Data: The Missing Piece in the Social Enterprise Puzzle
This article ends with a brazen appeal. Forgive me for starting with one also.
Please visit www.socialenterprisecensus.org and provide data critical to the growth of your social enterprise and the field's influence. It takes 60 seconds.
Let me explain.
Every couple of years, the UK government asks small businesses a simple question: do you have a primarily social or environmental objective, with surpluses principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or community, rather than being paid mainly to shareholders and owners?
At last count, in 2010, 26 percent of entrepreneurs responded "yes", including 34 per cent of all small businesses founded in the prior three years.
Among this group, about one-quarter (or 7 percent of all small businesses) reported paying less than 50 percent of profits or surpluses to owners or shareholders. On that basis, the UK government categorizes these firms as bona fide "social enterprises".
Seven percent of all small businesses! That's 68,000 social enterprises, contributing £24 billion to the British economy and employing 800,000 people.
The data is impressive - and likely a conservative estimate of the sector's significance given social enterprises are also structured in the UK as charities, credit unions, cooperatives and other legal entities.
In short, the data simply cannot be ignored. And it has not been - by government, investors, and consumers alike. The UK is the world's leading market for social enterprise, with the most established advocacy networks and supportive policy environment.
Cut back to the US, however, and we have a problem. Limited data. Very little sense of scale. And a weak case for social enterprise as a distinctive and invaluable practice worthy of the support offered to other important sectors of the economy.
The Great Social Enterprise Census has been created by Pacific Community Ventures as a direct response, with the support of partners including the Social Enterprise Alliance, SOCAP, B-Lab, Social Venture Network, and REDF.
Together we are appealing for social enterprises of all types to self-identify and complete a 60-second survey. By aggregating your data, our goal is provide evidence of the sector's significant economic influence and give supporters more reasons to buy from, legislate for, invest in, and partner with social enterprise.
Much has changed on the economic front in recent years, leading to a surge in entrepreneurship. It is time to conclusively demonstrate that a powerful and permanent new force for good has emerged stronger than ever from the cauldron. If what you do, how you do it, or why you do it is grounded in social purpose, please visit www.socialenterprisecensus.org and recommit to being part of the movement.