Share

Research Centre calls for consensus on 'social enterprise' definition

Research Centre calls for consensus on 'social enterprise' definition
News

Research Centre calls for consensus on 'social enterprise' definition

Finance | Vibeka Mair | 29 Sep 2010

The Third Sector Research Centre has called for more consensus on what is meant by "social enterprise", saying that some focus on business with a social aim, while others just include charities which trade.

In a new report, the TSRC says the common definition of a social enterprise as an organisation which earns over 50 per cent of its income from trading, and invests more than 50 per cent of its surplus into social causes, is too loose a definition which causes different interpretations of a social enterprise.

The report highlights the fact that the majority of advisory support groups tend to focus their help on civil society organisations engaged in trading, rather than the private business sector.

However, when TSRC analysed a commonly-quoted census of social enterprises, which calculates 62,000 in the UK, it found around 89 per cent were private sector organisations.

But, the census was compiled by the Annual Small Business Survey, which takes small businesses as its sample frame, hence the figure is heavily biased towards this sector, says TSRC.

Fergus Lyon, associate director at TSRC, said: “The challenges in measuring social enterprise in many ways reflect the contradictions within social enterprise itself. What might be considered a social benefit by one person may not be by others, such as sports or social clubs for example. Furthermore, surveys have relied on organisations judging whether they consider themselves to be social enterprises.

“There is evidence that many organisations may reject the term despite meeting the criteria, while others use the term despite failing the criteria. Future research should look at social enterprise activity in all types of organisations and not get stuck on debates of what is and is not a social enterprise. We also need to examine the social impact of enterprises whatever their legal form. ”

Co-author Simon Teasdale added: “As the coalition government seeks to develop its policies on the Big Society, we hope that a better understanding of the scale of the sector, as well as clarity and consistency in what is being measured, will help give policy-makers a stronger evidence base on which to make their decisions. The lack of a legal definition of social enterprise makes it vital to make clear what is being measured and why.”

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition agreed that clearer definitions will be vital as the social enterprise world grows:

“Individual social enterprises will need to be defined more clearly if they are going to play a much bigger part in UK economy, not only in the delivery of public services but across all areas of business," he said. "Without more clearly agreed parameters, the progression of social enterprise will be put in jeopardy, a risk we cannot afford at this moment of opportunity.

“In order to monitor the growth and impact of the sector it is also vital that there is a collective effort from government and from those within social enterprise to commit to improved research and tracking.  Only then will we really be able to measure our success and contribution to society and the economy.”

He added that funding cuts could cause further confusion:  “There is a risk that resulting from cuts, we will see the creation of spin-off organisations from public services that are not social enterprises, which could be vulnerable to buy-outs from the private sector.  In anticipation of wider and deeper cuts in the near future, we need the Government to give guidance and support, and make sure that commissioning enables real social enterprises to thrive.”

Lucy Findlay, managing director at the Social Enterprise Mark said the scheme was helping to clear confusion:

“The Social Enterprise Mark is demystifying social enterprise.
In fact, by clearly communicating the value and meaning of social enterprise through the Social Enterprise Mark, we have helped a number of commercial businesses transform into social enterprises, for example ADP-Projects and The Ideas Mine. The criteria for the Social Enterprise Mark are essential in making this happen."

 

 

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

Homelessness charity unveils fundraising app that helps the charity locate rough sleepers

31 Mar 2015

A London-based homelessness charity has launched an app that uses geolocation technology to let people...

Charity Tax Group calls for further postponement of 20 per cent tax on direct mail fundraising

31 Mar 2015

The Charity Tax Group and the Direct Marketing Association have jointly called on the government to again...

Save the Children and RB launch programme to reduce child deaths from diarrhoea

30 Mar 2015

Save the Children and health and hygiene company RB have launched a programme as part of their ongoing...

Election campaigning rules take effect for purdah

1 Apr 2015

Now that Parliament has been dissolved ahead of the general election on 7 May, all charities must make...

CCNI closes investigation into governance concerns at animal charity

1 Apr 2015

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has closed a statutory inquiry which investigated concerns...

Tate Britain director to step down

1 Apr 2015

Penelope Curtis is stepping down from her role as director of Tate Britain in order to become the first...

Homelessness charity unveils fundraising app that helps the charity locate rough sleepers

31 Mar 2015

A London-based homelessness charity has launched an app that uses geolocation technology to let people...

Social media 'slacktivism' encourages people to donate, finds JustGiving report

18 Mar 2015

People who share a fundraising page on social media are four times more likely to donate than those who...

Samaritans closes Twitter monitoring app permanently

11 Mar 2015

Samaritans has confirmed that it has permanently closed its app that was designed to monitor people’s...

Join the discussion

 Twitter button

@CSFinance