We work with several people who have used other organisations that are using ‘social enterprises’, and they have each come to us because they weren’t satisfied with their experience.
I would always ask the following questions.

  • Other than giving money away, what does the organisation do to help social problems? Does it employ from the long term unemployed, or provide training, does it help people on its doorstep? In short, does it have social value running through it like a stick of rock or is it bolted on?

  • How are the products and services it provides procured? Is it selling goods that you can pick up at Costco or does it promote products and services that themselves originate from social enterprises? Does it grow the social economy?

  • Does it give excellent service? Sure, you can be social, but you have to be a good business as well, don’t you?

  • What are its environmental credentials? How deeply enmeshed is the environment in what it does? There should be no gap between its ideals for people and the planet.

  • Does it have an asset lock?  Companies that are formed as CICs are regulated by the Office of the Regulator for Social Enterprise. They cannot be sold to profit the founders and their assets have to go back to the community. If it doesn’t have an asset lock and it’s not regulated, then its social roots do not run deep.

If any of those questions result in an awkward silence then perhaps it’s time to do some more digging. There may well be better out there.