Do social enterprises have an exit plan?

Create, pitch, sell, retire…

Photo by Dustin Tramel on Unsplash

As an entrepreneur, I like to keep abreast of the general world of business and startups. I read the latest news from huge corporations, keep my finger on the local, national and European startup scene, and spend the most amount of time reading about social enterprise developments.

Recently I was having a conversation about exit plans, and how the lack of them can lead to investors not being interested in the business, because after all, that can be their big payday. I was then asked about social enterprise exit plans, and it got me thinking.

Traditional startups

Despite the startup scene being so diverse across the world, we often see similarities in the way they are financed.

The bootstrappers like to build responsibly. They invest their own money, move at a steady pace, sometimes have the need to have a full-time job elsewhere whilst developing their business, but can be quite against getting investment from outside.

Then you have the fun[d] seekers. They got so far with their own input, but then look for angels, VCs, or whatever money they can get their hands on. They often go to pitch events, or reach out to high worth investors, trying to sell their vision.

The IPO or the exit plan

Both of these groups often have some sort of exit plan. It could be going public with their product or service, being bought out by a bigger company or selling it onto someone else to run.

Whichever end might be in sight, it’s effectively about giving up control, getting a nice reward for what you’ve done, and for many, moving onto he next thing.

The social enterprise way of thinking

Social entrepreneurs aren’t averse to this, as we can see through funding options these days.

There’s this new dawn of impact investment, which you have to presume was driven by demand from social entrepreneurs rather than by the impact investors and philanthropists.

If they were against it, we wouldn’t see the amount of funding available locally, nationally and for example, from the EU. You can find something for all stages of social enterprise, from idea development to scaling.

However the difference is that these funds often come with a lot of requirements. They have to meet both financial and social outputs, outcomes and returns. There aren’t many people offering £4m no-strings-attached to social enterprises, as profit isn’t the sole reason for the enterprise to exist.

Furthermore, many social enterprises are based on a community need, a community that the owner knows well and is invested in emotionally.

When you take these two reasons into account, you start to understand why many social enterprise stay relatively small, manageable and to a certain degree — bootstrapped. You start to see why maybe social enterprises don’t think too much about an exit strategy, an IPO or a buy-out.

A history of social exits

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, so here are two examples of well-known social enterprises being bought out.

Ben & Jerry’s was initially established to provide high quality products based on the superb source of milk it had. The key was making sure their community was fully motivated — the staff well looked after, the cows healthy and ‘happy’, and the farmers ensured this and were well compensated for their work.

Just over twenty years later, there product was so good that Unilever came in with an offer which was accepted. $326 million was paid[1], with employees protected and the social causes remaining at the forefront.

They are still a certified BCorp today, showing they do still hold that social enterprise status.

The Body Shop on the other hand, has been sold more than once. Originally set-up in the 70’s, its goal was to stop animal cruelty, source local products and use natural ingredients. Seeing the success, encouraged the owners to look at franchising, something some existing social enterprises do today.

The Body Shop then went public in the 80’s, was taken over by L’Oreal in the 2000s and just two years ago was sold on again by Natura. Interestingly, they only recently became a certified BCorp, as their commitment to social causes has fluctuated over the years.

Key takeaways

  1. We can have an exit plan as a social enterprise — but we have to offer something with a great brand and high quality.
  2. We have to be prepared to let go of whatever it was we set out to do, if we do want to exit. (But this is the same as any company!)
  3. There is a chance that after 10, 20 or 30 years, if the sale is done in the right way, that the social causes will remain intact and relevant.

If you’ve exited a social enterprise, we’d love to hear from you.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/13/business/ben-jerry-s-to-unilever-with-attitude.html

Social Enterprise in Focus : ImpacTrip, Portugal

With social entrepreneurship a fairly underdeveloped sector in Croatia, it’s no surprise that whenever there is a social entrepreneur in town you soon hear about them.

That’s what happened recently with ImpactTrip, as they were in Split to look at expanding their operations. As a registered B Corp, they run a hostel in Portugal as well as offering voluntourism trips to a number of locations.

We caught up with one of their employees to find out more, their history, plans today and plan for the future.

Where did the idea for ImpacTrip come from?

