Social Enterprise and Regional Development – MIT 16.09.04

Social Enterprise and Regional Development

Conference notes: Cambridge – MIT 16 September 2004


Andrew Robinson MBE: Head of Community Development Banking, Nat West and RBOS


6 Distinguishing Characteristics of Social Enterprises


Facilitation        Dominated by a small coterie of experts compared to the private sector.  There is a clear need to develop wider expertise, but this is time consuming, relates to technical aspects and involves many actors.

Networking        While the Public sector [in England] appears willing to engage, it does not have the relevant skill set to do so, therefore government is not wholeheartedly supporting the agenda.  This is a political issue, and Andrew challenged the usefulness of Public sector support.

Recognition       The sector should associate with success, not failure.  Social Enterprises typically share credit, but need to adopt professional performance goals and bear in mind that big fees only come form big deals.

Risk Taking       When approached with a Social Enterprise proposition, the classic public sector response is to refer to Standard Operating Procedures.  The mode of thinking moves through; it can’t be done, the business plan doesn’t say it can be done, this hasn’t been done before.

Commitment      While banks have a substantial portfolio of Social Enterprises as customers, they don’t understand the sector and often are last to understand the proposals made

Public Relations             Too often Social Entrepreneurs ‘talk up’ their proposals too much, creating high or unrealistic expectations. 


Key messages:


The biggest problem is the systemic lack of institutional support for the sector. 


We still don’t have a wealth creating sub-set of Social Enterprises, so Social Enterprise does not yet contribute to improving productivity.


Being entrepreneurial need not compromise a social mission.