I’ve been to a number of events recently which have extolled the virtues of social enterprise. Up until then I’d very much been in the enterprising domain, but the whole social enterprise concept was fairly new.
But it soon dawned on me just how many businesses could potentially be considered social enterprises, and how a little more regard for ethics and the good of the community makes a lot of sense. In many ways, the economic downturn is a great challenge, and a great opportunity, for social enterprise. Firstly, people will not have as much money as they had in the past to pursue traditional leisure activities such as shopping, and going on nights out. This means that new measures will have to be taken to keep people active and entertained, as affordably as possible. And secondly, sources of funding for businesses has constricted some what.
In the past, a government organisation, or a charity might have stepped in to provide a solution. But with credit so tight, any scheme must be able to display economic viability. Hopefully this will help dispel any sense that social enterprise is a misnomer. In order to agitate social change in a country such as ours, one must work within the frameworks that things get done: namely capitalism.
This should no longer be viewed as a ‘dirty word’. I wouldn’t expect to create a magnificent piece of software without learning the scripting language, just as I wouldn’t expect to write a fantastic novel without understanding characterisation and structure. Capitalism is just another facet of life, and like it or not, it is woven in to the fabric of the way that we live. Unless we start appreciating that, all our efforts to improve the world will ultimately become unhinged in times such as this, where money is less abundant, and arguably the call for social intervention is greater than ever.
There are so many challenges facing us today: an ageing population, climate change, disengaged youth, and spiralling personal debt, to name just a few. These are all social problems, with business solutions.
I for one think that social enterprise is no passing phase, and it will be with us for the foreseeable future, and will emerge as a new sector, arguably more important than any other.