Saturday, 13 February 2010

UPDATED: Is The Phone Co-op’s Social Enterprise Mark award an attempt to quell the critics?

I spotted a tweet this afternoon with a link to the announcement that The Phone Co-op has been awarded the recently launched Social Enterprise Mark. This is a high profile development given that the successful telecoms company was named social enterprise of the year by the Social Enterprise Coalition (SEC) in 2008 and its founder Vivian Woodell is a regular attendee and speaker at the sector’s big events.

What is intriguing however is that at Voice10, SEC’s annual conference in Cardiff, Woodell was asked whether he had applied for the Mark. He said he had but had been rejected because his co-operative didn’t fit the criteria. The comment was made during one of the workshops at Voice10, not during one of the main plenaries, but I was in the room when he said it.

The Social Enterprise Mark’s blog post makes reference to the “concern” over The Phone Co-op being rejected but does not say whether the criteria has been adapted or whether Vivian was mistaken when he made his comment in Cardiff.

Since its high profile launch at Voice10, the Mark has been met with some criticism from social entrepreneurs and other interested parties. Most have focused on Clause E of the criteria which calls for at least 50% of profits to be committed to a social or environmental cause. Those running co-ops have also expressed
concern that they are excluded. 

The cynic in me would say that today’s development is a publicity stunt and an attempt to quell the doubters but at the moment I can’t confirm that. What is clear though is that the Mark does not yet have the support of the entire social enterprise sector and issues such as this won’t help.

I will do some digging and see what I can find out but in the meantime I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

UPDATED (16/02/10)

Yesterday, the following quote from Vivian Woodell was published on the Social Enterprise Mark blog in response to my post above:

“It is absolutely clear that we were not rejected at any stage, and I never said that we were. What I said was that when we read the criteria initially, it looked as if we (along with other co-ops) might not qualify, because of what appeared to be rather rigid rules about profit distribution. They did not change their rules to accommodate us, and what Lucy Findlay said is correct – the application was still in process when I spoke at Voice. We heard that we had been awarded the Mark soon afterwards.”

Fair enough. However, my confusion does perhaps reflect the general confusion about how the rules apply. Woodell thought the criteria ruled him out but it turns out it doesn't. Why?

Friday, 5 February 2010

Poll: Does your social enterprise qualify for the Social Enterprise Mark?

The long awaited Social Enterprise Mark was launched at the Social Enterprise Coalition's Voice10 on Monday evening with indoor fireworks and spectacular circus performances.

After a trial in the South West, the team behind the Mark claim it is a watershed moment for the UK social enterprise sector but does your organisation qualify?

Many social entrepreneurs have criticised the application criteria for excluding some businesses whose owners consider them to be social enterprises. Much of the criticism focuses on the fact that to be awarded the Mark organisations must put at least 50% of profits into a social or environmental cause.

Bloggers like Rob Greenland have expressed concern about the Mark as have some social enterpreneurs on Twitter:
What do you think? Do you qualify for the Mark according to the criteria? Take part in the quick poll below. I'd also be interested to hear why you think you do or don't qualify.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Live video and blog: Voice10, the Social Enterprise Coalition's annual conference

Live video: Voice10 day two

Live blog:

Video replay: Day one of Voice10