Delivering social return and cross-sector partnerships

Key to social enterprise success

Anyone that has tried to kick-start a business will testify to the challenges involved. But try making a success of a social enterprise that not only needs to balance the books but also needs to deliver a social return. Drawing on examples from the Skoll Foundation’s historic list of award winners, the authors identify two must-have factors.

The first centres on “economic actors”. When there’s a cosy alliance between the main players in any particular industry, the likelihood of abuses shoots up. Workers in manufacturing can’t protect themselves, for instance, if labour providers, retailers and factory owners are all in collusion. The answer is to introduce new actors. Two stand out in particular. The first is the consumer. Once manufacturers and retailers get the message that shoppers won’t stand for nefarious practices, those practices suddenly become less viable. The second key actor is government. While consumers alter the power balance in business, legislators have the capacity to alter the economics. Take GPS tracking systems in the Amazon. Introduced by an innovative social enterprise, these are now being used by indigenous groups to monitor deforestation in their ancestral lands. The instruments enable them to alert...

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