If you ask anyone to name a social injustice that they felt strongly about, most people would come up with one straight away and it wouldn’t take long for them to start listing the reasons the problem exists as well as potential ways to overcome it.
Whether it’s youth unemployment, cuts to healthcare provisions, or gender inequality, everyone has a subject that they care about. Celebrities tweet about it, Facebook friends share articles on their favourite topic, and just recently we watched how the Christmas season was awash with reminders about how not everyone will be enjoying the festive month. While there’s lots of noise around the various injustices in societies (and it’s great we are making some noise), there are relatively few individuals who actually then stand up and use their business know-how to tackle the issue head-on. The ones that do have an opportunity to start a truly rewarding adventure, developing their skills to make a positive difference and create a product or service that contributes in some way to a better tomorrow – now, how’s that for career satisfaction?!
Having noted all this however, despite the ease with which energy and motivation for your particular subject is generated, the reality of starting a sustainable social enterprise to tackle the problem can be a lot trickier. And while your drive to tackle a social issue may take you some way, it requires a lot more than that to ensure business success and sustainability, satisfy your client, and achieve your original social or environmental goal. We’ve put together a few tips you might want to consider if you’re looking at creating your own social enterprise:
What is a social enterprise anyway?
There’s often a lot of confusion around what exactly is a social enterprise and there’s a bit of a grey area and cross-over between Businesses for Good, Charities and other entities. Here are three key areas that come top of the list if you’re creating a ‘soc-ent’:
- having a clear social and/or environmental mission (set out in your governing documents)
- generating the majority of your income through trade
- reinvesting the majority of your profits to further the social mission
If you’re unsure about these points then why not book an appointment with us and chat through your options?
What’s the point?!
As you get into the small details of how your enterprise functions, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it all in the first place – make sure you know inside out, back to front, and can state with your eyes closed the answers to the following questions so as not to lose focus:
- What exactly are you trying to solve?
- Who is it you are seeking to help?
- What is distinctive or new about your approach to this problem that might set you aside form the competition?
Whether it’s in a business plan, written across your bedroom wall, or discussed at the beginning/end of every team meeting or session with a mentor, make sure it’s with you each and every day of your entrepreneurial adventure.
Help! I need somebody!
If you are going at it alone or even in a small team, you may well need an additional network for accountability, sense checks, raising your profile, seeking funding, sourcing relevant expertise and for your general sanity! Here are some possible ways of expanding your contact base and knowledge of the sector:
- Courses and structured networks: If you want a very sturdy network and structure to guide you as you grow in confidence as a social entrepreneur then you might want to check out leading organisations such as the School of Social Entrepreneurs, Striding Out, Unltd, Social Enterprise UK as a first stop.
- Increasingly, it’s the online platform that provide the immediate, wide ranging and practical advice that you need. Some popular forums for social entrepreneurs include The Guardian’s Social Enterprise page, or you could go global with GSEN, or indeed have a glance at social enterprise focus who have chosen their top 10 networks to get onto those laptop screens!
- Few would deny that the best way of creating contacts is getting out there and meeting people. If you’re in London, then well done you, your biggest problem will probably be turning events down! Here’s a few that you might want to get along to: If you want to go full on conference-style then head to the Social Value summit this February, one of the most renowned summit’s here in the UK this year. If you can’t afford a ticket, why not write and offer to work or volunteer for them or a participating organisation? The charity incubator Launch 22 holds regular meet-ups in the capital, and then, even closer to home you have LSE’s The Marshall Institute and various social enterprise societies here on campus.
Hopefully that is enough to get you started. We would love to see you and chat more to you about your mission or potential ideas at our Lent Term Launch lunch on Wednesday 18 January – we have the amazing Sir Tim Smit (co-founder of the Eden Project) talking and you are more than welcome to attend and talk to us and everyone else a little more.
So why not make 2017 a year where you aren’t the one just liking a status or sharing a story online but you are the person who starts to fix a real problem to create real change in your community? We’re right behind you!
If you would like to explore more related topics, then great, you’re in the right place – this Lent Term is very much social enterprise term at LSE Generate and we have a whole range of different activities and events to get you even more excited about the theme.