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Criteria of Social Enterprise

For your reflection nine fuzzy criteria of Social Entrepreneurship (by research network EMES) 

Economic criteria:

1. continuous activity of the production and/or sale of goods and services (rather than predominantly advisory or grant-giving functions).

2. a high level of autonomy: social enterprises are created voluntarily by groups of citizens and are managed by them, and not directly or indirectly by public authorities or private companies, even if they may benefit from grants and donations. Their shareholders have the right to participate (‘voice’) and to leave the organisation (‘exit’).

3. a significant economic risk: the financial viability of social enterprises depends on the efforts of their members, who have the responsibility of ensuring adequate financial resources, unlike most public institutions.

4. social enterprises’ activities require a minimum number of paid workers, although, like traditional non-profit organisations, social enterprises may combine financial and non-financial resources, voluntary and paid work.

Social criteria:

5. an explicit aim of community benefit: one of the principal aims of social enterprises is to serve the community or a specific group of people. To the same end, they also promote a sense of social responsibility at local level.

6. citizen initiative: social enterprises are the result of collective dynamics involving people belonging to a community or to a group that shares a certain need or aim. They must maintain this dimension in one form or another.

7. decision making not based on capital ownership: this generally means the principle of ‘one member, one vote’, or at least a voting power not based on capital shares. Although capital owners in social enterprises play an important role, decision-making rights are shared with other shareholders.

8. participatory character, involving those affected by the activity: the users of social enterprises’ services are represented and participate in their structures. In many cases one of the objectives is to strengthen democracy at local level through economic activity.

9. limited distribution of profit: social enterprises include organisations that totally prohibit profit distribution as well as organisations such as co-operatives, which may distribute their profit only to a limited degree, thus avoiding profit maximising behaviour.

Ongoing research work characterises social enterprises as often having multiple objectives, multiple stakeholders and multiple sources of funding. However their objectives tend to fall into three categories:

  • integration of disadvantaged people through work (work integration social enterprises or WISEs)
  • provision of social, community and environmental services
  • ethical trading such as fair trade

 

Despite, and sometimes in contradiction to, such academic work, the term social enterprise is being picked up and used in different ways in various European countries:

Definition:

A social enterprise is any for-profit or non-profit organization that applies capitalistic strategies to achieving philanthropic goals. Many commercial enterprises would consider themselves to have social objectives, but commitment to these objectives is fundamentally motivated by the perception that such commitment will ultimately make the enterprise more financially valuable. Social enterprises differ in that, inversely, they do not aim to offer any benefit to their investors, except where they believe that doing so will ultimately further their capacity to realise their philanthropic goals.

Many entrepreneurs, whilst running a profit focussed enterprise that they own, will make charitable gestures through the enterprise, expecting to make a loss in the process. However unless the social aim is the primary purpose of the company this is not considered to be social enterprise. The term is more specific, meaning ‘doing charity by doing trade’, rather than ‘doing charity while doing trade’. Another example is an uncorporation, which may pursue social responsibility goals that conflict with traditional corporate shareholder primacy, or may donate most of its profits to charity

Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship is the work of social entrepreneurs. A social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change (a social venture). While a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals. Social entrepreneurs are most commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors [1], but this need not preclude making a profit. Social entrepreneurship practised with a world view or international context is called international social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneur

A social entrepreneur is motivated by a desire to help, improve and transform social, environmental, educational and economic conditions. Key traits and characteristics of highly effective social entrepreneurs include ambition and a lack of acceptance of the status quo or accepting the world “as it is”. The social entrepreneur is driven by an emotional desire to address some of the big social and economic conditions in the world, for example, poverty and educational deprivation, rather than by the desire for profit. Social entrepreneurs seek to develop innovative solutions to global problems that can be copied by others to enact change.[1]

Social entrepreneurs act within a market aiming to create social value through the improvement of goods and services offered to the community. Their main aim is to help offer a better service improving the community as a whole and are predominately run as non profit schemes. Zahra et al. (2009: 519) said that “social entrepreneurs make significant and diverse contributions to their communities and societies, adopting business models to offer creative solutions to complex and persistent social problems”.


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