Social Enterprise Needs a Razor Sharp Focus
3 September 2013 at 8:32 pm
Your social enterprise cannot be all things to all people says Sophie O’Halloran from The Crunch Communications at Social Traders.
In the big brave world of communities in need, the hard part is not figuring out how to help, its deciding where to stop. One challenge Social Traders faces time and again when coaching social enterprises is convincing them you can’t fight the battle on all fronts.
Social enterprises need to focus and make a decision about how they’re going to deliver their community benefit. Employment, access to services or income generation: pick a core purpose and stick to it.
Employment: When your social purpose is about employment you are delivering community benefit by providing work, training and support for marginal groups in need. Your success is not about large profit.
Your success is about delivering employment outcomes to the community while generating enough income to cover your operating costs and be financially sustainable. Your business model is designed around creating opportunities for a disadvantaged group to get a leg up. You understand why your community in need is struggling and you’ve set about giving them the resources or opportunities they need to get back in the game.
Case in point: Cleanable
Service delivery: There’s a gaping hole in the market and you’ve found it! You have identified a service that your community is in desperate need of but cannot afford or face obstacles accessing. Again, your social impact is achieved in the very delivery of said services to the community. Childcare, health services or fresh food, whether the service be social, environmental or economic, your social enterprise is directly overcoming the barriers that are preventing access for your beneficiaries.
Income generation: Your social enterprise has the potential to make the big bucks that can be applied to fund programs to support communities in need. Your business plan must have identified a highly profitable market opportunity and be able to generate enough profit to support you and have enough left over to fund charitable works.
Case in point: Integrated Medical Centre
Laid out like that, it’s pretty clear why social enterprises that try to fulfill too many social purposes don’t succeed. If you want to make a key service accessible to a community that can’t usually afford it, you will never make big profits. If you want to make big profits to fund community welfare programs, you won’t do it by employing people with high training and support needs. Have a razor sharp focus on why your social enterprise exists and always come back to that when making decisions. Once you’ve defined your purpose you can move ahead knowing you don’t have to solve all the world’s problems to make a difference through social enterprise.
Applications for The Crunch, Social Traders flagship social enterprise start-up incubator program, are open until 4 October. www.socialtraders.com.au/thecrunch