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Social enterprise lost in translation?

Come to a Social Enterprise World Forum and what do you expect?…..lots of folk from lots of different countries speaking foreign languages! And yet how can two simple words like Social Enterprise mean different things to so many people?

Today I shared the stage with Francis Ngai from Social Ventures Hong Kong and together we discussed the intriguing subject of investment readiness. For him and others in his country all social enterprises are legitimately allowed to distribute profit providing their impact is engrained and enduring. Meanwhile Francesca Agnello, our facilitator for the session and who hails from Italy, talks in terms of it being all about cooperatives and employee ownership in her country. Kathrin Hassler on the other hand, audience participant and someone who has worked in Haiti tells me that in that country its about making valiant attempts to break even but in the event that doesn’t quite work out then NGOs will step in and save the day because it’s essentially state enterprise in disguise.

And so to the subject investment readiness. Well for me and our approach at SIS, it’s about having the Will, the Skill and someone to send a Bill to. By that I mean that a board of directors or trustees need to have accepted the ideological step change away from grants, within an organisation that has the skills to both utilise and manage money and more fundamentally, has a sound business proposition underpinning it. As far as being ready to take on loan finance is concerned …that’s a very different proposition to attracting equity, undertaking a share offer or playing at business. Social Enterprise…lost in translation or group noun?