To be relevant as a methodology for social sector practitioners, social enterprise must address the challenges common to all social sector organizations, while offering novel approaches to addressing these challenges.1
At the core of social enterprise methodology lies a simple observation: private sector marketslike it or notare predominant worldwide, massively overshadowing public sector markets. At the same time, many social sector challenges can be demonstrably related to the inclination of private sector markets to provide for the short-term needs of a few rather than for the long-term common goodparticularly when the two are not deemed compatible.
The social enterprise methodology differentiates itself in the way it seeks to associate social sector challenges and private sector limitations. It addresses both concurrently by leveraging the strengths of private sector markets (as exemplified by the business methodology) to achieve social gain.2 The beauty of social enterprise is that commuting business practices to effect social change offers so much more possibility than just money.3 Social enterprise methodology harnesses the power of the private sector by actively engaging in the market and strategically employing market mechanisms in decision-making to solve social problems and generate value for the greater good. Other methodology tenets include operating the social enterprise with the financial discipline, innovation and determination characteristic of private business, which promote savvy survivalist behavior time-tested in markets.
|Address social sector challenges…
|…by leveraging private sector strengths while addressing its limitations.
|Depth of Impact:
How effectively do we address the social problem?
How effective are we at integrating social and economic value creation?
Do we systematically strive to do more with less?
Are we willing and able to respond to changing conditions?
- 1We are not implying that being novel automatically makes you better; instead we are saying that to be relevant, a new methodology obviously has to bring something new; whether it performs better has to be judged on, well, how it performs! This seems rather obvious but important to avoid falling in the trap of innovation for the sake of innovation.
- 2This "fighting-fire-with-fire" aspect is probably what makes the social enterprise methodology both effective and hazardous at the same time.
- 3Alter, Kim. Social Enterprise Models and Their Mission Relationships, in Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Innovation. Oxford University Press, 2006.