Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas and inspiration from across the world which demonstrate how real action can accomplish positive social impact. This time we’re looking at social enterprises, how they look to challenge the norm, improve communities and address social issues.
What a year 2020 was. One none of us are likely to forget in a hurry. Yet amongst the challenges, many social enterprises continued to thrive, with a number of distinctive trends emerging. Whilst a lot of focus was on the pandemic, let’s not forget that it was also the year that the Black Lives Matter movement was brought into focus, which, in turn, resulted in a number of accelerators focusing on racial equality startups, such as DivInc.
Another trend fuelled by 2020, was the sudden need for social enterprises to adapt and pivot towards pandemic-focused emergency programs. Brigade, for example, is a social enterprise bar and kitchen which enables the homeless to develop hospitality skills, yet on the back of the pandemic moved quickly to provide food for the vulnerable in their local community.
It will be interesting to see how the trends will evolve and differ in 2021, and whether this mindset to thrive in the face of difficulty will continue to shape these organisations and move them forward in different and unanticipated ways.
Speaking of what 2021 will hold, we thought these 10 New Year’s resolutions for social entrepreneurs from Pro Bono Australia outlined some interesting focus points for organizations. There were a couple of obvious ones, like utilizing social media and keeping websites up to date, but there were some interesting ones too, like “think back to your “why”.
With 2020 disrupting almost everything, including social enterprise, there may never be a better time for social entrepreneurs to re-establish the very heart of their cause. It would be prudent for them to consider whether the same issues they set out to address still exist, or were they somehow altered by the events of last year? If there are stats which support the reason for change, are these the same, or have they now changed?
Perhaps 2020 created new opportunities or perhaps an entire rethink is now necessary. It will be overwhelming for an organization to feel like they must re-evaluate their entire offering, but it’s important for them to align their cause to the current environment and keep ahead of the trends.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), social enterprises have the potential to change and disrupt an entire industry. Social businesses exist to raise the possible, desirable and the acceptable, and WEF cites Tony’s Chocolonely as a great example of this.
You may well be familiar with this company already, their huge chunky colorful chocolate bars are reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate factory, but the chocolate is only half of the story. The organization has introduced Tony’s Open Chain which aims to “end modern slavery and illegal child labor in cocoa by setting a new industry standard”. With evidence of child labor, and in some cases slavery in West Africa, the chocolate industry needs companies like Tony’s to take a stand on this.
Encouraging other businesses to join, the platform asks, “who’s in?” with a list of companies who have pledged to help make this change. This open-style forum is a smart move and will indeed help to disrupt an industry that very much needs it. Businesses are entering an increasingly transparent environment whereby consumers want to support ethical, socially conscious businesses, so to feature on and support websites like Tony’s Open Chain will likely become ever more popular.
Are you familiar with the Social Enterprise Index? It celebrates and showcases entrepreneurs running businesses with a social purpose. One of their nominees for 2020 was Heartwood Skills, an organization looking to “transform the life chances of vulnerable young people and impact their communities”. Delving into the details of the organization, the question “how do you measure your impact?” was asked. We thought this was interesting; often the way in which we measure social impact can be difficult, statistics aren’t always readily available and the output may not be measurable in simple terms.
Since Heartwood Skills focus very much on the well-being side, they rely on tools that measure wellbeing and ask people to record their reflections and how they’re feeling. In terms of hard data, attendance and qualifications can be tracked. It can be tricky for social enterprises to begin to measure impact, there has to be some way to show that they are achieving the intended outcomes. Experts suggest it might start by aligning their core metrics and linking quantitative data to their target impact.
In writing this article we came across the Supporting Women in Social Enterprise podcast. Recorded last year, and in the midst of the pandemic, it aims to help changemakers by providing useful tips, interviews, and insights. It’s quite remarkable that so many businesses have had to react quickly to the pandemic, with the majority of services having to move to online (not always an easy feat).
Interestingly, it’s likely that many social enterprises have found that whilst there’s always going to be a need for face-to-face interaction, technology has helped many organizations realize that there are better and more efficient ways of doing things. One of the episodes in this podcast series covered securing funding and investments, and if that’s something you’re interested in it’s worth exploring what funding is available for social entrepreneurs and government grants for small businesses. As well as a list of grant providers there’s Covid-19 emergency funding and the Extended Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) available too.