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Social Enterprises for Community Development

Provide an account of the history of the emergence of social enterprise and community development in the U.K.

Social enterprise is a social mission driven organisation which essentially trades in the goods or services for a uniquely social purpose. These social enterprises aim to achieve their objectives in not only financial but also in the social and environmental. They are profit making ventures set up to attempt to acknowledge the environmental and social need. The reason that these enterprises are unique is due to their central purpose being either social or environmental. These social enterprises are more interested in generating profit in order to further their environmental or social goals.

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In all industrialised countries, there is a growth in the social enterprise sector which is also known as the ‘non profit sector’ (Defourny 2001, p.1) or third sector situated in between private and public sector. These organisations are representative of the renewed expression of a civil society among an economic crisis, difficulties which are facing the welfare state and the weakening of social bonds in society. Social enterprise is considered as comprising co-operatives, mutual’s (Credit Unions) and voluntary organisations (charities and foundations). Many of these categories were founded in the last century and they play an important part in the economic landscape.

Social enterprise can be traced back as far as the 1840’s in Rochdale, where the first workers’ co-operative was founded to provide affordable, quality food in a response to exploitative factory conditions. It was in the mid 1970’s when these social enterprises began to emerge into the mainstream. They had already been active in other areas and began to come to the forefront with increasing economic difficulties deepening and it was against this background that the interests in other economic organisations became strongly reactivated. It was the late 1990’s that a resurgence in social enterprise was experienced in the UK, with different traditions coming together. These organisations are strongly rooted in solid and long standing traditions as most of these organisations had already existed for more than a century and had been constantly growing.

The first agency in the UK, was Social Enterprise London (SEL) which was established in 1998 between co-operative businesses and a number of co-development agencies. From this the British government in 2002 launched a unified Social Enterprise Strategy and established a Social Enterprise Unit (SEnU) to help implement it in England and Wales. From this policy development has been increasingly influenced by the organisations in the non profit sector.

There are now many organisations which are classed as social enterprises, John LewisThe Eden ProjectThe Big Issue and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – Fifteen.

Identify two models of good practice existent in the U.K.

There are three characteristics of social enterprises as defined by Social Enterprise London:

  1. Enterprise Orientation – directly involved in producing the goods or providing services to a market, seeking to be viable trading organisations with an operating surplus
  2. Social Aims – explicit social aims such as job creation, training or the provision of local services. Ethical values are important and they are accountable to their members and the wider community for their social, environmental and economic impact
  3. Social Ownership – they are autonomous organisations with governance and ownership structures based on participation by stakeholders or by trustees. The profits are distributed as profit sharing to the stakeholders of used to benefit the community.

Two such models of good practice existent in the UK are Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – Fifteen and The Big Issue.

Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen was opened in London in 2002. This was inspired by Oliver and was broadcast on TV. Its name is derived from the first cohort of fifteen young people. Oliver has combined two ambitions – to open a top class restaurant and to give disadvantaged youth a chance to gain the professional training they require to set them up to be independent, inspired and to have a chance at a productive life. It is a registered charity as well as a commercial business and it a chef apprenticeship for 18 to 24 year olds. It is indeed a social enterprise offering a produce with a purpose, a high end dining experience where the best of produce is prepared by great chefs and served by professional people. Its main purpose is the empowerment of young disadvantaged people, giving them a second chance to establish themselves in the restaurant industry. With the success of the London restaurant it has also been established in Amsterdam, Cornwell and Melbourne, with their own foundation and apprenticeship schemes. The strength of the Fifteen brand as of one of the leading global social enterprises. Jamie Oliver is passionate about this issue and wants to help young adults to be able to have prospects for the future.

The Big Issue exists as a social enterprise to offer homeless and vulnerably housed people a chance to earn a legitimate income. It is one of the UK’s leading social businesses, which continues to help those in need earn an legitimate income. It was launched in the UK in 1991 by Gordon Roddick and A. John Bird as a response to the amount of rough sleepers in London. The main aim behind this is to help people help themselves and the founders were determined to offer an alternative to begging. I n November 1995, The Big Issue Foundation was launched with the aim to deal with the underlying issues which cause homelessness. The founder’s definition of success is encouraging and influencing people to make life changes positively. The organisation is made up of two entities, a limited company which produces and distributes the magazine to the street vendors and a registered charity which exists to help those same vendors gain control of their lives. The vendor must prove that they are homeless or vulnerably housed, undergo an induction process and sign up to the organisations code of conduct.

Asses the significance of such schemes in terms of:

a) the development of social policy

b) their contribution to the national economy (500 words).

  1. The development of social policy

Development of social policy is influenced by our beliefs, interests and values. Social policy is the guidelines for changing, the maintenance or creation of living conditions which are conductive to human welfare. It is part of public policy which has to do with social matters. Social policy aims to improve on human welfare, and to meet the need for health, housing, education, and social security. It also refers to policies affecting the social condition under which we live. Other important areas of social policy include: health insurance, unemployment benefit, accident insurance, labour regulation etc.

