Solving problems through social enterprise

Using the five whys to break things down

If you start thinking about all the global issues out there, you’re likely to get pretty depressed. They’re so big that you sometimes feel unable to change anything, and even if you try to change things it’s on such a small scale that it’s hard to see the impact.

Read more here:
https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/solving-problems-through-social-enterprise-16fdfd6b2a02

Types of Social Enterprise — Embedded Models

A seamless model of impact and profit

Having previously looked at the external and integrated models, we move to the third model of social enterprise — the embedded model.

This model rarely exists unless the organisation was born as a social enterprise, as advanced planning and strategical thinking is required.

Read more on Medium –
https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/types-of-social-enterprise-embedded-models-99e3d3625647

Types of Social Enterprise — Integrated Model

When operations and impact overlap slightly.

In a previous blog post we looked at the different types of social enterprise model, and this time we’re delving deeper into the integrated model.

The integrated model often sees a social enterprise’s income generating activity partly fund some of the social activities within the social enterprise. At the same time the business side of things will also directly contribute to other forms of social good. However the product or service they offer is unlikely to solve some sort social or environmental need.

Read more here:
https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/types-of-social-enterprise-integrated-model-b70af2355570

Types of Social Enterprise — External Model

When your operations and impact don’t overlap

In a previous blog post we looked at the different types of social enterprise model, and this time we’re going to go one step further by discussing some examples of the external model.

The external model is very interesting because it actually means any business can jump straight into being a social enterprise without necessary having any social or environmental goals linked directly to their product or service.

Read more here:
https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/types-of-social-enterprise-external-model-a35d1cabc57c

Applying the Theory of Change

Demonstrating your social enterprise’s worth

If you work for a non-profit, social enterprise or do anything that aims to have a positive social or environmental effect, then you might have thought about your theory of change.

Your theory of change should show how what you do, has an impact more far reaching than just on your customers and users. It should also show how you aim to create impact for longer than just the instance they buy your product or use your service.

It’s a strategic piece of work that can set down the foundations for your business, test your assumptions and ensure you have indicators to show the world how great you are. So let’s delve a little deeper into what’s involved.


When you started your organisation or project, you would have seen a problem you were hoping to solve. This provides your context that your theory of change relates to.

On top of this, you would have most likely stated your mission and vision. Ultimately the goals you, as an individual or group of individuals, are hoping to solve. Think of those goals again and translate them into something that we could think about measuring.

Goals / Context

For example, instead of an all reaching and broad‘Improve the lives of those affected by addiction’, we could look more specifically at ‘Decrease deaths linked to overdose’, ‘Improve the physical and psychological wellbeing of drug and alcohol users’ and ‘Improve the physical and psychological wellbeing of carers of drug and alcohol users’.

theory of change assumptions context inputs outputs outcomes context

Now we know where we’re heading, we can start looking at what we’re doing by jotting down what we activities we carry out to reach our goals. These are known as our inputs.

Inputs

In this example they could be things such as ‘Provide education about drug and alcohol at schools’, ‘run weekly meetings for addicts’ or ‘provide volunteer or job opportunities at the social enterprise.

theory of change assumptions context inputs outputs outcomes context

These inputs lead directly to an output, and they will sound very similar.

Outputs

For each educational course in a school, 30 students will receive 4 hours of information about drugs and alcohol.

For every weekly meeting, 15 individuals with an addiction will attend.

Of the volunteer/job opportunities, 3 individuals will take up this offer.

theory of change assumptions context inputs outputs outcomes context

So far, so good?

In fact many grants or contracts these days will only ask you to report this back to them with similar information, however they have become very output driven, without really thinking about the short, medium or long term impact of what they are funding. We know that it’s not just numbers that matter, but also what you’re offering and the quality of the service or product.

This is why we now think about the outcomes, some of which are easy to measure and some of which are challenging to. Furthermore, at this stage we need to think short, medium and long term in relation to what you’re doing. If you run a business, perhaps your long term could be from 10 years to a whole generation. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking at a year long pilot, then your long term could be between 3 and 5 years.

I’ll leave that up to you, and for now I’m going to focus on the outcomes for those taking up our volunteer/job opportunities, since this could be more relevant to those reading.

