Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How to alienate social entrepreneurs with one tweet: A lesson from the Social Enterprise Mark

I’ve just spotted what I think is a pretty outrageous tweet from the Social Enterprise Mark:

Who on earth decided that such a statement was a good idea? In one fell swoop, the Mark has alienated a large section of the UK’s social enterprise community.

Suggesting that paying for an endorsement is the only way for an entrepreneur to be considered genuine is ridiculous. Yes, the Mark works for many but several social enterprise owners have complained that they don’t fit the organisation’s criteria.

I’ve previously made my thoughts clear about the Mark and I’m yet to be convinced otherwise. There are thousands of social enterprises out there who are not endorsed but are definitely genuine social businesses.

Is the Mark really suggesting that all those thousands of businesses are not genuine and misleading their customers and supporters?

UPDATE (20/07/12):

Anne Montjoy who runs the Social Enterprise Mark Twitter account has got in touch with me. She said her intention with the tweet was to not alienate social entrepreneurs but was actually trying to say that the Mark prevents companies like A4e describing themselves as a social enterprise. I have invited Anne to write a guest post which I will publish on this blog.


Anonymous said...

Some of the organisations given the mark are simply private (or public) commercial companies. I though social enterprise was about what you did with the profit, as well as what you do as an organisation. Seems if you can afford the mark, you can often just have it.

David Floyd said...

Well, unfortunately, the Mark has never been able to resolve the key questions about what it's for.

I think this was a political cock-up based on the number of civil servants and sector leaders involved in setting it up.

It may not have happened if it had been set up on a commercial basis.

Two of the obvious options are:

(a) It's a vehicle for promoting the social enterprise movement in all its diversity - getting a social enterprise brand in as many peoples faces as possible, backed up by campaigns that convey what it means.

If so, then the model would be to have an opt-in charter and get as many organisations signed up and using the Mark as possible - hopefully 10,000 or more, paying £50 - £200 a year - while having a mechanism for excluding extreme cases of 'social wash' such as A4E.

(b) It's an audited Kitemark that provides some sort of guarantee of what a social enterprise is?

If so, that the model is a smaller number of organisations, paying a larger amount of money, based on the commercial benefit they get for proving they're a social enterprise.

My sense is that most people in the social enterprise movement broadly support the first option.

The SE Mark is, more or less, based on the second option - with the expectation that this will somehow lead to option one happening too - but with the added problem that it's not clear what the commercial benefits to social enterprises are.

That's the conceptual flaw in the business model.

That's before you get on to the bigger issue of whether trying to retrospectively define an existing movement is either desirable or possible.

Anonymous said...

It is okay now to be distancing social enterprise from the example of A4E. Social Enterprises are not immune from making the same leadership mistakes or failing to embed the right culture. What will happen when a social enterprise, with the mark, makes such a mistake? Representing the sector's diversity could be more sophisticated.