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.


kettlegun dan said...

We will be applying very soon.

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colin said...

Happy to have the mark already

Dan Martin said...

Dan, many thanks for your comment.

I see you are a Coop. At Voice10, the founder of The Phone Coop said he had been asked for apply for the Mark but his organisation doesn't actually qualify.

Dan Martin said...

Colin, thankyou for your response.

What is your reaction to the criticism of the Mark? Do you believe the criteria is correct?

Anthony said...

We've applied - there is some controversy about criteria...its a fundamental identifier for soents- the process I hope is quick and ensures a rapid ident for procurers and consumers.

It was the phone-coop chat we had at #voice10 that concerned me Dan,


Amanda said...

"it's a fundamental identifier for socents"

Yes, this appears to be the idea. Yet, as far as I can see, this is simply not true and therefore is precisely what worries me. A social enterprise should not be defined by the specificities of it's ownership or governance structure, degrees of acceptable / unacceptable profit, but rather on the following two simple points:

1) is it sustainable (e.g. not reliant on charitable donations, grants or subsidies)

2) it is providing measurable, consistent social benefit which grows in line with turnover? (e.g. it's not ok for the social benefit to plateau if profits continue to grow.)

If yes to both I say it's a socent.

My concern is that a lot of genuine socents wont be able to receive the mark but a sufficient number will to make it a recognisable logo and concept, much like fairtrade serving only to further confuse public perception of an already ill understood sector and putting those socents who wont receive it at a massive unfair disadvantage when it comes to public perception.

For the purposes of transparency, that's my tweet in the copy above and Red Button Design is an internationally award winning Social Enterprise, with a double page spread in the 2009 "Social Investment Almanack" and yet we are ineligible for the mark.

Just my $0.02, feel free to challenge it!

Amanda, (@RedButtonDesign)

Dave Dawes said...

I agree with a lot of what Amanda has posted. I have no problem with the SE Mark being A mark as long as it doesn't try and represent itself as THE mark.

The profit distribution ration, the dissolution clause and the independence requirement are all debatable and I can think of many social enterprises that are widely recognised as social enterprises without these. For example ALL trading subsidiaries of charities fail the independence requirement as they are controlled and in many cases owned by the original charity.

I am chair of a Social Enterprise that has the mark and director of 3 others of which only one meets all the criteria (and I have no interest in applying for that one). Most of the national and international SE organisations would also fail to meet all the mark standards (Ashoka, Social Enterprise Coalition, Skoll Foundation, UnLtd, etc).

I see having the Mark as similar to being a CIC, it fits some social enterprises and not all and as long as we don't try and force all organisations down this route then it has a place in the movement.

Dan Martin said...

Amanda and Dave, many thanks for your comments.

There is a demand for some sort of accepted definition of social enterprise and the Mark is an attempt to do that. However, I agree with Amanda that the danger is as the Mark begind to get more mainstream it will be seen as the only definition of social enterprise putting those social businesses which don't qualify at a disadvantage.

With People said...

Here at With People CIC, in Edinburgh, we hold the Mark. We are aware that there are differing views on the eligibility criteria and accept them.

We believe, and our motivation for applying for, the mark was to raise the profile of social enterpise amongst the public.

Anonymous said...

Still struggling to see how a tight categorisation and a high social distribution of profits makes this a point of aspiration rather than a point of exclusion.

With the vast majority of UK economic activity how does this influence other entreprises to be more socially driven and controlled. Is this just a self-define ghetto. I muse more about the ghetto issue elsewhere, but this will be a problem when businesses look for funding and look to take part in social projects. We tolerate BT and Microsoft paying lip service by funding small amounts of education to secure public sector market share but don't treat small businesses taking greater risks or reduced profit levels on social ratehr commercial enterprises? What behaviour are we trying to drive - more socially driven enterprise.

thomas said...

Hello all,

I aggree with the fact that Social Businesses and Enterprises definitely need to be recognized, to be seen as different in order to raise their popularity....
However, the point I can not agree with is,of course, the setting criteria.
In effect, if we would refer to this criteria, many of our SBEs would not be able to get the Social Enterprise Mark...

All the best, Thomas, ClearlySo.
>>> The Hub for Social Businesses, Social Enterprises and Social Investment.

Anonymous said...

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