Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read two recent books that explore the emerging business case for social value investment and engagement, Jason Saul's Social Innovation Inc. and Impact Investing by Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine. For this discussion, add those to the Porter/Kramer Shared Values advice in the Harvard Business Review from earlier this year. They all had me reflecting on our models in Canada, where we have a significant history, and where I believe we’re now witnessing a new exciting and emerging evolution, of the involvement of private sector corporations with communities through social finance, social enterprise, and purchasing practices.
Enp's recently completed research on social enterprise (SE) access to Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (F/P/T) funded services for small and medium enterprise (SME) provides clear evidence that the current gaps and barriers are by far a lack of clarity and ambiguity, while only in a very few cases due to specific regulatory restraints. In over 90% of the 100 programs we researched, actual access to the programs is unclear, ambiguous, or perceived as inaccessible from both the perspective of the service provider and the service seeker. While the research findings pose real challenges, opportunity lies in the fact that some strategic steps in delivery models and program content could dramatically improve access to SME services for social enterprises.
Three major categories of SE access to existing SME services emerged:
- 5% of the sample programs state in their purpose or eligibility requirements a clear access for SE.
- In 93% of the sample, ambiguity and confusion issues emerged. 55% of the total reviewed indicate that they are open to non-profits, but do not clarify how that relates to social enterprise. 38% of programs and services do not identify non-profits (or, therefore, SE) in their program description or eligibility criteria. The barriers created when SME services neglect to include details regarding non- profit and SE eligibility significantly restrict access. In these cases of "neglect and omission", it is questionable whether the service may or may not be accessible to non-profits and SEs.
- 2% of SME programs and services reviewed were identified as specifically excluding non-profits. Although this represents a relatively small percentage of the total reviewed, the number may likely increase if the services with unclear or vague eligibility descriptions were clarified.
If you're a non-profit organization thinking about creating or already developing a new enterprise, or if you are expanding/formalizing your existing mission serving enterprise or revenue-generating programs, then this guide is for you.