The Big issue, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Divine chocolate – and just a handful of others. For many, these are the national social enterprise brands that come to mind when social enterprise is mentioned.
And even then, if we’re honest, it is probably quite unlikely that the average person in the street is thinking, “Ah, what great examples of social enterprise…” No, even now, they are far more likely to think, “Ah, great charities doing great work…”
This is just a personal view, but I’m increasingly convinced the term “social enterprise” is unsatisfactory. True, it’s a relatively new term that only really entered the lexicon ten years ago, but it’s vague and abstract; it isn’t synonymous with an activity. It doesn’t prompt the kind of understanding that Fairtrade does, for instance — which is ironic, because many fairtrade businesses are social enterprises. (Although not all, of course. Cadbury’s has just announced that biggest-selling brand Cadbury’s Dairy Milk will henceforth be fairtrade — adding 300m bars of Fairtrade chocolate a year at a stroke.)
Maybe this will change with time, but increasingly I believe that revisiting the language of social enterprise is a prerequisite for fostering greater public understanding.
Anyway, this post isn’t about definitions or language (although anyone with any better suggestions than “social enterprise” should please make urgent use of our comments facility!), it’s about flagship social enterprises.
Flagship social enterprises are important — (a) because there are so few of them, and (b) because they can help significantly raise the overall profile and understanding of the sector.
So it is good to see that as part of its Trading Know-How project Social Enterprise West Midlands has chosen five flagship social enterprises in the West Midlands region which will form part of a national PR campaign specifically intended to raise up another group of nationally recognised SE ‘brands’.
Congratulations to Vicki Fitzgerald, the CEO at Gateway, and to all of her team.