Part of me thinks I should blog about the new £6m Bank of Scotland social entrepreneur awards, announced this weekend in the Times. Obviously all new money and publicity for the movement is welcome...but my excitement lessened slightly on reading that the awards were for 2 organisations and of that £6m, only £600k was actual cash: the rest is loan, admittedly at very friendly rates in this credit crunch age. Is this what we need in the social entrepreneurship world? Possibly, I guess: will be interesting to see. But with CAN's Breakthrough, Impetus Trust, Venture Partnership Foundation, UnLtd Ventures, Ashoka, Schwab, Futurebuilders et al all concentrating on scaling up/recognising a small number of organisations, is this the best use of £600,000 for social entrepreneurship? Let's hope one of the awards goes to a new outstanding organisation that hasn't benefited from similar sources......
So, instead, I thought I'd discuss a post on the (relatively) new Social Entrepreneurship blog on Change.org (US non-profit social networking site), which I've been enjoying of late. Nathaniel Whittemore posted up what he considered the Top 5 Controversies in Social Entrepreneurship. These were as follows:
- Individual vs. collective
- Symptoms vs. causes
- Non-profit and for-profit relations
Reading those, and thinking of the posts over the last two and half years and 327 posts (oh yes), I thought that was a pretty decent stab at what lies at the root of most debate and argument across the sector. I guess the symptoms vs. causes one (i.e. are social entrepreneurs ever going to achieve systemic change, addressing the causes) is probably one that is less relevant here; the 'philanthrocapitalism' debate has been predominantly held in the US to this point.
My other point would be that some of these contain more than one debate; the definition debate is about social enterprise vs. social entrepreneurship (structures vs people), but also about earned income vs. structure (eg. 50% earned income means you are...), and, further about Ashoka-Schwab-Skoll social entrepreneur vs. UnLtd-SSE social entrepreneur....although the latter is also about heroic individual vs. networked changemaker, and about scale as a criterion of definition.
So, with large hat tip to Nat for the idea, my 5 would be:
- Scale: by which I mean the "can (lots of) social entrepreneur-led organisations in this movement scale and still retain what made them work in the first place?", but also the "do you have to scale to be a social entrepreneur?" question
- Importing private sector practice: slightly different emphasis from Nat here (who discusses the profit imperative), as I think the large issue is the effective and appropriate use of business and private sector practice, be this in venture philanthropy, evaluation, mergers & acquisitions etc
- Definition: in the UK, particularly, this is a social entrepreneurship and social enterprise question; always sounds semantic squabbling, but is much more important than that: ultimately, it's about where resources are most effectively invested to create social change. All the CIC debate etc is about people vs. structure, ultimately....
- Role of individual: puncturing the myth of the 'heroic individual' is a common thing for us, pointing out that successful social entrepreneurs need to inspire, engage, motivate, network and build effective teams and supporters; but also pointing out that community groups don't spring out of the ether as a fully-formed group...there is always an individual who is the catalyst or spark-plug
- Public service delivery: again, more UK-specific, I think, but you can't move for conversations and debates about whether social enterprise should be responding to the public service delivery agenda (see today's slightly terrifying headline: "Let social enterprises run the NHS") or whether, seeing as they are also meant to be entrepreneurship, innovation and risk, they should in fact be meeting needs NOT being met by public services; not to mention the independence from government, reliance on funding issues.....
So what do you reckon....have I missed an enormous elephant in the social entrepreneurship room?