Outcomes

Short term — better and more structured routine, less likely to commit minor offences, unlikely to drink/use during the working day
Medium term — improved social skills, improved self-confidence, work ready, open to coming off unemployment benefits, new and better friendships outside of old ‘circles’
Long term — employed elsewhere, stronger personal relationships outside of old circle, no offending, not drinking/using or in control of drug/alcohol use

theory of change assumptions context inputs outputs outcomes context

You can now see that we have completed the bulk of our theory of change. We have looked at what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and the effect over time we hope it to have on its users. One thing still remains, and that is our assumptions.

In everything we do, we assume that people will react a certain way, we predict that doing x will lead to y, and that we will achieve our goals. In both the business world and social sector, this doesn’t always happen, which is why we need to analyse our assumptions to make sure we don’t trip up.

We can look at our assumptions between each stage, and when we ask ourselves these questions, we can then strengthen what we are offering.

Have you ever heard of the NGO that gave out laptops to a village in Sub Sahara Africa, only to later find they were being used as paperweights? They’d made a lot of wrong assumptions — that the locals needed laptops, knew how to use them and had the power to run them, and ultimately didn’t reach their goal. Let’s not make the same mistake!

Assumptions

Inputs to Outputs

  • Users want to volunteer/work
  • Users want that sort of volunteer role/job position
  • Users will turn up as agreed to volunteer/work

Outputs to Outcomes

  • Users at a stage in recovery where reduction of using is possible
  • Users stick to the schedule given
  • Users will be physically/psychologically able to volunteer/work full time

Outcomes to Goal

  • Job secured leads to improve physical and psychological wellbeing
  • Job secured doesn’t lead to a return to old habits
theory of change assumptions context inputs outputs outcomes context

In this example, I have limited the assumptions for each stage, however it is important to list as many as possible and answer them prior to starting your project or organisation. The ones that are easier to answer can be removed when you feel you have adequately answered or countered it.

Putting together your theory of change should always be done with a wide range of stakeholders, to help combat these assumptions and really define what will work.

When I was part of setting up the social enterprise we used service user involvement to define how it would work that would make it more attractive to potential volunteers and employees. We involved them in the visual identity, branding, product list, product selection, setting of hours, role allocation and so much more.

They felt ownership from the beginning, which ensured many of our assumptions were solved. We offered flexible shifts, a relaxed work ethic, smart uniforms, suitable perks and everyone was trained to be a barista. They grew with confidence, made new friends, solved old problems and broke their own prejudices as well as fought stigma against addiction.

One only lasted a few months, he shared his views that it wasn’t right for him, not hands on enough and he didn’t want to be in that location. Others moved on to other jobs, and one or two still work their part time today.

The theory of change helped us take an idea, and turn it into reality to meet our goals. It’s not a complex thing to do, it doesn’t take weeks to do, and will really help you connect to your cause.

Give it a go and feel free to share what you’ve done or let us know if you’d like some help putting it together – michael@ensoco.co.uk

Originally posted at https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/applying-the-theory-of-change-e1f0f570ec12

Why we should always strive for an embedded model for our social enterprise

A look at which models exist and which are deemed ‘best’

The flexibility of social enterprise is something that makes it a lot more appealing than having to go the traditional non-profit route. However with a number of models out there, it can sometimes be hard to define which is and which isn’t a social enterprise.

You may have even heard in the news that Apple was moving towards being a social enterprise. Whilst many were quick to dismiss this based on the way Apple has worked, does work, and the cash reserves it holds, others had heard the term social enterprise for the first time and suddenly thought Apple was one such model. This is not the case.

At the other end of the scale, there is the myth that the organisation has to focus on employing people from a vulnerable group in order to be classed as a social enterprise. This is, in fact, a type of social enterprise known as WISE (work integrated social enterprise).


For those new to this sector, here are the the three most commonly talked about models in social enterprise, which each have a name that relates to the social/environmental cause.

Embedded model

Where the product or service directly provides the solution to the cause and is fully linked to the social or environmental goal(s).