In 2013 Rita, one of ImpacTrip founders traveled through Asia and returned to Portugal with the idea of creating a positive impact in the communities where travelers are. Rita is a “serial traveler” and her previous experiences around the world made her understand that it is necessary a shift in the way people travel, it is important to do it in a responsible and sustainable way. Later Diogo joined her, and both understood that the best way to achieve it would be through volunteering experiences in local non-profit projects, in a way that both, travelers and local organizations could benefit from it. 

What are the main social and environmental goals of ImpacTrip?

Traveling in a responsible and sustainable way creating positive social and environmental impact locally is the main social/environmental goal of ImpacTrip. We can achieve it by supporting our social and environmental partners, giving them the human resources needed to achieve their goals and their mission, and stimulating new connections between causes and non-profits These partners are chosen according to their relevance and mission, so they need to be in accordance with at least one of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

How are you hoping to improve your BCorp score in the future?

We are working hard on the quality of our project processes. We believe that improving our evaluation methods and working even closer to our social and environmental partner our impact will grow continuously. Moreover, by expanding our operational area, we will be able to reinvest in more projects, built a bigger team and it will allow us to improve our score. 

What advice would you offer anyone thinking about going into the world of social enterprise?

Be, above all, idealist and resilient. It is very important to have clear in our mind our goals and what we want to achieve; then we can’t give up. There will be a lot of ups and downs, a lot of challenges, obstacles but the results give us enormous satisfaction and motivation to keep going and doing a positive impact everywhere and on everyone around us. 


So if you’re thinking about travelling more conscientiously, why not check out what ImpacTrip have to offer, or at least take a leaf out of their book and think about the way you travel.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship in Teenagers

Through engaging, interactive and hands-on workshops

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

I was fortunate to have an amazing Business Studies teacher at secondary school. She inspired me to explore the world of business as I do today. She had the right approach with us, spoke with enthusiasm and energy and made her own clothes. She stood out from the rest for a number of other reasons too.

This was despite the fact that the majority of our work was paper or case study based.

We never set up a lemonade stand.

We never sold cookies door to door.

We only once had to come up with business ideas.

[Mine were a penbrella and bodybrella, I don’t think I need to elaborate further. Perhaps both more revealing of where I grew up rather than my business acumen at that age.]

Fast forward 18 years, and I find myself teaching teenagers very similar things albeit with the modern jargon, theories and tools. What I did decide though, was things would be more teenager proof, and to do this I shook things up.

Make it relevant

‘Sir, I’m never gonna use this in the future.’

We’ve all heard it, and some of you may have said it, but when you’re doing Pythagorean theorem for the 124th time you do start to wonder whether you’ll need to remember those equations in your adult life.

There has been a shift to show students how they will use things they learn in school later on, but let’s be honest, at 15 you’re only thinking about liking posts on Instagram, playing on your PlayStation, hanging out with friends etc. Your future is far from your mind.

So, in order to make entrepreneurship relevant, we come up with a product or service that they can actually offer or produce. A lot easier when working with vocational schools for sure, but normally you’ll find two or three students that have a skill or hobby which can be used. If there really isn’t anything then let the students come up with something new. Even if it’s not reasonable they’ll soon realise this and change.

Once the product is theirs, and they want it to succeed, everything they do is now relevant. They’re not being asked to think about a case study of another business, or fake numbers from a book, but instead really look into their own idea and see whether it’s feasible or not.

Accountability

Normally we use exams as a way to get kids studying. As the exam period nears, stress increases and for the majority, so does the amount of studying. However, as we know, stress isn’t a great thing and we’d all prefer to avoid that dread. Luckily, accountability can come in many forms.

To do this with entrepreneurship, we set an initial date to launch their product or idea. In some cases, I must admit, this date has been delayed, but that accountability ensured buy-in from the students. Stress still plays a part, as they are mainly motivated by the air of worry that if they didn’t have something to show, they’d be stood there in front of hundreds of people expecting something. When they are engaged though, they want something to be proud of instead.

Further to that, and since I focus on social entrepreneurship, we stick to a promise that they decide how the profit is spent, as long as it is school related — a trip, a party, contributions to their graduation ball, it’s all in their hands. Most recently the class decided to plant a tree and have a class party.

The more work they put in, the higher chance of success, and therefore the potential to fund something amazing from their profits.

Feed them the way they like

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Viber, YouTube. The list goes on. Messaging, images and videos. Read or record and send. Flick through. Double tap. Like, love, laugh, get angry or cry. Three seconds to make that decision. Next video, next photo.

