Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social. Their aim – to accomplish targets that are social and/or environmental as well as financial – is often referred to as the triple bottom line. Investment in social enterprises is often now referred to as “blended value investment.” Many commercial businesses would consider themselves to have social objectives, but social enterprises are distinctive because their social or environmental purpose remains central to their operation.
Rather than maximizing shareholder value, the primary aim of social enterprises is to generate profit to further their social and/or environmental goals. This can be accomplished through a variety of ways and depends on the structure of the social enterprise. The profit from a business could be used to support a social aim, such as funding the programming of a non-profit organization. Moreover, a business could accomplish its social aim through its operation by employing individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds or lending to micro-businesses that have difficulty in securing investment from mainstream lenders.
The Social Enterprise World Forum was established in 2008 to provide an opportunity for social enterprise leaders and practitioners from around the world to collaborate in support of social enterprise development. To date over 1500 people have attended the annual world forums, these have been held in Edinburgh (2008), Melbourne (2009) and San Francisco (2010). The 2011 World Forum is being held in Johannesburg and the SEWF steering group is receiving expressions of interest for the 2012 World Forum to be held in Asia.
History and Philosophy
The idea of social enterprise has a long history in the UK and worldwide under a number of different names and encompassing different tendencies . In the UK it can be understood as a way of organizing activity which is neither part of the public nor private sector. Organizations which use a social enterprise logic usually combine social and economic missions and so can be seen as type of hybrid. They draw from a legacy of philanthropic and mutual approaches that go back over three centuries (a good example of a “mutual organization” might be a worker or consumer co-operative offers). Such organizations are not for private profit but in some cases they may own other private companies and/or work in partnership with government on particular projects.
Organizations tend to be called social enterprises based on 1) serving vulnerable populations (economic, social, cultural, etc.) 2) sourcing from sustainable sources or vulnerable populations 3) increasing sustainability or decreasing wastes (lean enterprises) 4) generally contributing to community welfare. This ranges from training and community development organizations and associations (and cooperatives) to youth support organizations and more traditional businesses with a double or triple bottom line.
It is important to distinguish ‘social enterprise’ as an idea, or aspiration from a ‘social enterprise organization.’ Many organizations can be analysed as working in a social enterprise way and simple definitions (such as suggesting an arbitrary percentage of ‘traded income’ to qualify an organization as a social enterprise) tend to either include or exclude agencies in an idiosyncratic way. European scholars Borzaga and Defourney have suggested a nine-part framework (including economic and social mission criteria) for analysing social enterprises.
Some writers have focussed on social enterprise activity in particular policy fields such as work and training for unemployed people. Readable but thoughtful accounts of the complexity of the field can be found. Other resources include the Social Enterprise Journal and the Annals of Co-operative Study which publish research studies in the field. The European Social Enterprise Research network (EMES), and the Co-operative Research Unit (CRU) at the Open University have undertaken and published research. Network organizations such as Co-ops UK, Development Trusts Association, Social Enterprise Coalition provide research, information and policy briefings in this area. Source : Wikipedia
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