can be addressed ?
  • Will the funding allow for longevity and self sustainability ?

Both these questions have to be affirmative. Considering it’s a SOCIAL ENTERPRISE.

Change is Inevitable

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Certainly the case where I find myself living in beautiful Wales. The abundance of ‘SOCIAL ENTERPRISE’ projects, especially with funding attached for the creation of ‘enterprise’ is astonishing. The ‘output’, or lack thereof as far as ‘enterprise’ and self sustainability go is also quite noticeable. If all the factors are then considered over a period the figures will be quite damning.

Not the fact that social issues will be addressed. But the relation between funding spent on creating ‘enterprise’ & employment will shout out – BIG ILLUSION. Just like Twitter eh 😉

I am all for addressing social issues, but there will have to be a change in ambition from the top. There needs to be a more pro active approach from professional business leaders as to WHERE employment can be created which will be self funding after initial capital / revenue investment. Or don’t. It is just using the wrong funding approach to fund innovative entrepreneurship, and the change will be painfully slow.

Whilst the first world I find myself in has the luxury of taking their time to affect social change, elsewhere in the world it isn’t quite that simple.

Challenges are bigger, and the resources more limited.

The demographics are all different.

With the world becoming more accessible – and in essence a much smaller place to live daily – the future holds many challenges and obstacles, some which we don’t even know about.

I do now this – Africa can’t be excluded anymore. Education is key. The seeds have already been planted.

Unlike the pessimists out there, I for one look forward to the development across the African continent beyond 2020. I think a new wave of pioneers will shape the future – and we cannot afford to ignore the creative minds in Africa.

Some posts in 2017 when we are active in my Africa. Check THIS blog for some social enterprise projects.