Whether you agree with it or not, this is how teens access information these days. I asked a 15 year old which site she reads the news on. Her answer was Instagram, as it was quick and easy to understand. No wonder certain celebrities or politicians do so well.

How do you translate this into the classroom?

Fast decision-making, but with the knowledge that you can always improve or change them later on.

Short, snappy tasks with a time limit no longer than a YouTube video or pop song. That’s all the attention you’ll probably get. If you have a bigger task, break it down.

Individual, partner work or small teams, just like on SnapChat. Be clear which one you are after from the outset.

Let’s not forget, actually utilising the tools they use. Record them practising their pitch and put it on a private YouTube link for them to watch. Get them creating advertising campaigns including photos and videos using hashtags.

This is their domain, listen to their ideas.

I’m not a teacher

I’m in a lucky position. With most of the students I work with, I’m only there for half a day every two weeks, at most. The ‘teacher’ effect never has a chance to sink in. Similar to the differences between being the parent or the uncle/aunt, I benefit from being fairly novel and never the disciplinarian.

Since entrepreneurship is a process of trial and error, test and improve, you need to adopt a slightly different role anyway. There are steps we can follow, but there is no single equation that will lead to success. There are gut feelings and sometimes a sense of doing things for the sake of it. You can’t teach these things, and therefore your role here is as a mentor or guide.

Decision-making should be taken on by all, success or failure is a shared concept and you’re there to introduce themes or topics, keep things moving forward and provide structure. If you feel you’re propping the project up, then you’ve gone wrong somewhere. If you’re the only one running around before the launch day, you haven’t removed your teacher shackles.

So make sure you start as you mean to go on, get the students owning the project, making the decision and doing the work largely without your input.


I hope you’ve been extremely underwhelmed by the suggestions above. They are nothing novel, unique, and have been done numerous times in many places.

Ask yourself, are they being done at my local school, are the teachers doing similar things, are the students learning in an engaging way.

If the answer is no, then it’s time to try and change it, and demand a better, more hands-on, interesting and revitalised way of teaching.

Balancing your head and your heart

The battle of social entrepreneurship

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

I was recently training a group of current and potential social entrepreneurs about key stakeholders and how to ensure their buy-in at all stages from idea to execution. We discussed various methods, channels of communication, tools such as Social Return on Investment and how to share stories in a convincing and moving way.

I also got the participants to do a small quiz on how they make decisions. Overwhelmingly, the outcome was that most people supposedly used their head rather than their heart, however at the end of the workshop one lady came up to me and shared her current situation.

She had been running her own social enterprise for 9 years, with success, ensuring schools have access to clean water in Tanzania. However the idea came from the need for social change and better resources, with the financial side, and thus the business, following this. She had recognised herself in what I had said during the workshop.

“With a large numbers of social enterprise coming from the third sector, quite often people care so much about the social goal, they might, to some degree, neglect the financial sustainability.”

Her question was simple — how do you solve this problem?

Having been seen as both ‘the capitalist’ and ‘the socialist’ in different organisations, I offered up three solutions.

Get some sales training

One big problem is simply that owners or employees of social enterprises have never done any selling in their lives. They’re not equipped to sell, they don’t know the basic tricks of the trade and because of this lack of education and experience, they avoid selling as it’s out of their comfort zone.

If this sounds like you, then think about how you could improve your sales technique. Perhaps it’s about learning how to use persuasive language, storytelling or valuing what you have to offer, or a combination of these things and more. Put together a list of your strengths and weaknesses of your selling style, fill in the gaps through coaching and education and then get the experience through getting out there and doing it.

Set financial goals for yourself linked to your social outcomes

You may be a great salesperson but making a lot more money than you actually need to, might not be in your psyche. If you’re not motivated by money then sometimes it’s pointless setting sales targets. Each month you have a good idea of your outgoings, so you probably settle when you sell enough to cover those costs and nothing more.

Instead of having sales targets, have impact targets. Remember that every sale you make could lead to a great impact. For example, if you sell another water filter, that’s 10 more people with access to clean water or if you provide consultancy to one more business, that’s a further x amount to spend on an awareness raising campaign.

By swapping the sales target with an impact target, you’re appealing to your ‘heart’ more than your ‘head’.

Get someone else on board

They say fake it until you make it, but perhaps even when you swap the cold hard cash for warm fluffy (but still concrete!) outcomes, there’s still no faking it. Instead, you just want to work on the product, the story and the impact.

