To help explain the concept of a social enterprise, I feel to share some of my journey.
When I first set up Imagineering 2 a Better World (IM2), I was unsure as to what type of structure to use. I had thought to start it based on a not-for-profit or foundation model while running a business to fund it. Although it was never a foundation or not-for-profit I operated it in part as though it was. For example, recording milestones achieved with a view to attracting funding. I found though that this split my focus and was not so successful as I kept being pulled aside working for others while building IM2 plus trialing different business strategies to see if I could generate a constant income to support IM2. Although many milestones were achieved, financially it was challenging to say the least and exhausting! So, within the first 12 months, I had a group of young adults and I do research on different models and finally chose a Social Enterprise.
Initially I understood a social enterprise as having two purposes:
1) A business whose core products and/or services promote a better world; and
2) That offers activities within that business framework free of charge or at a substantial discount for certain interest groups eg orphans, modern day widows.
However, over time, the number of ‘wins’ kept growing. So I came to view a Social Enterprise as a business where everyone wins. Keep reading for further clarification.
The customer or client wins as they consume the product or service that inspires and benefits them, and meets their need or desire.
The staff win as they have intentionally chosen to part of a business who operates with a code of conduct and position description of mutual benefit to employer and employee, with the additional bonus of business activities benefiting the wider community.
The owners/management win as this social enterprise has enthusiastic, committed staff, has happy customers and clients, is making money (to pay staff, research and develop systems for responsible stewardship of resources), and is making a difference in the wider community.
The world wins as the core business activities of the social enterprise makes a difference. An example of a difference being made is empowering various community groups to become self-sustainable rather than relying on external funding. This could be true for a social enterprise who assists groups with funding applications or coaching them how to change their model to a social enterprise.
Over time, through my own journey with IM2 the struggles of gaining momentum, losing momentum, not giving up, learning and overcoming daily, many lessons were learned.
So more recently, particularly since the inception of SEE your Way to a Better World, more winners were identified:
As a result of years of experience, study, and prayer, now my definition of a Social Enterprise has morphed into:
A Social Enterprise is a business whose purpose is to create a better world, whose customers feel good as the products and/or services are consumed, where every stakeholder benefits, and which leaves a legacy for future generations.
The WINSOME factor
Winsome was a word that I sensed without knowing its meaning – but I liked it – thinking my number of ‘wins’ keeps growing so linking winsome with ‘some wins’.
Winsome according to the English Oxford Living Dictionary means:
‘Attractive or appealing in a fresh, innocent way.’
So win -win – win – win … all stakeholders win:
W – Wider Community or World
I – Inventors and Investors
N – Network of Consumers and Suppliers
S – Staff
O – Owner/s
M – Management
E – Environment and Entrepreneurs
Do you have a vision for your ideal future, one that’s based on purpose? Even if you don’t, consider working for a social enterprise. If you do have a vision, consider researching how to create your own Social Enterprise. SEE your way to a better world.