Social economy report

Profit with purpose

“Profit with Purpose” lies at the heart of the social enterprise movement. A movement of socially focused businesses and a movement which is gaining more and more traction as the awareness of the role of social enterprises in today’s economy develops, writes Director of Social Enterprise NI, Colin Jess.

Social Enterprise NI, the representative body for the sector, seek to raise awareness of the social economy and of the work of its members. The sector overall is growing and creating a business environment which benefits society, supporting those furthest away from the labour market. Social enterprises are innovative, profitable and diverse, and an alternative business model that operates for social good and fulfilment.

Jess says: “We are experiencing increasing interest from private and public sector organisations who are seeing the value that integrating social enterprises into their supply chain can bring. It is also clear from our work with organisations such as Belfast Metropolitan College that young people understand the benefits of operating as a social enterprise and are keen to know more.”

Jess is keen to stress that social enterprises are businesses and like any other business, they strive to generate profit with a strong commercial focus. “The only difference is what they do with their profits,” he explains.

“Rather than providing individual shareholders with dividends, their profits are re-invested back into the organisation for the benefit of their social mission. A social mission which helps those furthest from the labour market to gain employment, such as physical and learning conditions, ex-offenders and the homeless.”

Our membership continues to grow not just from the social enterprise sector, but also construction companies, financial institutions, law firms and those from the energy sector, along with all local councils. Social Enterprise NI seek to create supply chain opportunities for their members and are in process of organising a significant ‘Meet the Supplier’ event with a public sector body in June this year.

“We would welcome the opportunity to speak with any organisation who is interested in helping to develop the sector,” adds Jess.

Like all sectors, Social Enterprise NI is delighted to see a functioning Northern Ireland Executive back after three years, during which time they continued to enjoy access to the MLAs via a quarterly meeting of the All Party Group. Meetings are now being held at Ministerial level as well as presentations to the various Committees.

Such is the growth of the sector in Northern Ireland that invitations have been accepted to attend and profile the sector in Northern Ireland to a British Irish Council symposium meeting and also to attend a meeting of the Scottish Parliaments Cross Party Group in Holyrood House.

There is no doubt that the awareness of the social economy sector in Northern Ireland is growing, both locally and across the UK and Ireland. But above all, the focus remains on lobbying for a Social Value Act in Northern Ireland, the only region of the UK without its own social value legislation. Social Enterprise NI have been at the forefront of this work. Social Enterprise NI is also delighted that the social enterprise sector has been recognised as one of the beneficiaries of the imminent launch of Dormant Account funds.

Please get in touch with Social Enterprise NI directly for further details.

Colin Jess

T: 028 9046 1810

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