Social enterprise is delivering a measurable difference
A lot is written about Millennials wanting to make a difference. Those who reached adulthood around the turn of the millennium, who have grown up with the internet and understanding they are part of a global society, seeking to make their mark in a large scale and meaningful way. This takes mega commitment and a sense of purpose far greater than looking ahead for a year or two.
This is wholly at odds with Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016. Apparently most have one foot out of the door of their organisations, not the least due to a feeling that the values in their workplace are all buzzwords and there’s no substance.
Discussing the rights and wrongs of a generation prone to muddling flexibility in the workplace with working around every individual’s whim, is not a debate for here. Far more constructive is to assess what an organisation can do, or better still be, to really make that difference.
The rise of social enterprise has never been stronger felt than today. There is nothing novel about philanthropy at the heart of business, however, the distinction in recent years between not-for-profit enterprise, businesses designed to maximise profit and those resolved on balancing profit with social benefit, has helped clarify where businesses true intentions lie. Few companies can get away with not declaring a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme but for the majority this is still an adjunct to their main activity. Laying claim to improving society is not the preserve of any one business type over another. The real test is to be found in what motivates a business and how it measures its success.
A true social enterprise is one that values the improvement it is making to society on a par with the growth of its customer base and profits. One of the secrets to its success lies with the customer and here is where Millennials are tested to see if their money is where they claim. For a social enterprise to succeed, customers need to be willing to pay more, or profit less, in favour of knowing that they are simultaneously benefitting others while enjoying the goods and services they receive.
The current burgeoning of social enterprise may yet prove that Millennials are true to their word as they shift from being new entrants into the working world to the core drivers. Delight in social enterprise though is not restricted to one generation but can be seen across the board. It was a joy to be representing EdAid at NACUE’s Student Enterprise Conference last month. The panel discussion about how social enterprise will shape the future was sparky, inspiring and where some of the most forward thinking students are focusing their ideas; apparently a far cry from not long ago when a fast route to a quick buck was the order of the day.
As entrepreneurs turn their creative genius to tackling global challenges for the good of society as well as company profits, investors are shifting their focus towards social benefit, alongside financial reward, through social impact investments. The businesses that can deliver measurable social change, and a way to invest in that, are the ones which are really set to transform the world. The wider the opportunity is, the more inspiring such enterprises are. When even the smallest investments can be shown to make a difference, and everyone has a chance to benefit from the feel good factor of philanthropy, society is set to transform for the better.
At EdAid we are excited to be offering just such an opportunity. Lending funds for education, expecting no more than the sum invested in financial return but playing a part in enabling substantial advantage for the student, transforms the student loan system. It won’t be long before a figure can be put on that improvement and on top of this, there will always be an immeasurable, mutually beneficial reward as communities unite behind students.