- 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 Senscot Bulletin
The Senscot Bulletin is easily the best source of information and discussion on social enterprise in the UK, but 2 of the links in the latest I think led readers in contradictory directions.
The first was to a recent Guardian article by Andrew Bibby on the Mondragon co-operative group. I'm old enough to remember well the inspirational 1980 Horizon television documentary on Mondragon which led to much soul searching in the then just blossoming UK worker co-op movement, both because of the spectacular business and social success it portrayed, but also because unlike UK worker co-ops at the time Mondragon demanded equity investment from participants, paid dividends on profits, and was not completely asset locked (or 'common-ownership' in the preferred jargon of the time).
Structurally, Mondragon was and remains a sensible and pragmatic compromise:
- asking for investment but managing this in such a way that no-one, however poor, is excluded
- paying dividends but only at modest levels, leaving most profit for reinvestment in either business or community*
- locking up core capital but still able to pay out individual shares from part of the asset base.
I was grateful for Andrew Bibby's update. It seems Mondragon has continued to blossom while UK varieties such as worker co-ops and community businesses have suffered a number of frosts. Experiments with 'multi-stakeholder' structures – the Eroski supermarket chain, part owned by both customers and staff, for example – have been spectacularly successful, and for me again reflect a pragmatic commitment to making business work with social justice and inclusion, rather than to any particular ideological model.
The other link though was to the Voluntary Code of Practice for Social Enterprise in Scotland. This code is I suppose Scotland's answer to the English Social Enterprise Mark – and I do agree it represents a better approach. The Code refers to the fact that 'in England, in particular, there has been a lobby to keep definitions blurred'. It's just possible that I may have played a part in forming this impression, since I spoke at a Senscot conference on this very subject against using technical structural characteristics as the basis for including or excluding people from the social enterprise movement. But I am not in favour of any blurring: I want us to ditch the irrelevancies of percentages of profits and the like and get very clear about what really matters: ethical behaviour and social impact.
This is why I found the two links in the Senscot Bulletin so contradictory. The Scottish Code sets its face against any profit distribution, or stakeholders sharing in assets. There are of course many reasons for Mondragon's success – it's home base in Basque culture for example – but the question begged by the Scottish Code is this: aren't some of the reasons for Mondragon's success around precisely the fact that it can raise equity and pay dividends – and do this in ways that actually build ethical behaviour and social impact? And there is a broader question too: isn't the freedom to experiment pragmatically with new forms of ownership and control - guided of course by a clear values base - actually essential to continuing success in a fast changing world?
* Called 'interest' but paid only out of profits, so technically dividends in English.