“Living” Social Enterprise


Many of us are working at social enterprises that have won multiple awards for the impact they are having in the world and the innovative idea that drove them to assist in the ever existing fight against poverty. The terminology used to describe social enterprises and social entrepreneurs by default indicates and assumes that the business will be socially oriented.

When I review such awards, mounted on the wall, or listed out by name and year in pamphlets, I wonder about the social “insides” of the company and the transferable nature of such ideals into the inner workings of the business.

I often ask myself: Are they living social enterprise? Are employees treated fairly, with the same sense of social awareness and concern? Does the management & leadership style of the management team reflect such values?

In reality, I assume that many enterprises have not yet found this balance. Is it possible to take the social agenda that these enterprises are trying to meet on a daily basis with their target clients into the company? Can a business be labeled social enterprise if both sides of the coin are not met? Some might argue it is more about getting the work in the field done as fast and quickly as possible that’s  most important.

Does living social enterprise matter? Should it matter?

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5 Responses to ““Living” Social Enterprise”

  1. Paul Says:

    I think it does and should matter. Transparency is important for any business, but especially for a social enterprise. It is transparency that brings credibility to the business as well as the field of social entrepreneurship itself. I think companies that call themselves social enterprises need to be holding an ongoing internal debate with employees from every level involved on whether they are “living” social enterprise. Such a debate is the only thing that will keep a company honest and create the right kind of culture. I work for a company where we call ourselves a “social enterprise”. I’ve been here for some time and have seen that as we grow we get closer to crossing the line between a “profit maximizing business” and a social enterprise. The bigger and faster you grow the more difficult it becomes to keep the social mission central. I think the only way to do this is to keep the debate going internally and even externally (transparency). You have to remind yourself what you originally set out to do. You have to keep yourself honest. You have to keep it real.

  2. Nicole Says:

    Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you for posting this blog. Lately, I have been asking myself the same question and I am glad someone else is looking critically at this issue as well.

    Only by “walking the talk” can organization build credibility and gain the loyalty of employees. I agree that this is a question we should start asking more frequently.

  3. Gail Taylor Says:

    It matters a lot. We are in the opening stages of a new paradigm and its success will depend on our ability to trust each other. This is one of the most important issues of today. We must — and can — support and engage only those who live into being what they propose. Let’s not drag our baggage into this new promising paradigm.

  4. todd Says:

    Importan yes. Work hard and play hard and give the team a break, reward and chance to grow

  5. Barbara D Holtzman Says:

    I am currently writing a dissertation on the values of executive managers in social enterprises – the people who run them, rather than the people who start them or have the initial idea to start them, although in many cases they are the same. Operational transparency is of course, a good thing, but it isn’t everything. A truly well-run social enterprise is true to its mission and goals, the organizational extension of the values of the people who run it – and without some way to determine what those values are, it’s difficult to discern the difference between someone or an organization that believes that social responsibility is as important as fiscal responsibility, or that there are points in an organization’s evolution where money has to be more important. Values underlie motivation, so understanding them is important. Can they be measured, and taught where and when there are deficiencies? That’s what I’m hoping to find out.

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