One of the oldest forms of social enterprise is called WISE — a work integration social enterprise. This is a social enterprise whose main priority is to provide employment to a specific group of people, often hard-to-employ or vulnerable.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
These inputs lead directly to an output, and they will sound very similar.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally posted at https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/applying-the-theory-of-change-e1f0f570ec12
A key element which puts the social into social enterprise is the way you spend your profits. Out with the idea that only shareholders or investors should benefit from the hard work of your company. Instead, it’s now time to invest in the wider community.
However as you navigate the literal world of social enterprise you will see a range of regulations or recommendations. Here we look at what exists in terms of asset locks, commitments and suggestions.
Over in the UK, you can legally register as a social enterprise, locally known as a CiC. Once registered, the asset lock and dividend cap come into place. These ensure that the profit is either retained within the company or used to meet its social or environmental goals. This currently stands at 65%, meaning the rest can be paid out as dividends to the traditional shareholders or investors.
With no legal structure in Australia, things aren’t as clear cut as in the UK. Therefore many turn to the definition used by Social Traders in their FASES report, where it states that the majority of profit/surplus must be reinvested. Given that a majority can be 50.01%, any company that does this, either through reporting or constitutional locks can be classes as a social enterprise
Not to be confused with Certified BCorp, the Benefit Corporation is a legal structure with different rules on reporting per state. The main difference is that it gives the board the opportunity to make decisions based on both financial AND social reasons. This signifies a shift from the previous focus on a financial duty to shareholders. However there is nothing related to paying out dividends nor reinvesting profits.
What’s best for social business?
Three countries, three different set of rules. They do all protect the need for the triple bottom line, to ensure the organisation is able to make the social or environmental goal as important as the financial one. Which one goes far enough? There are arguments that dividend caps can share of investors, but this is why there is now a movement in the ‘impact investment world’.
Ultimately I would say, for trust purposes with both customers and stakeholders, having a legal requirement that a set percentage has to be committed, is better. You can build your business model around this, you can plan short, medium and long-term investment on it, and you can boast about it to the world.
What do you think is a reasonable percentage for reinvestment?
Originally published at https://medium.com/@michaelfreersplit/how-much-profit-should-go-towards-your-goal-167fe95a465a
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.
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
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.
This week, whilst browsing LinkedIn, we came across some very useful (and free) tools and resources for social entrepreneurs at socialgoodimpact.com. So check them out! They were posted by Beth Palm who is also the founder of BAM Essentials, a social enterprise that produces organic personal care products benefiting programs for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds in Minnesota. We caught up with Beth to find out more.
How did BAM Essentials start and where is it today?
I’d been creating organic personal care products for friends and family for years, and started getting more interest in where people could buy these items. I wrote a business plan and vetted partners for about a year before formally launching in May 2015 with an online shop and 4 SKUs. Now BAM Essentials has over 30 SKUs, is sold on two online platforms, and 4 retail shops in Minnesota.
What legal entity did you choose for BAM Essentials and why? BAM Essentials is an LLC, and I chose that legal structure because even though this would qualify as a nonprofit, I didn’t want the loss of control and red tape of nonprofit operations when starting my self-funded business. I’m happy to pay taxes on my profitable social enterprise, and have full control of reinvesting in the social enterprise where I see it’s the best. I wanted to leverage an existing network of supporters and expertise at a nonprofit organization, rather than start from scratch.
Can you give us an idea of one of the challenges you face at the moment? One of our largest challenges is the competitive landscape and low barriers to entry in the personal care product market. It’s tough to stand out in a crowded marketplace!
Finally, what would be the piece of advice you offer to social entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey? My number one most important piece of advice to budding social entrepreneurs is to WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN. The social enterprises I’ve seen fail do so because they don’t have a business plan and/or don’t run their social enterprise with a profitable mindset.
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.
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.