Book News: March 13th, 2008

By Duncan Scott

This report, commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation, has revealed the extent to which Social Enterprises are hard-pressed to achieve financial sustainability. Whilst some Social Enterprises will depend on generating a measure of economic return from their activities, the report finds that there must be consensus within the organisation about the desired balance between economic and social return.

This comprehensive study tracked five organisations over a five year period. The case studies represent a wide range of organisations working in different areas: ethnic minorities, the homeless and delivering health care facilities. By chronicling experiences, successes and challenges, it illustrates the main developmental issues that Social Enterprises face in the voluntary and community sector today.

The study finds that the support they need extends beyond the purely financial. Social Enterprises must surround themselves with extensive support networks which include trustees and advisors, in addition to mentors from business. Regional Development Agencies and local authorities have their part to play too, by delivering socially-relevant support packages.

Social Enterprises must not be judged on whether or not they rely too heavily on one form of funding, but whether they fulfill the goals they were set up to achieve. The prospects for Social Enterprises are mixed and it is imperative they acknowledge the tensions between the social and financial and not simply assume they can be organised out.

The report is available from CAF.