No doubt you’ve heard the words ‘social enterprise’ thrown around quite a lot lately. Perhaps it’s due to the recent Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch which has stirred up the conversation, or perhaps it’s due to our Kiwi ingenuity creating social enterprises all over the place, or maybe it’s a mixture of the two.
Whichever way you have stumbled upon the term, it’s clear to see that social enterprises are on the rise, in order to understand the appeal behind starting a social enterprise it’s important we clear up some of the confusion.
Not a charity
This is a common misconception. The two do hold mutual ground in the fact that they strive to make a positive difference and serve to complete a social mission.
The difference lies in their means of making change.
Charitable organisations rely on donations and fundraising to continue their work in the community, a social enterprise has the ability to function as any business would, by selling goods or services.
Broadly speaking, their profits are then used to pay it forward, tackling a specific social or environmental issue.
This is driven largely by a generational shift and a will for change – it’s hard to look past the recent election results as an example of this.
Social enterprise creates positive change whilst being self-sustaining using commercial means.
The Akina Foundation believes supporting this sector will deliver, “Improved social, environmental and economic outcomes; increased innovation in community and public service provision; creation of jobs and training opportunities, especially for young people; communities developing their own solutions, leading to resilient local economies; greater engagement between the business and community sectors; government and philanthropic bodies having greater flexibility to target spending and encourage more private capital into areas where there is a need for new solutions.”
Social enterprise is not replacing the typical business model – it does however lend the opportunity for any business to get involved and project the social mission.
Created with the vision that something needs to change garners a greater sense of awareness throughout the community. The spotlight it is placing on social issues faced within our society creates interface between social ventures and corporate ventures.
In a recent interview with The Spinoff, Eat My Lunch founder Lisa King stated that Eat My Lunch, a social enterprise helping to fill the tummies of Kiwi kids in need, has a lot of large businesses jumping on board.
“When you’ve got this big social mission, people are incredibly generous, and they do come on board.
“We have a lot of big corporates that are partnering with us now. For example, the Air New Zealand’s of the world. And in a year, they have given 20,000 lunches, as an organisation, and that’s something they can go back to their staff, to their board and to their consumers and customers, and say, ‘this is what we are doing.’ It doesn’t cost them anymore … but there’s a story behind that and they’re actually doing good at the same time.”
Social enterprises are changing the face of business; they play a pivotal role in enabling communities to take tackling social issues into their own hands.
The Department of Internal Affairs said in a 2014 statement that “Social enterprises can support a range of government goals including the development of a productive and competitive economy”.
They invite innovation and connectedness and have bought with them a realisation that we perhaps have a lot more control than we realise.
By Natalia Rietveld