Policy teams are set up in some organisations to be actively involved in influencing public opinion and the decision makers at all levels to make sure that social enterprises remain high on the UK’s policy agendas. The social enterprise organisations work together to strive to improve the business environment and they identify any barriers to growth and advise both government and public bodies on practical solutions as well as develop papers etc. Social enterprises are able to contribute to the creation of a greater impartiality of economic power and a more sustainable society. The aims of these groups is to be recognised and supported for their contributions. Alongside the development of social policy, these groups also aim to raise the awareness and understanding of social enterprise among both politicians and society. They work to influence the political parties and to ensure that social enterprise is both understood and supported.

  1. Their contribution to the national economy

Social enterprise organisations by using solutions to develop not for profits aims hold a distinct role in helping to create a strong, sustainable, inclusive and prosperous society. These organisations play an important role in helping to deliver to the national economy by helping to drive up competitiveness and productivity, contributing to a socially inclusive wealth create, the enablement for communities and individuals to work together to regenerate their local neighbourhoods, showing new ways of delivering public services and helping to develop active citizenship and an inclusive society.

With the presence of a non profit sector, this is an indicator of a healthy economy in local and national financial measurements depending on its size. With growing numbers in the non profit sector, which are focused on the environment, education, social services etc, the non profit sector is central to the health and well being of society. The non profit sector is an excellent outlet for society’s labour and skills.

Social enterprise organisations such as Fifteen or The Big Issue have been set up to give people a chance. They are increasingly taking people off the streets and redeveloping their talents into marketable entities especially in the case of Fifteen, who give underprivileged young people the opportunity to train to be the best they can and to contribute to society and the economy, instead of collecting their benefit each week and being a drain on society. The Big Issue offers those without adequate housing the opportunity to earn an income to better themselves and to make the individuals feel better about themselves.

Using examples from a chosen organisation compare and contrast some of the values and principles underpinning social enterprise and community development.

The Eden Project.

The Eden Project was constructed in a 160 year exhausted china clay quarry near St. Austell, Cornwell and was established as one of the Landmark Millennium Projects to mark the year 2000. It is an educational charity which consists of a world class visitor attraction, a botanical garden and a unique regeneration venture. The Eden Project, like its plants are continually growing and developing. The Eden Project reports to a board who then report to the trustees, to ensure that they are meeting their charitable aims. The Project is owned by a registered charity – The Eden Trust and is operated on behalf of the Trust by Eden Project Limited, a subsidiary who wholly by the Eden Trust.

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The Eden Project, as an educational charity, uses exhibits, workshops, events and educational programmes to educate people to what nature gives to us and to help people learn how to look after it in return. All the monies raised by the Project are returned to the Trust to further the aims. The programmes include work with schools, colleges etc as well as any individuals who want to learn about nature. The organisation believes in learning by doing and to find positive solutions for the future.

The project enforces all three of the characteristics of social enterprise as laid down by Social Enterprise London. Enterprise orientation, The Eden Project is directly involved with providing a service to the marketplace – educated individuals about nature and how to protect and nurture it. They are also producing goods, i.e. bio domes, wind turbines etc to help develop ways of saving the environment.

They have explicit social aims, in that through the Project jobs have been created as well as a environmentally friendly structure. They provide educational training to those who either want or require it. The Eden Project believe in their ethical values and see them as important to all and they are accountable to their members through both their board and their trustees. The Project is also accountable to the wider community in the teaching and also the producing of produces which are helpful both to them and the wider community.

The Eden Project are an autonomous organisation which has governance and ownership structures which are based on participation by the teams reporting to the board who in return report to the trustees. They exist through donations and are a major consumer of goods and services in the Cornwell area, therefore keeping the local economy striving, which in itself is a benefit to the local community. The project feel that it is important to give those who have not previously afforded it, or those with other issues a chance to experience nature. They also provide with Cornwell College an opportunity for local people to work towards a qualification.

Provide an evaluation of your own learning together with evidence of transferable skills which have been used in this assignment. These should include communication, teamwork problem solving and self management.

To evaluation learning which has been used in this assignment, a number of factors need to be assessed. On the approach to the assignment I had to use my communication skills in order to firstly understand what I had been asked to do within the five tasks. This communication also helped me regarding research and analysis skills on using the internet and to evaluate the data which I had sourced. Self management has also been evident in that I had to plan both the assignment and the time management so as to not get behind schedule on the issues which I had to investigate. Team work problem solving was not an issue as I can work well both within a team and on my own and it was just a matter of assigning different tasks.


Borzaga, C., & Defourney, J., (2001) The Emergence of Social Enterprise, Routledge

Burch, H.A., & Michaels, D.G., (1991) They Why’s of Social Policy: Perspective on Policy, Praegar Publishers

Spreckly, F., (1981) Social Audit – A Management Tool for Co-operative Working, Local Livelihoods

http://www.sel.org.uk/ – Social Enterprise London

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