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Jo Geraghty

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Boosting Social Enterprise

Date added: 06th Feb 2014
Category: Innovation Culture

The Government has taken another step forward in its endeavours to boost Social Enterprise within the UK.  Its Social Investment Roadmap sets out plans to increase investment within the Social Enterprise sector via tax incentives.

The roadmap sets out key milestones including:

  • expanding the options for indirect investment
  • establishing a government-run accreditation scheme for Social Impact Bonds eligible for social investment tax relief
  • making changes to community interest companies’ regulations
  • promoting the scheme to investors and social enterprises

Although we will have to wait until the Budget to hear some of the detail, draft legislation published in December sets out some of the key features.  In particular, income tax relief is to be made available for “private investment in charities, community interest companies and community benefit societies, and in social impact bonds where the special purpose vehicle is a company limited by shares.”  The Government’s plans to introduce a larger scheme will require EU approval.

Boosting Social Enterprise is one of the key elements of the Government’s plan for Britain.  In setting out its vision and strategy for the Social Investment Market in 2011, the paper called for a “bigger, stronger society. One where communities and citizens have more power to shape their lives and determine their destinies.”  Part of this vision embraces the voluntary sector but many charities and visitor attractions have also found that the Social Enterprise model fits their trading arms.  For example the Eden Project in Cornwall cites itself “as a tourist attraction, a social enterprise and a charity.”

 

Highlighting the way in which Social Enterprise encompasses a broad sweep of organisations, the 2011 paper said that “Social ventures are diverse – but share a passion for finding innovative solutions to social problems.”  And it is this very drive to be innovative which will help Social Enterprises to make the most of the opportunities which come from increased investment.

 

Of course, the path may not be as smooth as it could be.  Although Social Enterprise may have a reputation for innovation, their business models may not have innovation sitting at the core.  Organisations which have grown organically and which look outward towards helping others may find that their own processes are far from innovative.  With the added pressure of managing a diverse mix of employees and volunteers, some enterprises may do well to look inward at their own business model in order to maximise their benefit to society.

Innovation is far more complex than simply thinking of an idea.  Instilling an innovation culture into an organisation may require a complete overhaul of responsibilities, processes and hierarchies.  It means doing away with ‘my job’ and creating an organisation in which the collective aim is to work together to produce an outstanding experience for the customer.

The transformation may not be easy but the rewards are huge.  With engaged employees working together an innovation culture results in fast, flexible solutions which are geared towards the customer.  It means greater use of resources, it means employees who are far more likely to stick around and add value to the organisation and it means a reputation for being the attraction to visit, the charity to support, the people to turn to.

The Government’s aim is “to make the UK one of the easiest places to invest in social enterprises in the world.” Research by the Big Society Capital estimates that the Government’s plans will result in an additional £500m being raised for Social Enterprise over the next five years.  This cash boost taken together with other Government measures means that those organisations which have adopted strong innovation cultures will be perfectly poised to meet the Government’s ambition for Social Enterprises to “take full advantage of these opportunities and create positive change in our society.”

 

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