Social enterprise ‘has huge potential to grow’

Social enterprise ‘has huge potential to grow’





There is huge potential for growth in the social enterprise sector, the first survey to measure the level of UK social entrepreneurship predicted this week.


The Social Entrepreneurship Monitor found that 6.6 per cent of the UK population is already engaged in setting up or managing businesses that trade with a social purpose. It also said that social entrepreneurs and social enterprises create more jobs and have turnovers that are at least as high as their mainstream entrepreneurial counterparts. Each enterprise creates, on average, four jobs, meaning that around 3 per cent of the UK population now works in a social enterprise, the authors claim.


The survey formed part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) by the London Business School, Barclays Bank, campaign body The Work Foundation and trade body the Social Enterprise Coalition (SEC). The coalition hopes a measure of social entrepreneurship will become an annual feature of the GEM. It used data from a randomly-selected UK telephone survey of 22,000 adults aged between 18 and 64.


The survey found that social entrepreneurship is a relatively recent phenomenon, having had its greatest expansion in the last three years. Report author Rebecca Harding said: “Clearly people are seeing more to business than profit and shareholders.”


‘We were astonished at the level of social enterprise activity in the UK. We are looking at an explosion of social enterprise over the past three years. It only started in 2000 when organisations began to be set up as proper businesses aimed at making money which could be ploughed back into their communities.’


Social entrepreneurship was also found to be more inclusive than other businesses, with women and ethnic minorities much more likely to be social entrepreneurs than mainstream entrepreneurs. In addition, the survey said that there are high levels of social entrepreneurial activity amongst disadvantaged groups such as those who are on low incomes or unemployed.


‘These social enterprises are run on a different basis to conventional businesses. They are intrinsically set up to create jobs. They are very lean and are good business propositions,’ said Harding.


The report recommends that the Government considers the huge potential of social entrepreneurship for inclusion, regeneration and general enterprise.


SEC chief executive Jonathan Bland said that the Government must make sure that those interested in social enterprise have access to the right kind of business support and financial advice. He said that this is essential “if social enterprise is to grow and deliver the high economic and social returns that it is capable of”.


The Social Entrepreneurship Monitor can be viewed at  


from the GEM 2004 Scotland report: “Social Entrepreneurship in Scotland” – foreword and link to full section


Sources: Regeneration and Renewal magazine,; Third Sector,