Lots of businesses are now trying to look at the wider picture when developing their core mission and many businesses are adapting their business models to include social enterprise.
Financial gain is the main driving factor for most businesses, but could your business improve the society in which we live?
If your business has a dual core mission there may be the opportunity to improve society by positively contributing to health, the environment, poverty reduction and the regeneration of communities, as well as teaching these sectors or communities to earn a profit too.
There are many examples of businesses and entrepreneurs which are successful, but also focus on social enterprise including Divine Chocolate, The Big Issue and Cafe Direct to name a few. And some businesses choose to focus on maintaining the culture and heritage of a community and area such as the work done by Cultural Heritage Services.
Developing a business model which focuses on social enterprise does involve more work, however once you have met the extra set of rules and regulations related to running a social enterprise you - and many others - will be able to reap the varied benefits. These include knowing that your business is making a positive contribution to society, as well as potentially receiving certain exemptions and support.
As Thank You water co-founder, Daniel Flynn, discusses in his book Chapter One - You Have the Power To Change Stuff, your main focus and challenge will be making a profit without compromising your social mission. So let's explore some ways of combining social enterprise with a regular business that may inspire you to adapt or change your own method of operation or startup idea.
Food is something that everyone relates to: everyone needs food to survive and many celebrations and get-togethers involve food of some kind. If your business involves opening a cafe it could offer so much more to the community than a place to eat. It could become a meeting place and social hub where groups bringing the community together could run their events from the establishment. You could also offer employment and training opportunities to disadvantaged members of society, mix things up with how you charge (Lentil As Anything, anyone?!), and donate your day's unused meals or produce to shelters or groups in need.
For a community to thrive it needs to develop a sense of belonging for and with the people who live there. Communities function better when there are enough fair employment opportunities available. You could make it your mission to focus on employing only over 50's people from the local area, enabling skills to be developed and a sense of ownership to be enhanced. Opening up more employment opportunities for all genders, ages, and backgrounds can assist in the regeneration of an area, as more money is brought in, and spent and earned within that community. You could develop training programmes and build bridging agreements with local colleges in order to provide different opportunities. And you may even discover a whole new business opportunity or skill-set that is valuable for your next endeavour that you never knew was out there!
Increase education opportunities
In some areas of the world it is a sad fact that many people (both young and old) do not receive fair access to education. This often leaves an area with a skills shortage, which can affect generations to come. If money and opportunity is diverted into areas of deprivation it could be used to enable access to education, and there are many companies and individuals (think microloans) doing great work on this right now. To enable a community to become self sufficient and fully functioning it’s members will need skills in food production so perhaps farming techniques could be taught, agricultural schools could be funded by your business, and health publications could be produced and distributed. All, importantly, focusing on the needs of the area and providing support as needed.
When you develop your business model, have a look how your business could potentially support society. Your business could make a real difference to people’s lives. Plus, putting a bigger purpose than oneself behind your productivity could emboldened your passion and drive to growth, innovation, disrupting your marketplace, and re-educating your clients and consumers.
Does your business involve an element of social enterprise? Or do you support a few who do?
Start the discussion in the comments below.