Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Operations File: One Million Social Enterprises

Recently it's been announced that we're not in a recession any more, so everything is sorted now right? Wrong. People are still having to economise hard and many a Christmas was extremely meagre this winter with the prospect of yet more austerity measures looming for the most vulnerable of all. What would help is less indifference and apathy toward the increasing number of people being further deprived of the basics to sustain body and soul and a determination to do something about making things work for the betterment of all from everyone in the form of viable positive, constructive action. I’d best admit to being biased here, but I am now convinced that there is only one viable option left to go to town on business wise namely, social enterprises.

In my all too brief time at Social Enterprise East of England (I was made redundant in 2011 - cuts you know, what can I say) the first thing I grasped (almost) was what social enterprise really means. Confusion then followed as it is so fluid (no wonder I loved it) that it actually defies all definition and terms of reference when it comes to business practises. That’s actually brilliant news for it means that there is nothing on this planet, not even a government department in the most vicious dictatorship in the world today that could not operate as... a social enterprise with mere minor adjustments to their modus operandi.

In real terms the principle is this... instead of 75% clean profits it would mean a measly 50% clean profit with the other 25% going toward funding the essentials that keep all of us ticking over in the community. Note I am referring to clean profit, not revenue - how tiresome it is that so many confuse the two. With the rest of the profits one can easily still make investments, but people need cash now not after it has earned interest in a savings account. People need it to be able to survive, not to go out on the razz.

Yes, it's true, social enterprises make profits. What distinguishes them from other forms of business is how they use it. Translate their ethic into multi-national business practises and suddenly the whole world benefits and therefore becomes healthier and more productive, QED problem solved. That's the principle, though why people insist on complicating things with detail I shall never understand! Okay in practise, I cannot lie, it does get complicated, interesting and challenging, best you talk to an adviser for your particular needs as I admit to being no expert.

What follows are hints on how to make good use of the social enterprises and community initiatives which include many charities, Not-for-Profits, CICs and some voluntary groups (large and small) in to illustrate what has already been proven to be possible. Hell, there are even companies limited by guarantee among social enterprises - the mind boggles at the sheer diversity. Note the gaps still left to fill for all you budding logical and ethical entrepreneurs out there. In a sense, local shops count as social enterprises because they are already providing support to the communities they are located in, simply by being in situ.

Social Enterprise Ventures
Home and Community
Social Enterprise Initiatives
Food supply
Local farmers, GM foods and green foods
Food to buy for meals
Waitrose, Co-op, local farmers markets and shops
Transport (distribution)
TBA (Sorry, not my field but sharing vehicles can only help)
Electric and dual fuel cars, cycle routes, sharing vehicles, public transport
Clothing manufacturers
Master tailors, designers and cottage industries
John Lewis, local craft shops, charity shops and local shops
Building materials
Recycled Manufacturing of glass, plastic, metal, paper, wood and all waste products. New ways of using old products such as straw, mud, timber, brick, corrugated iron etc
Building our homes and communal facilities
Old tricks, new uses with mud, straw, glass and all recycled materials... it’s bound to get ‘artistic’ and very individual in taste so  expect planning permission to get harder on some ideas
Power and energy
Solar, Wind and Wave, making fossil fuels go further and nuclear fuel including it’s waste totally safe (ish) allegedly. Fracking is still to be proved to be safe.
Power and energy
Clockwork devices from radios to TVs to fridge freezers. Energy efficient lighting including using LEDs with rechargeable batteries
Health care provision
Never have we had more choice and that is just going to get ever better I hope, don't be surprised to see maggots being used more!
Health in the home
Alternative therapies and medicines from osteopathy to herbal teas
Leisure (environment)
Stronger laws to safeguard and protect our most valuable asset while also protecting the livestock that feeds us and encouraging renewable and sustainable projects
Leisure in the countryside
There will be more people wanting to use the countryside, hence cycle and rambling routes need to be carefully planned. Expect high fines to groups who wander from the beaten track but superb community initiatives in this area - we can still go out and enjoy it by helping preserve it!
Leisure (entertainment)
Just as business are having to use energy saving so too do art and sport venues via exciting LED moving lights in theatres, safer rigging methods and tools. Recycled paper, less wastage all round. Being inventive the arts are often at the cutting edge of new ideas.
Leisure (entertainment)
You haven’t noticed how much safer it is for the projectionist running a film have you? Good, you're not supposed to. We are now recycling unused tickets and equipment in our communities. We make our own handmade books, furnishings and furniture and games at home again. YAY!
Special events
It’s becoming ever easier to host an event absolutely anywhere at all due to new legislation and the inventiveness of us Brits. Woohoo! 
Special events
Weddings in tree houses or factories and funerals at sea or from the air, whatever you want can more easily be done through sheer community determination and spirit, so long as you tidy up afterwards.

For help in your area try these:

Some 70,000 social enterprises are helping the community already according to Social Enterprises UK. I suspect there are many more being shy about it myself. However it is still a long way short of one million enterprises that I believe should be our target, so... isn't it about time you nudged in that direction too via your place of work? Here's a guide as to who is already out there.


Working need not be a chore, it can be fun and moreover it can help the most vulnerable of all in our communities which may include your nearest and dearest one day AND help save our planet's finite and precious resources. Enjoy your work and enjoy your leisure time; do both ethically and you can only ever end up as very contented healthy bunnies indeed - what greater wealth can there be than that? Sorted... next! ;-)

PS: Happy New Year!

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