Dare To Be A Social Enterprise!


photo: Social Enterprise Network/Creative Commons
The following is a guest post from Erica Grigg, Founder & CMO at Carbon Outreach.

Green business, triple bottom line business, social enterprise, non-profit, ethical company; green certified; B Corp or responsible business; are we talking about the same thing? And if so, we should dare to call ourselves, "Social Enterprise"!

Today, the idea of "social enterprise" is a buzzing phrase, especially the UK. There, the Social Enterprise Coalition counts social enterprises at 62,000+ and contributing around $32 billon+ (or £24 billion) to their economy, all while employing 800,000+ people. Social enterprises are starting to have a stronger voice with local government and among other bigger businesses over the UK. In London, one key social enterprise foundation, UnLtd, holds a $150+ million (or £100 million) endowment for business development for only the most innovative and sharp social entrepreneurs.

The phrase, "Social Enterprise" started the early 70's with conversation in, "Sociology and Social Movements", which isn't online funny enough. The phrase was also made famous within a 1981 report on "A Management Tool for Co-operative Working" by Freer Spreckly.

The stories of social enterprises are the key to their success. In the process of trying to change the world, social enterprises have garnered not only success but admiration by their customers. Think about Seventh Generation or TOMS Shoes, for example.

After recently reading The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, I was moved by her path across South America and Africa researching real-life social enterprises. At the same time, I've also heard of start-up stories from other social entrepreneurs who started in the late 80's, like Christine Esposito, who is now President, Terracom Public Relations.

And the stories of social entrepreneurs are memorable.

In 2011, the Harvard Business Review is talking about, "rethinking capitalism". In opposition with purely money hungry business, social enterprises offer an alternative business model that focuses on helping community, being financially feasible, while also maintaining organizations' clearly stated social or environmental missions.

Social enterprise is getting more and more popular, with now around 90K+ hits on Google (compared to say, 100 million+ of 'Facebook login'). People are becoming curious about this topic, and Americans are tentatively moving away from donor-centric business models. Whether you're a for-profit or not-for-profit, understanding your cause-based company as a social enterprise.

And yet, I've asked several businesses (not named) that might label themselves as "social enterprises" which still call themselves non-profits or green businesses. I'm not against defining your organization strictly as a non-profit, it just seems quantifying our shared value through organizations like associations, clubs or groups, we could help re-dine business.

Social enterprise is already re-defining business and the development of corporate social responsibility, corporate philanthropy and socially responsible investing among many other industries. But if we all were labeled, "social enterprise", we could move quicker.

So let's just admit that we're the face of business change. Social enterprises throughout the USA are making great strides for re-defining the role of capitalism.

Let's dare to be social enterprises.

Erica Grigg is Founder & CMO of Carbon Outreach. Carbon Outreach is a marketing and digital advertising consultancy focused entirely on social enterprise, non-profits and corporate philanthropy programs. Erica is Organizer & Moderator of the Marketing & PR for Social Enterprise Meetup in New York City, and is co-authoring a series of books on Social Media for Social Enterprise starting in May 2011. Find out more about their events at http://carbonoutreach.com/events and follow her at http://twitter.com/ericagrigg. Follow Carbon Outreach on Twitter at http://twitter.com/carbonoutreach. Erica blogs on the Carbon Outreach blog and speaks at numerous events across the United States to provide opportunities for social enterprise development.
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