Putting the enterprise into social enterprise

“Not limited by the resources currently in hand” is how J Gregory Dees, known as the father of social entrepreneurship education, describes one of the characteristics of social entrepreneurship.

He goes on to explain that social entrepreneurs are skilled at doing more with less and at attracting resources from elsewhere – drawing in partners and collaborating with others.

There are, of course, other more common characteristics: a mission to create and sustain social value goes to the very core of social entrepreneurship. This is what defines the growing number of social enterprises in the UK – estimated at more than 68,000. According to Social Enterprise UK, the national membership body for social enterprise, a substantial 39 per cent of them are concentrated in the most deprived communities (compared with 13 per cent of SMEs).

Social enterpreneurs are, as if by definition, social first.
It’s the entrepreneurship that proves evasive. For those with social values as their raison d’etre, it becomes a means to an end, part of the fight for survival in an economic climate where funding and compassion are fast drying up.

In time, it’s very likely that the difference between those social ventures that survive and those that fail will be the entrepreneurial element.

J Gregory Dees’ description above brought to mind a friend and colleague who, for me, embodies the collaborative, resource-mobilising characteristic so well. Lucy Ferguson runs a youth media agency, Mediorite, out of an office we share in Hackney, London.

Read the full article in ISBE's Enterprising Matters e-magazine.

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