Social Enterprise vs Entrepreneurship: Are we Missing the Point?

Often the term social enterprise is laden with certain assumptions and stereotypes – many of these come with the term ‘entrepreneur’.  Entrepreneurs are presented as ‘mavericks’ challenging the status quo, systems and processes and not conforming to the norm.  In a nutshell, Silicon Valley types! 

It’s liberating to be different and to think about how to solve a problem creativelyWithout creativity and challenge many of the world’s problems would remain unaddressed with no identified solution to fill the gaps left by the state and the market. However good social enterprises should not be flash-in-the-pan start-ups aimed at ‘high growth’ to pay back shareholders, focused on a couple of heroesThey are here to stay for as long as the social challenge exists and to create and mould themselves to the next challenge whatever that isThis is why I don’t agree with the social enterprise leaders who say ‘I’m working myself out of a job’.  There will always be social and environmental challenges and we need good social enterprises to address them as they come along rather than constantly having to reinvent the wheel. 

Thinking of the current world situation with war so close both in Russia and the Middle East, I am reminded of my trips to Siberia in 2018 and 19, where I first learned of the rise of the ‘NGO’ in the early 90s when the whole economy collapsed.  People were struggling to feed themselves.  Academics at the university I attended were growing potatoes in the woods. Women (and by and large they were and are women) community leaders got together to fill the gaps as state intervention completely disappeared.  They formed organisations like the Siberia Centre that raised money and created NGOs to help the community cope and support other NGOs – a concept previously unheard of.  I don’t think that these women would have classed themselves as mavericks and entrepreneurs though.  They just got on and did what needed to be done, creating social infrastructure for the long term, where the system had failed.  Increasingly Siberian social enterprises

 are now filling these spaces (also mainly led by younger women) addressing all sorts of social and environmental problems including recycling and eco-fashion. 

What we need internationally, are good, well-run social enterprises with longevity and resilience and an ability to adapt to the challenges that society presents.  It’s a journey.  It’s not enough to just have the right legal structure and cause, we need to show continual improvement and consistent social impact.   

Social Enterprise Silver Mark

This is why we have extended our services to launch the missing step in our social enterprise pathway – the Social Enterprise Silver Mark.  The Silver Mark is aimed at social enterprises that want to show maturity and continual improvement.  They are on a journey to excellence, providing independent proof, a supportive tailored process and recommendations for achieving our highest level of excellence (the Social Enterprise Gold Mark) using the same robust criteria and assessment methodology, but with lower evidence thresholds and capacity requirements from the applicant.  The Silver Mark also offers a chance for reflection and celebration that social enterprises don’t often get because they are so busy changing the world! 


We will be welcoming our long-standing friend and founding Chair of The Big Issue Nigel Kershaw who join us to speak at our online celebration.  I hope to see you there.



Details of the launch event can be found here:

The Social Enterprise Silver Mark – Launch Event



If you are interested in accrediting your business to show your ethical and purposeful social enterprise credentials, you can register your interest here. You can also take our short online quiz to quickly identify if your business is eligible.

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