The last option for you is to think about getting a salesperson on board. It could be in the form of a business partner or an employee, but either way you’ll have to work closely with them to ensure the ethos of the company is present throughout.

This was one of the fears of the participant, that by getting a salesperson who is driven by the dollars, the social side may be undermined. This definitely doesn’t have to be the case, it’ll just be down to you to find balance, communication and results.


Need to work on your pitching skills, or to figure out what to charge for your product or service?

Social Enterprise in Focus : Who gives a crap? Australia

We’ve mentioned them before, and we’ll talk a bit more about them this time.

who gives a crap? is a social enterprise in Australia who sells toilet roll. Yes, toilet roll. They have a fitting name, an excellent mission and if you keep an eye on their social media sites, some hilarious marketing. They’ve since spread their operations to the U.S. and the U.K., and we hope to see their products in a supermarket near us all very soon.

They’re a great example of the triple bottom line, and deliver an interesting operation with elements of both the integrated and external social enterprise models:

People – with more people having mobile phones than toilets, they recognised the problem in in worldwide sanitation. Their mission is to reduce the -roughly- 40% of people who don’t have access to a toilet and improve the health and wellbeing of these people.

Planet – all the materials they source are forest friendly or recycled. This means they significantly reduce their carbon footprint and yours too – think about how many trees you flush down the toilet.

Profit – they donate 50% of their profits to partners also working in the field of sanitation- currently WaterAid and Sanergy.

If you want to find out about their more recent impact and good work – check out their ‘crap update‘. Otherwise, pop to their web shop and stock up on some toilet paper.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Ghana Bamboo Bikes, Ghana

You may read about the blue economy. The main goal is to source solve problems through what is available locally, without creating waste. This social enterprise from Ghana did just that.

Grown in Ghana, used in Ghana

With seven native species of bamboo locally, Ghana Bamboo Bikes has taken this readily available material and turned it into a social and environmental solution. They build and sell bikes as well as run a bike academy.

Socially, they create employment by first training people, most often women and some areas with a focus on youth, in how to assemble the bikes. Some of these individuals are employees whilst others have the chance to open their own bike shop anywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, on an environmental level they employ ten farmers to manage their bamboo plantations. Bamboo is as an alternative for existing fuel sources which can improve local forests and reduce soil erosion.

With one material they are doing so much for their country, you can read more about their impact here.

Your turn

Now think about what you have locally. Is there something growing in abundance that can be used to replace something man-made? There are lots of examples on the blue economy website so have a look and learn more.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Pinnguaq, Canada

This month we head all the way to Nunavut, the largest and most northern region of Canada. A unique place in the world has a special social enterprise called Pinnguaq, a nonprofit tech startup that aims to provide tech education to young people in the region. We were fortunate to catch up with Ryan Oliver, the owner of Pinnguaq, to learn more about the organisation.

How did you identify the need for Pinnguaq?

I grew up in a small settler town in Ontario, Canada that is about 1.5 hours away from Toronto. We were fortunate in high school to have a complete and complex computer science program. Many of my peers went into the growing Canadian industry at the time (I didn’t, I gave up on math too young!). I moved to Nunavut in 2004 and realized how fortunate I had been to grow up where I did. Computer Science was not only a rarity in Nunavut, but in all of Canada. As my kids grew up, because of my love for video games we had many in the house and their peers starting coming over on a regular basis to play games. At the same time my own peer group from when I grew up was 10+ years in the gaming industry and it was clear that the Canadian games/tech industry was going to be a huge part of the future of our country.

That’s the basics. An underserved market/population, connections of my own that I could leverage back into the territory that I loved, and kids growing up that I wanted to do what I could to help bring them the same opportunities I was given.

What is or are the key ingredients to you being so successful and winning so many awards?

The communities we’re serving.

If not one cared about what we were proposing, we would have stopped a long time ago. However, with each release, each educational session we run, the interest grows and the way we do it changes and grows. We’re far from perfect in our implementation and constantly learning with each step we take. The community has grown with us and been fantastic at keeping our mandate and our mission on track. To that effect, another key to our success is to not be satisfied with anyone iteration of what we do. Each time we go out we aim to improve upon what we did before and when that stops happening, we will have worn out our usefulness.

How is the social enterprise scene in Canada developing?

