Yesterday, at the Social Enterprise Exchange, Glasgow, Social Enterprise Scotland (SENSCOT) launched a voluntary code for social enterprises which it claims addresses weaknesses in the ‘English’ SE Mark.
A key driver for the Code is SENSCOT’s conviction that “in England….there has been a lobby to keep definitions blurred; with the result that essentially private businesses are masquerading as SEs and devaluing our brand.”
The emphasis of the Scottish Code on self-organisation (new members seeking to sign-up to the Code must be sponsored by two existing members, for example) and on “recognising” the values and behaviours which should predominate amongst SEs makes it a very different creature to the SE Mark. Whereas the audience for the Mark is primarily a social enterprise’s customers, the Code is much more about clarifying and bringing coherence to the sector. The Scottish social enterprise sector is signalling what it wants to be and what differentiates it from other parts of the economy. (Indeed, to use a term of the late, great historian Tony Judt, who invariably it turns out has precise language for just about every knotty social-ethical-political concept you have struggled to express, it seems to me that what the Scots have embarked on is a “[test] of the ethical coherence of the community”.)
And from that perspective, I think the Scottish Code is a brilliant idea — and there should be an English one. That is not to say that a similar Code should replace the SE Mark. I think there’s room for both approaches. But the great benefit of a sector ‘Code’ is that it would help the sector be more assertive about its own values and objectives and clearer about what doesn’t meet these core values.
There is good coverage of the story in Third Sector Online here.