Dear Social Enterprise,

It’s time we looked at our relationship.

I’ve fallen in love with you over the last ten years. Finally, I thought, the best of the private and civil sector can come together to solve social and environmental issues both big and small, and I can be a part of this world, of your world.

However right now, I feel like we’re going through a tough spell. It seems like not everyone likes you so much, and when people start doubting you, I have to admit, I start to second-guess my own feelings. I know I shouldn’t be pressured by my peers or by people I don’t even know, but sometimes it can be overwhelming.

“Why do you love Social Enterprise?” I’ve been asked on a number of occasions, and I tell them why I love you, with all my heart. “But why would you do that?!” they continue, and all I can say that, for me, it comes down to a feeling of what’s right or not.

I’ve been mulling over what they’ve said for a few months now, and I feel like I understand why not everyone is convinced by you, or even worse, they don’t even know you exist. I’m going to share the ‘why’ with you now, and hope we can fix these problems together.

You’re complicated

When I have to explain what you are exactly, I have to think about who I’m talking to. Where they’re from, what they do and why they do it.

I have to find examples that they can relate to, because not everyone knows Patagonia or Sanergy.

Then, I have to explain the legal nitty gritty about you, which in some cases doesn’t exist and instead I talk loosely about strategies and plans.

You’re just not so easy to define, and everyone has their own ideas of what you are, in some cases linking you to things such as socialism, communism, or hippies, instead of just doing good.

Your parents didn’t raise you so well

It’s easy to blame the parents, but lets face it, you were born out of the third sector. Your parents have loads of heart, and are perhaps idealists, but quite often lack the ‘head’ to steer you into being a real enterprise, and not just a charitable cause dependent on grants and donations.

They always needed your other relatives to join in and help, sometimes financially, but most often with leadership and guidance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when Uncle Unilever and Cousin Phillip Morris are giving advice on solving social or environmental problems, you should really take a step back and think.

You’re too quiet

When I walk into a room of business graduates, and start talking about social enterprise, I see blank faces I’m stunned. How the hell do these guys not know about you. I try to shout your name from the rooftops, promoting, education and consulting wherever I can, but it seems so many others aren’t.

Quite frankly you still haven’t found you voice. You haven’t shown people what you can do. You need to think about your PR and marketing which at the moment is close to non-existent.

Our relationship doesn’t have to be exclusive, I am in fact happy to share you with the whole world. I know you also want this, as it’s part of your goal that you often talk about. So please, please, please, find more spokespeople to represent you better and inspire others to start some sort of relationship with you.


I don’t know if anything in this letter to you is new, perhaps you’ve heard it from others but I just wanted you to know that I won’t lose faith in you. I will always sing your praises, and I will continue developing ideas with you in mind.

But we need to work on our relationship together, to make it stronger, and to stop people questioning whether it’s right or not.

Are you in?

Originally posted on: https://medium.com/@michaelfreer_2342/dear-social-enterprise-5fa3a4c3fd60