The Rise of Social Enterprise Support
The evolution of social enterprises has been determined, by some, as a declining confidence in our capitalistic society’s ability to make positive community change. Is this driven by the values and needs of the next generation? Perhaps, perhaps not. But what we are seeing is more social enterprises being started world-wide than ever before. The good news is that social enterprises the world over are proving that capitalism and conscience are not mutually exclusive. These are the growing number of businesses – often small and medium-sized enterprises – that are run both for social good and, crucially, for profit.
Also worldwide there is an interest in supporting the evolution of social enterprise through education. In the UK, Oxford University’s Said Business School has the Skoll Foundation, a social entrepreneurship centre founded by eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll. In the US, the Schwab Foundation, the organizer of the annual festival of capitalism in Davos that is the World Economic Forum, is a major backer of the movement. Here in Calgary, the Trico Charitable Foundation hosted the 2013 Social Enterprise World Forum which attracted 1,200 delegates from around the world. This major conference is a feather in the cap of the Trico Charitable Foundation, which was established in 2008. This foundation seeks to provoke innovation and build capacity in social entrepreneurship. Its programs, initiatives and partnerships are dedicated to growing a community of sustainable, entrepreneurial organizations. While some of their programs define social enterprise as “a business operation commonly run by a charity or non-profit organization. Revenue raised by the business operation is reinvested into the charity or non-profit to support their programs and operations,” other programs go beyond the non-profit realm and celebrate social purpose businesses that blend social and financial goals.
The Trico Foundation encourages social enterprises to use entrepreneurial innovation and reinvest profits to improve a social mandate. Additionally, a social enterprise will often engage the services of the clients that the organization is supporting. The skills that the clients develop in sales, business operations, and administration may be utilized to access job opportunities outside the enterprise.
Trico Charitable Foundations’ Enterprising Non-Profits (enp) Alberta is a collaborative program that provides matching grants and technical assistance to non-profit organizations to support the development or growth of their social enterprises (i.e., revenue generating businesses). enp holds “Building your Social Enterprise” workshops in the Spring and Fall for non-profit organizations wanting to learn more about social enterprise and how to gain access to enp grants for business planning projects.
The Enterprising Non-Profits Alberta Program uses the term “social enterprise” to refer to business ventures operated by non-profits, whether they are societies, charities, or co-operatives. These businesses sell goods or provide services in the market for the purpose of creating a blended return on investment, both financial and social. Their profits are returned to the business or to a social purpose, rather than maximizing profits to shareholders.
As Mark Olson states in his article “social enterprises have more support at the front end than entrepreneurs”. If you are starting a social enterprise on its way, the most difficult part is the first step. Look to others to help you in the first step and build a solid foundation to see success in the future.