I think a formal definition of ‘social enterprise’ in Canada, and the support systems one would anticipate having around that is still largely still undefined. While there is much support for not for profit and for-profit companies alike, it relies on the companies themselves to define how that support can shape what it means to be a ‘social enterprise’. That said, I could be missing something. I knew what we were trying to do, but didn’t have a name for it until we won the award as “best social enterprise startup” in Canada. I get it now!

My immediate comparison point is our neighbors in the US, and to that extent, Canada has a ton of support for growing businesses, artists, and not for profits. With the current government, we also have a significant amount of support now for technology and coding as a whole. That said, we are a settler defined country with significant inequality and a long history of colonization. What is available from a Government support standpoint often requires an ability to navigate a complex application process and red tape. There are indications this is shifting but the reality is that often those who can benefit the most from a strong social enterprise system are not provided with the experience and education to navigate the mandatory bureaucracy.

All of that said, there are many good people here who want to do good things and increasingly, it seems, we have a system that is adapting and figuring out a way to empower and enable that action.

Can you tell us one of your favourite stories, maybe the impact you’ve had on one of your users?

With each passing month, I have new favorites that emerge. When we first started the company and created a language app called “Singuistics”, it was incredible to see it being used in my kids daycare and by their peers. From there we started hosting te(a)ch sessions (computer science camps across Nunavut communities) and seeing a participant go from having no experience with programming to an employee who designs and teaches future courses has been a pleasure to watch.

That said, each passing month brings new highlights and the past few have been among the best. We recently completed our newest te(a)ch sessions in Rankin Inlet and Arctic Bay, Nunavut. Four years of refining our curriculum and our teaching style has been incredible and these sessions were among our best ever. Our goal with te(a)ch is to offer something to Nunavummiut (people of Nunavut) that isn’t currently available through the traditional education system, and the impact of that is more and more evident with each session we run.

What advice would you offer to new social entrepreneurs or social enterprises?

It’s too easy to say, “do what you love”, because a lot of people love things that won’t allow them to also be successful. I’m still figuring it out myself. I know for Pinngauq it was a combination of our luck, timing, and privilege that led us to this place and we acknowledge and work towards sharing and growing that with each project we undertake. My recommendation would be to expose yourself to everything relevant to your field. Don’t insulate yourself, meet everyone, get to know every project, every idea. Follow things that have nothing to do with what you’re doing as you’ll learn plenty from every walk talk of life. Never stop learning, never be satisified.


A great example of how a social enterprise can succeed in the most remote of areas by meeting the needs of the community. It also goes to show how red tape and bureaucracy affect both developed and underdeveloped countries in the world, and therefore how important it is for us to play a part in shaping the sector.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Pana, Albania

We were recently at #Impact2018, a conference in Zagreb, Croatia sharing the regional heroes and heroins in social entrepreneurship, impact investing and corporate social responsibility. As part of this conference, a few social entrepreneurs got the chance to pitch their idea, and Pana‘s story stuck with us, so we thought we would catch up with Pezana to find out more.

There’s a special story behind Pana – can you tell us how the social enterprise started and what inspired you?

Everything started 5 years ago in my home town Tirana. A mix of events were happening in my personal life. Working with orphans and children with disabilities made me understand that projects don’t change their lives, but a profession CAN! My father was a mechanical engineer and he had golden hands. He was able to produce anything with wood. After he retired he wanted to give his knowledge to others, but most of the people look at those retired as not being able to work. As an architect, I saw the gap in the market of unique design furniture, since most of the actual products come from China and Italy and are not tailor-made. There was also a problem in two different areas – losing the heritage of carpenters and also a drop in Albanian manufacturing. In April 2013, Pana was created as a result of all these factors, by taking part in a competition for green ideas and social enterprise organized by an Albanian organization, where surprisingly we won the first place. This was our way to bring Pana to life.

What are Pana’s plans for the next five years?

This is a very tricky question and actually very important. As most of you know, Albania is a very small country and of course has limited resources when it comes to such a niche product like ours. In fact, we do have a lot of orders and usually our clients wait for 2-3 months to get their products, but still this is not enough for us. Our products have totally another monetary value in European countries. Today we sell our product in Albania with lower prices than they should be sold, due to the capacity of Albanians of paying. That’s why we want to expand to other European countries so we can give a real value and price to our products, an element that would help us to grow the number of employees and the value that Albania as a country can have in the European community. So we are working hard in different directions to expand the production and begin to sell our products internationally. Our big dream is to sell our products outside Albania, we see it as the only way to manage to have a bigger impact, a bigger impact on the clients, and to bring the Albanian name to the foreign market. What is more important is having more family members, as the people we are working with are not just employees but part of the big family of Pana.

