The potential of the Social Enterprise to turn social issues into resources
Why did I not think it myself? A Social Enterprise is a business – therefore generating revenues – yet whose outputs are useful to the society. The Social Enterprise starts from a really powerful and game-changing approach. The perspective is radically different: rather than looking at opportunities to find a successful business idea, why not to look at one of the (unfortunately many) social problems in order to tackle it through an innovative business idea? It’s possible to succeed in turning issues into resources and generate revenue streams out of it. How? Focusing on a social issue through a creative and innovative idea (even more, it must be a dream, a vision of change), with the highest motivation (as high as putting your life at stake for it), using a holistic approach (targeted to the root causes of the social issues), with the right capacity and capability to implement it and make it scalable and replicable. Moreover, it should be social in the end as well as in the means. There are many examples of success stories; what is striking is that many of them are not made of rocket science, they are very pragmatic, made of basic building blocks, so straightforward that you could ask yourself: why did I not think it myself? Well, a social enterprise might be made of basic blocks but they are composed in such a way that they change the usual framework and the traditional pattern. A social enterprise works across the traditional sectors breaking down the classic separated silos of economy and social: it creates blended value, mixing social and economic benefits. To make it economically sustainable you could/should find as many revenue streams as possible. To do so you can try to involve many stakeholders aligned with your vision, for instance linking the social issue at the base of your project to other issues they are interested to. Yet, at the end, the measure of the success is more the social impact than the money generated. Another major difference of the Social Enterprise is that the way the work is carried out is all about sharing and collaboration. The final goal is simply to improve the solution and spread it as much as possible to reduce the impact of the social problem. And today’s technology offers many online platforms or “glocal” (global and local) places where to get connected, share and find the inspiration for new ideas. A social enterprise should be innovative also for the tools used in the phase of the promotion of its vision: being where the crowd is – on the social media – and promoting it through an open, assertive and constructive dialogue, not through the old-style monologue of a website. Finally, what matters most for a social enterprise is that it focuses on something real, not on numbers, indexes or percentages. It is a completely different layer: the social enterprise is not serving customers, it is serving people.