- Geof Cox's Blog
- Can social enterprise save public services?
- Greece, France - making enterprise more social...
- Small is the new big!
- Social impact is no longer an option for big brands
- What on earth is Social Enterprise UK doing?
- Asset Based Strategy Matrix
- Copyright infringement is NOT theft
- Impact2 Social Enterprise Conference
- Not So Grim Up North
- CASE's 30th Birthday
- Guardian Blog
- The Senscot Bulletin
- The Performance of Socially Responsible Investment
- Social Investment – or the Emperor's New Clothes
- Such a definitions mess that NOBODY can now clear it up?
- Social Enterprise Mark... or Social Enterprise Brand?
- Why social enterprise needs its own approach to intellectual property rights
- Does the social enterprise movement lack leadership?
- Business models based on greed and exploitation
- Not many jokes...
- NHS Social Enterprise Spin-outs - the real story
- Will tendering ever work for social enterprise?
- Learning from the Open Source Movement
- The Guardian & Social Enterprise
- The focus on a few kinds of social enterprise is blinding us to a bigger picture
- What do social enterprise and chocolate have in common?
- From Albania Again
- Guardian Social Enterprise Summit
- A conflict common to many co-operatives...
- Social Enterprise in Albania
- 2010 social enterprise visit to Russia - 1
- Day 2 in Rybinsk: -18°c
- Post 3 from Russia - Back to Moscow
- A typical question...
- Sounding like David Cameron...
- Do structures stymie social enterprise?
- 'Right to Request' tender collapses
- The number of 'social enterprises' just doesn't add up
- Social Firms Conference
- What is it, exactly, we’re doing with Social Firms?
- Social Firms UK Annual Conference
- Social Firms and the CIC Consultation
- What is social enterprise?
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 1 - Moscow, Schekino and Kaluga
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Rybinsk
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Vyshniy Volochek & Ostashkov
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 3 - Moscow & Aleksin
- Ostashkov Conference, October 2008
- Selected old blog entries
- Public Service Transformation
- Organisational structures - and restructuring
- Doing social enterprise
- Knowledge should be free
- Associates and trusted partners
- Джеф Кокс, информация на русском языке
Social Investment – or the Emperor's New Clothes
From the point of view of the voluntary sector the hype surrounding social enterprise in recent years can look very like the emperor's new clothes – after all, charities through their trading subsidiaries, or directly through 'primary purpose' trading, have been earning income for social purposes for years. Scottish social enterprise guru Laurence De Marco recently estimated that 90% of Scottisn social enterprise is still done by charities.
But if there's one area that can match social enterprise for hype, it is social investment. Social investment is less passive than ethical or 'socially responsible' investment – which merely tries like Google to 'do no evil'. Instead, social investment is about actively backing social outcomes. The current flavour of the month is the social impact bond, which produces a financial return directly proportionate to social gains. The casual observer might easily run away with the impression that such social investment is really happening – right here, right now.
It is in this context that the recent BCG / Young Foundation report, Lighting the Touchpaper, makes such sobering reading. Because outside of community co-ops and local community share issues – which like the voluntary sector predate the hype - social investment doesn't really seem to be happening at all.
Total social investment in 2010/11 was £165m, of which only about 2% was equity (£ 3 or 4 million).
The report places this in a number of contexts to communicate how incredibly small it is - for example total voluntary sector income of over £35 billion on assets of nearly £100 billion.
Of course the tiny seed of social investment is expected to grow. The report includes a Foreword by Nick O'Donohoe, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital. John Mulkerrin, who has made the CIC Association the largest and fastest growing social enterrise umbrella body in the UK now, and who drew my attention to the Young report, draws the conclusion that CIC shares need to be made more investible.
No doubt there are many lessons here. Our movement has already been guilty of projecting a distorted impression of social enterprise as distinct from the voluntary sector on the one hand and ethical business on the other - wheras in fact it is these wings that have lifted social enterprise to it's present position. The last thing we need is another case of the emperor's new clothes.