Business done better

Social enterprises change the world! That’s an amazing claim to make and one which leaves itself open to a huge challenge. Can an organisation really make such a difference to others on an ongoing basis? That’s the impact that social enterprises have in today’s society.

For those within the sector this is taken for granted, however more and more organisations from the private and public sector are also now appreciating the work that such enterprises do and the role that they can play in working with them in seeking to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy.

Social enterprises are businesses, delivering products or services. They trade for profit and to be sustainable. Sound familiar? In this they are no different from an SME. The difference lies in what they do with these profits, reinvesting these back into the local community. Profit is not a dirty word, rather the more profit that is generated, the greater the social impact of the organisation. There may also be a belief from outside the sector that they enjoy some favourable status and support from government via grants. But let’s dispel that myth and point you in the direction of understanding that they will face the same challenges as other businesses. Access to finance, competition for their product or service, rising costs and decisions on marketing spend to name a few.

At Social Enterprise NI you will find an established support mechanism and a voice for the sector. Whether it’s raising awareness of the social economy business model with private and public sector, profiling members or lobbying with the politicians via the establishment of the All Party Group at Stormont, their voice has been instrumental in profiling social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.

Colin Jess, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise NI notes: “We are working with more and more private sector organisations who are including our members in their supply chain. From printing to sports bags, from catering to producing the back panel of a London Bus, from bottled water to childcare vouchers, the sector is diverse. However being so, should not be seen as diluting the impact that these organisations have. On top of this many organisations also bring those most disadvantaged in society back into employment. We are seeing a growth in new start-ups and also in the interest which the business model is generating with young people. Our recent Annual Gala Awards saw an unprecedented number of organisations entering the ‘One to Watch’ category for newly established organisations, a clear indication of the upsurge in interest in the business model.”

Social Enterprise NI membership is growing, not just from the social enterprise sector, but also construction companies, financial institutions, law firms and those from the energy sector. “There is no legal definition of a social enterprise, but let’s consider it a movement”, says Jess. “A movement that we would encourage all to get involved with, starting with attending our upcoming Annual Social Value Summit on 22 March, where we will hear of progress towards a Social Value Act for NI, something which Social Enterprise NI have been instrumental in working towards through the All-Party Group in the Assembly. Our main speaker will be Chris White MP, whose private members bill led to the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 in England and Wales.

Make sure you are kept abreast of all latest developments by contacting Social Enterprise NI for membership and sector updates.

Colin Jess
T: 02890 461810

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