- 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
Such a definitions mess that NOBODY can now clear it up?
A few years ago I was asked a question by a lady who had worked for years at a high level in social enterprise - actually for one of the employee ownership apex bodies - and who was also then researching her Masters in Ethical & Responsible Tourism. Quite an expert in social enterprise in fact. She wrote:
I'm going to the Social Enterprise Conference in Cardiff next week. On their registration form they have Charities and Social Enterprises listed in different delegate fee categories. I thought that Charities (or more specifically their trading arms) are SEs? Am I easily confused?
Of course I was already aware that the social enterprise movement had got itself into the most awful definitions mess – but it was this question that really convinced me of the bigger tragedy we were creating. We had actually succeeded in taking our wonderfully clear and simple and popular message - that you can do business to do good - and muddying it up so thoroughly that hardly anybody could understand it.
This week I find myself once again mulling over the tragedy that is our movement's failure to communicate what 'social enterprise' really means.
A Guardian Online piece this morning worries that 'social enterprise' can mean more than one thing'.
There's a big Linked-In discussion going on, set up by the question -
A charity structure doesn't seem appropriate, but neither does a LtdCo seem to reflect the positive social impact - has anyone got any thoughts on other structures (eg social enterprise) that might be suitable?
- which perpetuates the misperception that 'a social enterprise' is a type of organisational structure like a company or 'charity structure' – a misperception that has become so prevalent I've seen it set out in a detailed comparison of structure options by a very large organisation actually operating in the social enterprise field.
But perhaps the clearest indication of the depth of this confusion this week comes in this question to the CIC Association - by good people who are perfectly clear about setting up a CIC, but complain that
...we have been confused by the social enterprise angle. We went on a Business Link course on whether social enterprise was for us and were told that we had to be very careful what we wrote in our articles of memorandum [sic] so that we would be seen as a social enterprise when going for local authority funding, yet other specialists like lawyers and other business advisers say that by definition a CIC is a Social Enterprise. Can you help us clear up this confusion please?
Oh If only the social enterprise movement hadn't got itself into such a definitions mess that NOBODY can now clear it up!
While everyone agrees that social enterprise (verb) means using business models and methods to achieve a social benefit - doing business to do good - nobody agrees on what 'a social enterprise' (noun) is.
Some say charities can't be social enterprises. Some say social enterprises are not-for-profit. Some say social enterprises are for profit – but 'with a purpose'. Some say more co-ops should be regarded as social enterprises. Some prefer the term 'social business'. Some say all CICs are social enterprises – since the CIC was actually created specifically for social enterprise and promoted as the 'brand' for social enterprise. Others say that some CICs are not social enterprises because they do not trade, or at any rate do not earn enough of their income from trading.
There is serious discussion in the CIC Association - which is incidentally now the biggest national social enterprise umbrella body by membership - about abandoning the term 'social enterprise' altogether because it's just too slippery.
At a recent national conference a young woman spoke passonately about her CIC and the good work it was doing. My neighbour whispered to me that another well known social enterprise umbrella body had not allowed her CIC to join because it was owned by her and her husband – and this didn't fit their particular theology.
I know its because I'm a social enterprise structures specialist that I have to grapple with this confusion every day – and that this also forces on me the knowledge that the optimal structure for doing social enterprise successfully can be based on any organisational model - and that this in turn has led me to try to get across the message that talking and thinking about social enterprise as a kind of organisation, rather than something that individuals and organisations can DO, just causes confusion.
But there's a bit of a marketing man somewhere inside me too – and it's him that despairs of the social enterprise movement's continuing failure to communicate the wonderfully clear and simple and popular message we could have.