‘Social Enterprise’ can easily be singled out as one of the buzz words of the 21st century. Google it and you end up with over 98 million results (…in 0.4 seconds. Amazing!). It’s not a new thing either. According to The Institute For Social Enterpreneurs, early use of the term can be traced back to around 1973, but the concept has got more airtime in the last few years.
With so many people already writing about it, talking about it, and actually setting up social enterprises, why do I want to blog about this topic?
The simple answer is that it interests me.
The second reason is that I think ‘regular enterprises’ can really learn something from social enterprises. In my work as a business consultant for various SMEs around Europe I strongly advocate creating a healthy and sustainable business. I use three pillars, or base points, in my work: sustainable growth, customer experience through employee experience and the implementation of a strong set of ethics.
A third reason I could give you is that I care about the topic. I find it interesting to see that a successful business can be built around solving a social problem. It means that business does not necessarily equal destruction of the planet or exploitation of people.
My fascination for ‘social’ started more than a decade ago. I was still working at NIKE and one of my colleagues wrote a paper for her masters about incorporating CSR into the DNA of the company. Based on that we launched a project looking for ways to get employees better engaged.
Working on that project continues to be one of my inspirations today. Ever since I started my own consultancy business, Business Basecamp, I have been looking for ways to solve business challenges through social means that can be easily translated to the world of SME. At the end of the day, business challenges are often similar or evolve around the same topics, but where a big organisation has access to large budgets and in-house specialists, unfortunately a SME needs to find more creative solutions.
Countless times I have heard entrepreneurs say they want to give back or help, but they lack the time or funds to do so. Similarly many SMEs say they want to do the right thing but lack the structure and can’t hire expensive specialists to design the fancy programmes required.
The blog I will be writing for White Line Business will be about guiding these regular SMEs that are looking for social and sustainable solutions and how they can learn from ‘social enterprises’. I will feature a few of these enterprises around Europe and review their business model. I will also look at things you can do as an entrepreneur yourself to get started and I will write about how your SME can be more impactful.
I look forward to going on this journey with you and starting a dialogue about how we can all have better companies. If you have a specific question you would like me to answer I hope you will let me know by sending me a message right here.
Patricia Zeegers will be contributing regularly to the White Line blog on Entrepreneurship, Social Enterprise and Ethics. Learn more about Patricia here… and connect with her using the form below.
Photo Credit: PicturesofMoney