Killing Social Enterprise Softly

Killing Social Enterprise Softly
Les Huckfield

This Huckfield briefing – with apologies for its length and detail – shows that the dividing line between Social Enterprise, the wider Third Sector and private sector is becoming blurred, with the result that many looking on now find difficulty telling the difference.

Many endeavours of Third Sector national organisations to extend the influence and heighten the status of Social Enterprise and Third Sector organisations in public service delivery are commendable. But their downside is that many in the media and wider public no longer truly understand or recognise a Social Enterprise or Third Sector structure.

There are some interesting recent examples of this:

BBC Newsnight Programme

One occurred during a BBC “Newsnight” Programme on Tuesday 21 February 2012 in its coverage of a report “Social Enterprise Schools – a Potential Profit Sharing Model for the State Funded School System” by the Policy Exchange, a right leaning Think Tank. The Report described schools run by for profit companies as Social Enterprises. Despite a rebuttal by Social Enterprise UK, many people must now be wondering what constitutes a Social Enterprise.

Cabinet Office “Growing the Social Investment Market”

Before this, there was the Cabinet Office document “Growing the Social Investment Market: A Vision and Strategy” February 2011. This clearly saw the potential of the Social Enterprise contribution of 1.5% of GDP to “help unlock a slice of the £95 billion of UK charitable income and endowment assets for social investment”.

This Cabinet Office document sought to use the size of the Third Sector as an indicator of the size of private investment which it might attract. The size of social enterprise sector is discussed later.

“Teach Yourself Lansley”

Though completely unconnected with anything above, one of the best recent examples was in the Guardian’s signposting on Thursday 02 March 2012 to John Lister’s “Teach Yourself Lansley“. This defined Social Enterprise as follows:

“Social enterprise: (oxymoronic noun) interim nonprofit private provider paving the way for proper private takeover”

Senscot’s Social Enterprise Code of Practice

Against this background of increasing confusion, Senscot (the Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland), of which Huckfield is a Board Member, at the Social Enterprise Exchange at SECC on Tuesday 27 March 2012 will launch its own Code of Practice. This includes:

a more precise definition of Social Enterprise and its operating environment
no dividends for private external investors
an “asset lock” to prevent the sale of assets.

See full website here

To Save Yourself Time

Since this is a long and detailed Huckfield briefing, to save time, use this link to go straight to Current Situation. This enables you to skip background details and takes you directly to more recent developments.