- Geof Cox's Blog
- The dark side of the social enterprise boom...
- What would a social enterprise economy look like?
- Social Enterprise Law in South Eastern Europe
- Where does social enterprise fit in postcapitalism?
- Can social enterprise save public services?
- Greece, France - making enterprise more social...
- Small is the new big!
- Social impact is no longer an option for big brands
- What on earth is Social Enterprise UK doing?
- Asset Based Strategy Matrix
- Copyright infringement is NOT theft
- Impact2 Social Enterprise Conference
- Not So Grim Up North
- CASE's 30th Birthday
- Guardian Blog
- The Senscot Bulletin
- The Performance of Socially Responsible Investment
- Social Investment – or the Emperor's New Clothes
- Such a definitions mess that NOBODY can now clear it up?
- Social Enterprise Mark... or Social Enterprise Brand?
- Why social enterprise needs its own approach to intellectual property rights
- Does the social enterprise movement lack leadership?
- Business models based on greed and exploitation
- Not many jokes...
- NHS Social Enterprise Spin-outs - the real story
- Will tendering ever work for social enterprise?
- Learning from the Open Source Movement
- The Guardian & Social Enterprise
- The focus on a few kinds of social enterprise is blinding us to a bigger picture
- What do social enterprise and chocolate have in common?
- From Albania Again
- Guardian Social Enterprise Summit
- A conflict common to many co-operatives...
- Social Enterprise in Albania
- 2010 social enterprise visit to Russia - 1
- Day 2 in Rybinsk: -18°c
- Post 3 from Russia - Back to Moscow
- A typical question...
- Sounding like David Cameron...
- Do structures stymie social enterprise?
- 'Right to Request' tender collapses
- The number of 'social enterprises' just doesn't add up
- Social Firms Conference
- What is it, exactly, we’re doing with Social Firms?
- Social Firms UK Annual Conference
- Social Firms and the CIC Consultation
- What is social enterprise?
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 1 - Moscow, Schekino and Kaluga
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Rybinsk
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Vyshniy Volochek & Ostashkov
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 3 - Moscow & Aleksin
- Ostashkov Conference, October 2008
- Selected old blog entries
- Public Service Transformation
- Organisational structures - and restructuring
- Doing social enterprise
- Knowledge should be free
- Associates and trusted partners
- Джеф Кокс, информация на русском языке
The Guardian Social Enterprise Conference
I'm fresh from the Guardian Social Enterprise Conference where I was leading the 'clinic' on different forms of social enterprise / legal structures. Although tied up in the clinics most of the day I was amused in the opening plenary to hear one speaker contrast social enterprises and charities - and literally a minute later the next speaker almost opening with the words 'we are a social enterprise and a charity'. I've already shared my thoughts on this recently on the Guardian Social Enterprise Network - and also elsewhere on this website - so I won't repeat them here.
But there was another contrast that struck me in the Guardian plenary:while one speaker focussed on the importance of local action and local community control, others talked only about 'getting to scale' and working with big business.
Am I the only social enterpriser out there worried by the apparent thoughtlessness with which we slide around these perspectives?
Don't they relate in a very interesting way to a bigger political divide: that between the environmentalist and anti-globalisation 'small is beautiful' tradition and the old rightwing unlimited growth/freetrade orthodoxy?
Lets be clear: part of what social enterprise is about really is local responsibility and accountability. Within our rejection of business models based on greed and exploitation, I believe, there should also be a decisive rejection of the BIG BLAND BRANDS culture of globalised business, the monocultural high street and remote call-centre.
Does this mean we can't grow or replicate? I don't think so; but it DOES mean we can't grow in the same way as financially-driven businesses. In this area, they have little to teach us. I've argued elsewhere that our growth and franchise models need to develop our own social enterprise intellectual property standards - and organisational structures that combine efficiencies of scale and coherent image with elements of local participation and ownership - and supply chains that rely on local sourcing and fair trade, not just bulk deals - and a deep and detailed understanding of what can simply be replicated - such as an IT infrastructure - and what really needs to be local and quirky and individual. This is complex stuff - and you'll be a long time looking for answers in the world of conventional business management and professions.
For me you see social enterprise is not just about solving particular social problems - although I agree this is the starting point of most social entrepreneurs - it has also to be about modelling new and better ways of doing business. Any business. All business.
Let's not forget in this unrequited love affair with 'scalability' what we all really know - don't we? - that the obsession with 'economic growth' actually has to end. The real questions are: how should social enterprise grow richer in experience, not just income? bigger, but less hungry for resources? more widespread, yet more local? familiar, yet still really extraordinary...