As a social enterprise, how do you balance your triple bottom line of people, planet and profit?

Pana is only about that, making a balance between the social and ecological mission. Its one of the few cases where both the impacts are equally as important and take the same weight inside the enterprise. Profit is only a mechanism to make the whole structure work. For us, it’s important only to make the structure work properly, living in a country like Albania where the social and ecological part is not something important for our clients, has made us work very hard to have the stability that we do have today (economical). Most of our clients don’t even want to know with whom we are working and what are we saving, that’s why our work and value is underestimated, but this has been another fight for us to educate our clients. We do work hard as just another enterprise that is trying to gain some points in the chaotic Albanian market, but in the mean time to have the balance between social and ecological. During those 5 years we have trained more than 70 people to become carpenters, because for us it doesn’t matter if they are going to work with us, for us it matters for them to have a profession. The family of Pana is so diverse you can find people from 19 years until 73, those coming from Roma community, orphans, retired, returned emigrants, people with disabilities, the list goes on, but we all work together with the same mission and vision.

What’s the current state of social entrepreneurship in Albania and how are you a part of developing it?

Things are going very slowly; and I know the reason why. It looks like there is no collaboration between different entities in Albania. The government is not there to help and manage to give a hand to the new startups and the ecosystem is very aggressive. It’s now an organized market which makes things go wrong sometimes, not because of the entrepreneur but because of corruption, high taxes, lack of financial support and even training. There are some entities trying to make a change, but even the entrepreneurs are very sporadic. There’s a whole generation that is missing the desire to create new things and this could be because the education system is not supporting them to become entrepreneurs. There is a lot of work to be done. In my case, wherever there is a possibility to inspire and give my knowledge, I do it, of course if they gave me the opportunity to make more I would have loved to do it, but until now this is not the case. I am doing my best in the Albanian conditions.

What advice you would give to wannabe social entrepreneurs around the world?

Being a social entrepreneur its one of the most difficult things in life (at least for me) , but when it goes right then the result is outstanding. If you like difficulties and adventure take this trip, it’s a life-changing experience for you and the people that you are trying to change. Besides how hard it is, I can continue forever like this, as Mother Theresa said once: It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.


A very honest and informative interview from Pana, and one that many of us can relate to. How collaborative are the government in your country? The need for strong cross-sector relationships can ensure social entrepreneurship expands and succeeds, however many people working in the ministry of education or work don’t know much about what social entrepreneurship is. We try to change this through holding lectures and workshops, and if you’re a social entrepreneur, offer your knowledge too!

Social Enterprise in Focus : Dastadast, Iran

As part of our goal to showcase social enterprise from all around the world, we’re off to Iran this month, for a short interview with the team at Dastadast.

Give us a brief overview of what you do.

We founded Dastadast 4 years ago, becoming the first Iranian online non-profit social enterprise. We started with a small budget provided by Dastadast founders and can currently survive with small funds because we are volunteer-based. Our volunteers contribute their skills, time and knowledge to create change.

We run an online market for handicrafts made for individuals who don’t have fair access to market, including immigrants, villagers, women, youth who recently started working and the creators of traditional heritage crafts which are in danger of extinction.

What are your main goals and how do you achieve them?

The most important mission is to empower handcraft producers and we do this by selling their products online. One of the main intentions of Dastadast is the empowerment of women. Our social impact so far is that we currently cooperate with 400 women from 15 provinces of Iran. These make up approximately 90 percent of our producers.

 

In order to achieve this goal, we currently do the following:
•  Provide a vast market —  e.g., online and seasonal markets
•  Exclude large dealers
•  Introduce producers and giving them full control on prices
•  Cooperate with empowerment groups, rural cycles and environmental NGOs
•  Use professional designing to re-design the products and achieve higher quality

 

What is the current situation for social enterprise? what advice would you offer anyone who wants to become a social entrepreneur?

There is currently no model for social enterprise in Iran. This said, there are few groups who use social entrepreneurship to create impact. Entrepreneurs should be very patient and believe in their goal. They need to study and know the effects they may make and make sure the solutions they propose are according to sustainable development principles and do not cause any damage.
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This is another example of social enterprise developing in a place where social entrepreneurship is little known or developed. No matter where you live, there are always others trying to develop this field, so reach out, share ideas and help it grow.

