For something that could revolutionise the way we do business and how we interact with causes we care about, social enterprise doesn’t get a lot of recognition.
Social enterprises are businesses changing the world for the better. They operate as for-profit companies and make most of their money through trade, but the majority of their profits are invested into social and environmental good.
Cards on the table, I’m biased because thirdbridge is one, but I genuinely think that social enterprise is the future. If charities moved closer to this central ground, the alarming funding gaps they currently face could be alleviated. If companies did the same, the need for costly and often tokenistic CSR programmes disappears – the company is doing good by just going about its business.
What can you do to support the revolution?
When you can, spend your money at businesses that are making a difference. As an individual, take the time to find out if there’s a social enterprise providing a service you already use, and switch if there is! Get your next pair of shoes from Toms, buy your chocolate from Divine, or pick up your morning coffee from Paper & Cup. At a company level, you can incorporate social enterprises into your supply chain – get your bottled water for meetings from Belu, get your stationery from Balance, use thirdbridge for your impact reports (hint, hint).
Not just charities
When looking for organisations to support, widen the net to social enterprises as well. They are often young organisations trying to juggle all the problems of a company and a charity at the same time. Skilled volunteering or in kind support from individuals or companies is so valuable. Giving an hour for a one-off advice session, or more regular help in your area of expertise could be life-changing. Just ask the wonderful Katy Cooney who is helping us with our marketing efforts at the moment.
Meet in the middle
You don’t have to actually become a social enterprise to take the principles on board. Think about what social enterprise stands for, and use that as a springboard to think about your own organisation, and how you might be able to make some small but effective changes.
If you’re a charity, think about some ways to make your organisation self-sustaining. Are there any products or services you could sell? Often charities have a vast bank of knowledge that they don’t think would be useful to anyone else, when in fact companies would pay for training in key areas – who else knows more about engaging hard to reach young people than a charity working with those beneficiaries for example?
If you work for a company, have a look at your CSR strategy and think about ways to improve it and make it a part of the fabric of your day-to-day operations. If you charge staff out by the hour, then commit to giving an hour of pro bono work for every five paid hours. If you deliver trainings, then make sure community groups are able to attend for free. The list is pretty much endless – if you’re stuck then get in touch, we would love to help inspire you.
Spread the word
Hardly anyone knows what social enterprise is. Some of my friends still think I work at a charity after almost a year! Let people know about the movement, recommend new brands you’ve discovered to them, and tell the stories of the world-changing work some of these organisations are doing. You never know, you might ignite a spark in someone that leads to a new social enterprise helping your community.
Social enterprise is coming whether you like it or not, so get on board early and be a part of shaping the journey from the beginning.
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Blog written by Rose Delfino, Community Development and Marketing Manager, thirdbridge