What is a social enterprise?
Here in New Zealand, this question has been discussed, debated and defined many times over without conclusion. And with so much unresolved talk in this space, many people have started to feel discouraged and disengaged with the notion.
But after listening to Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK at The Kitchen late last month, it feels like there has been a shift in thinking, after he reminded us that the real meaning of Social Enterprise lies in action rather than definitions.
Peter did define Social Enterprise as: “Organisations whose stated primary objective is to achieve social impact rather than generating profit for owners and shareholders”.
However, in the hour that he spent talking with us, he focused little of his attention on the definition, instead spending most of his time on real examples.
He shared stories. He shared statistics. He shared the reality of creating change; the good, the hard and the inevitable.
He reminded us that Social Enterprise already exists here in New Zealand, and that people running organisations that achieve social impact rather than generating profit, will be just getting on and doing it; not talking about doing it.
He also reminded us that for Social Enterprise to become a recognised sector, with the attention and support that it deserves, we need to quantify the impact, record the success, and get more people right from grass-roots community to goverment and business to understand the importance of Social Enterprise.
But again, we won’t do this by simply talking about it. And we certainly won’t do it by simply defining the sector. We’ll do it by showing people tangible change.
This means that we need to find and champion real examples. We need to learn from what already exists both here in New Zealand and abroad. And ultimately we need to create more examples of social impact rather than profit.
And to do this, we need to be truly enterprising. We need to think like businessmen, but with the heart of the community. We need to seek out and create opportunities. And we need to invest profit into the growth of community instead of the growth of individuals.
So let’s stop talking about the definitions, and let’s start talking about real examples. Let’s talk about the impact. And let’s create change.
Thanks to British Council and the Office of Ethnic Affairs for organising the event, The Kitchen for hosting the presentation, and Peter Holbrook himself for giving us a boost of enthusiasm and showing us that change can happen.
Peter Holbrook presentation: 24 April 2012
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