Social Enterprise in Focus : FINACOOP, France

Since the recession and banking crisis, consumers have been a lot more proactive in choosing where they shop and what they buy. This has supported social enterprise in its growth and long may this continue! In this blogpost, we want to show you that it’s not only social enterprise products but also social enterprise services that are offer. So we’ve made our way to FINACOOP in France where we spoke to their Director, Mathieu Castaings. It’s well worth the read in both English and French!

Can you give us a brief background as to what led to FINACOOP being established?

As soon as I got my chartered accountant diploma, I started working on the project of an accounting firm dedicated to the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). The legal status matter soon arouse and according to me, the most accomplished in terms of democracy and inclusion of stakeholders is the SCIC (Société Coopérative d’Intérêt Général), the French form of a social cooperative. Today, among the members, in addition to the chartered accountants, FINACOOP include also employees, bénéficiaries, and partners. All of them being divided in 5 categories, 2 of which are chartered accountant thereby guaranteeing the valuable independance of the profession. Being a regulated profession, FINACOOP had to subcribe to the Ordre des Expert-Comptables and its registration was… refused! The Ordre des Experts-Comptables considered the SCIC as incompatible with  its professional ethics. An appeal and a political battle later, FINACOOP was finally registered and since July 2016, the cooperative has been rising steadily for the greatest happiness of all and has been progressively generating greater adherence by our beautiful profession.

Le diplôme d’expertise comptable en poche, j’ai travaillé le projet de monter un cabinet dédié à l’ESS. La question du statut juridique s’est vite posée et selon moi, le plus abouti en termes de démocratie d’entreprise et de démarche participative de l’ensemble des parties prenantes est la SCIC (Société Coopérative d’Intérêt Général). Du coup, parmi les sociétaires, FINACOOP d’intègre en plus des expert·es-comptable, les salarié·es, les bénéficiaires et les partenaires. Tout ce petit monde réparti en 5 catégories dont 2 d’expert·es-comptables totalisant la majorité des votes en assemblée générale ; et ainsi garantissant la précieuse indépendance de la profession. Sauf qu’en bonne profession réglementée, FINACOOP a du s’inscrire à l’Ordre des Experts-Comptables, et là c’est le refus ! L’OEC considère le statut SCIC comme incompatible avec la déontologie du métier. Lol ! Un recours et une bataille politique plus tard, l’inscription de FINACOOP est validée ! Et depuis juillet 2016, le cabinet ne cesse de grandir pour le plus grand bonheur de tous et toutes suscitant au fur et à mesure une plus grande adhésion de la part de notre belle profession.

You’re the first SCIC accounting firm, how has this been received by other companies in the industry and the general population?

In a general way, we receive enthusiastic support, as we are the first accounting social cooperative and therefore the ‘trend-setters’. The innovative approach in both in the legal form and our « specialisation » in the SSE is met with a certain amount of enthusiasm. That said, it is true that for people and professionals who are not familiar with the cooperative sector or SSE, that our approach is absolutely incomprehensible. Their entrepreneurial model is far too reduced to the image of a « boss », associates who are exclusively chartered accountants, a pyramid hierarchy, a profession reduced to tax optimisation with some big associations and foundations as clients so as to bring a little extra soul. For sure, setting an example is necessary! And we love the idea!

De manière générale, l’accueil est assez enthousiaste, nous sommes la 1ère SCIC d’expertise comptable et il est vrai, nous faisons figure de précurtrice (précurseur). L’approche innovante tant dans la forme statutaire que dans notre ‘spécialisation’ pour l’ESS rencontre un certain engouement. Après, il est vrai que pour les personnes et professionnel·les très éloigné·es du milieu coopératif et de l’ESS, notre démarche est juste incompréhensible. Leur référence entrepreneuriale est bien trop réduite à un patron, des associé·es uniquement expert·es-comptables, une organisation pyramidale, un métier réduit à de l’optimisation fiscale avec quelques grosses associations et fondations comme clientes pour gagner un supplément d’âme. Pour sûr, un travail pédagogique est nécessaire! Et on aime ça!

What is actually involved in being a SCIC?