For example, providing latrine solutions in a sustainable and entrepreneurial way when the organisational goal is to improve health and wellbeing whilst reducing attacks.

Integrated model

Where the product or service provides some crossover with the social or environmental goal(s). In some countries they are forced to use two legal entities — one for doing good and the other for making money.

For example, running a coffee shop which donates its profits back to the non-profit whilst also offering work for some of their users or clients.

External model

Where the product or service has very little to no connection with the social or environmental goal, and may even donate outside of the organisation.

For example, producing and selling wooden boxes whilst funding computer lessons for primary school students.


So now when you look at the models, you could potentially see how people thought Apple could even dare to think about becoming a social enterprise. Then we can think about a number of private corporations and how they, more and more, are donating to certain causes or sponsoring specific events.

Taking a step back from that, and looking at the integrated model. This is sometimes where social enterprises have found themselves struggling to make ends meet. Perhaps their product or service didn’t have the demand they had hoped. Perhaps what is a great cause just isn’t a sustainable business. These social enterprises pivot in three ways. They can  give up and collapse, innovate and stick to their guns, or find something that sells, even if it isn’t linked to their cause. It’s this last one that can commonly lead to an integrated model and can dilute the nature of the social enterprise.

Then we have the embedded model. Where the substance of everything you do is linked to your cause, it’s sustainable and you have impact pouring out of each department. Your suppliers are all social enterprises, your paper recycled in-house and you have a staff volunteering program with the local community. Social enterprise flows in the veins of everyone involved, directors, workers and buyers, and decisions are made with everyone’s best interest in mind.

It’s not hard to see why we should be striving for such a model. It’s not easy to get there, and definitely takes more effort and skill in navigating the business world we live in. Your original idea will have to be tweaked and improved, and if things aren’t going well then you will be faced with the three options mentioned earlier.

But just like any successful business, when you have that idea, and convince everyone it is the right product or service for them, this time with the added value of being an embedded social enterprise, you will be closer to dominating the market for years to come.

Originally posted on:

https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/why-we-should-always-strive-for-an-embedded-model-for-our-social-enterprise-6e66c854e9fd

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

What actually is a social enterprise?

It’s a question we often get asked, and it’s never an easy answer.

That’s not because we don’t know, but because depending on where you are there are normally different ideas of what exactly constitutes a social enterprise.

Let’s start with some generalisations to get the ball rolling anyway:

  1. A social enterprise must be transparent and open. Social entrepreneurs effectively put the way they act into their organisations – or they should do.
  2. A social enterprise should have a triple bottom line. This involves having social, environmental and financial goals and making sure they’re all taken into consideration when making business decisions.
  3. A social enterprise should make some money through trading on the open market. If all your money comes from government grants or contracts, then you may not be a social enterprise – more of an charity or NGO.
  4. A social enterprise has to reinvest a proportion of its profits into its social/environmental goal. This doesn’t mean reinvesting it into the business and buying yourself an Aston Martin Vanquish though.

Whoever we speak to in the social entrepreneurship sphere, they always provide us with those four themes. If we take a closer look at some areas, you will see how the definition varies from person to person, organisation to organisation and country to country.

  1. In some countries, social enterprises must publicly report on their social and environmental impact, as well as their financial accounts. They must engage all stakeholders in decision making and have open membership.
  2. In certain countries, you must explicitly state what each of your goals are (for people, planet and profit) when setting up, in others you have to have one main goal, be it environmental or social, and not be too clear elsewhere.
  3. We have seen that the percentage of money coming from trading changes from country to country. Some stating a minimum of 25% gives you social enterprise status, others 50%. There’s normally special dispensation for start-ups or NGOs converting over though.
  4. This has the biggest range. In Croatia, their strategy states 75% of profits should be reinvested, in the UK CiC’s (social enterprise legal form) is 65%, and the scale goes all the way down to not stating how much of your profits should be reinvested.

Furthermore, and outside the general rules, some countries state you must employ people from vulnerable groups to qualify and others state the government can never be the owner of a social enterprise.

Now you have a bit more insight into the complexities we sometimes face in explaining, but there are a few organisations trying to make things more precise and clearer, which we will discuss next time.