It involves having a shared governance with all the categories of members, and making sure that they are able to participate according to their wish. They must be given the opportunity to reflect and participate in the strategic decisions of the firm such as the selection of bénéficiaries, partners, the hourly rate (Currently of 70€ /h) or the remuneration of chartered accountant. Basically every matter that aims to improve the commercial offer, the eco-system as well as working conditions. All of this requires working daily on the position as well as on the collective intelligence and decision making methods which is no simple matter, and it has been a preoccupation since our founding (hiring of an employee dedicated to the cooperative life, training and accompaniment on shared governance). Democracy with everything that goes with it in terms of transparency, power sharing and engagement also requires emancipation and reversing conditioning from a social and psychological perspective. There is much to do!

Cela implique d’avoir une gouvernance partagée avec l’ensemble des catégories de sociétaires, que ces dernier·es puissent participer selon leur souhait et possibilité à la réflexion et aux décisions d’enjeux stratégiques sur le développement du cabinet, le choix des bénéficiaires, des partenaires, le taux horaire (actuellement de 70€ HT/h) ou encore la rémunération des expert·es-comptables et toute autre question pouvant améliorer tant l’offre commerciale, l’éco-système que les conditions de travail. Tout cela nécessite de travailler au quotidien tant la posture que les techniques d’intelligence collective et de décision, ce qui n’est pas chose aisée, et a été une préoccupation dès notre création (embauche d’une salariée dédiée à la vie coopérative, formation et accompagnement sur la gouvernance partagée). La démocratie avec tout ce qui va avec en terme de transparence, de partage du pouvoir et d’engagement nécessite aussi un travail de déconditionnement et d’émancipation de représentation et comportement tant sociaux que psychologiques. Et il y a du boulot!

How do you think being a social co-operative can improve the sector?

For an accounting firm, the advantages of becoming a social cooperative are many. Facing the problems of turnover, people quitting the profession and demotivation, by choosing the cooperative and along with it participatory management should have a significant impact on employee involvement, the desire to work well and perpetuate the firm. The social cooperative makes the general interest even more alive, with an interest that is higher than the sole individual interest. Last but not least, to be in a social cooperative implies a limited pursuit of profit which puts forward the question of a fair wage policy and a more disciplined remuneration for the capital, a delicate issue.

Les avantages pour un cabinet à devenir une coopérative sont à mon sens multiples. Face aux problèmes de turnover, d’abandon de la profession (chiffres) et démotivation, faire le choix de la coopérative et avec cela d’un management participatif et de la propriété collective aurait un gros impact sur l’implication, l’envie de bien faire son métier et le désir de pérenniser le cabinet. La coopérative rend encore plus vivant la notion d’intérêt général de l’expertise comptable. En effet, là aussi et même particulièrement, il existe un intérêt supérieur aux seuls intérêts individuels. Et puis, autre notion déterminante, être en coopérative suppose une démarche de lucrativité limitée ce qui pose la question d’une politique salariale plus équitable et d’une rémunération du capital plus encadrée, point plus que délicat, vous en conviendrez.

What advice would you have for anyone wanting to set up a social enterprise?

I would advise them to consider that starting up a social business means a change of their entrepreneurial paradigm. This does not only mean having a social activity but actually changing the way we all work as a whole, with your community on every floor. There is the project in itself and the way you run it. We are fond of the idea that “the ways prefigure the end” rather that “the end justifies the means”. It also requires a strong financing plan and a system that puts the human being at the very centre, yourself, employees, partners, or the neighbour above. This requires a certain exigency which demands us to rethink our priorities, time management, emotions and ask ourselves about power and money sharing.

Je leur conseillerais de considérer que créer une entreprise sociale c’est changer de paradigme entrepreneurial, ce qui ne veut pas juste dire avoir une activité sociale mais belle et bien changer la façon dont on travaille dans sa globalité, avec l’ensemble des parties prenantes à tous les étages! Il y a le projet et la manière de le mener. Nous sommes adeptes de l’idée que “les moyens préfigurent la fin” plutôt que “la fin justifie les moyens”. Une démarche sociale efficace et pérenne nécessite tant une gestion et un plan de financement solides qu’un fonctionnement mettant l’humain au centre, soi, les collaborateur·rices, les bénéficiaires, les partenaires et la voisine du dessus. Cela demande une certaine exigence et cette exigence demande de revoir nos priorités, de revoir notre gestion du temps, de nos émotions, et d’interroger le partage du pouvoir et de l’argent !
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When you’re shopping for both products and services, check to see if there’s a social enterprise that offers the same, as then you’ll know what you spend is being invested and reinvested in social good.