A Brief Intro to Social Enterprise Vocab — Or, “Let’s Co-Create a Holacratic Bencom!”

Alex Robinson, April 2016 Associate, provides a glossary of the most important vocab you need for communicating in the social enterprise space.

Do you speak Social Enterprise? Know your SIFI from your SROI? Can you build capacity, blend finance, dive deep, and still be home in time for tea? If not, have no fear. Just a few months ago I was the social sector equivalent of an Englishman miming at a French chemist with an imaginary toothbrush and shouting “cleaning for the teeth, yes?”; these days I can get through a whole week speaking only in acronyms. It’s pretty C.R.I.S.P.

This is by no means an attempt at a glossary. It’s incomplete and biased towards my interests and the work I’ve done as an On Purpose Associate on social impact, social finance and public service reform at RBS and Collaborate CIC. Some of them are just there because they’re silly (I’m looking at you, ‘think-piece’). But it does lay bare the sector’s heady mix of nonprofit lingo (‘theory of change’, ‘additionality’) and management-speak (‘capacity building’, ‘investment readiness’), plus a few loan words from government, finance and beyond. So, without further ado, here are 56 words, phrases, acronyms etc. I’ve learned in a few months at the SocEnt coalface (and if you don’t know one, click the link to be enlightened):

Action Learning Set
Appreciative Inquiry
B Corp
Bencom (Community Benefit Society)
Blended Finance
Capacity Building
Clinical Pathways
CIC (Community Interest Company)
Circular Economy
Citizen Science
Civic Innovation
Commitment Device
Community Capital
Competency-Based Interview
CRISP (Concrete, Relevant, Insightful, Supportive, Practically Applicable)
Crazy Eights
Deep Dive
Demand Management
Diagnostic Interviews
Funding Ecology
Impact Investment
Investment Readiness
Issue Tree
Logic Model

MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive)

NEET (Not In Education, Employment, Training)
Outcome-based Commissioning
Patient Capital
PbR (Payment By Results)
Place-Based Working
RAPID (Recommend, Agree, Perform, Indicate, Decide)
RASCI (Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted, Informed)
Responsible Finance Providers aka CDFIs
Shared Value
SIFI (Social Investment Finance Intermediary)
Social Franchising
Social Impact Bonds
SITR (Social Investment Tax Relief)
Social Prescribing
Social Value
Social Venturing
SROI (Social Return On Investment)
Structured Problem Solving
Systems Thinking
Theory Of Change
Thought Leadership
Triple Bottom Line
VCSE (Voluntary, Community, Social Enterprise [Organisation])
Venture Philanthropy
VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity)

Thanks to Sasha Maisel, Meng Jiang, Sunil Makwana, Matt Owen, Georgina Smee, Kara Furlong and Jara Kortmann for the contributions, and On Purpose for the brilliant and varied training that taught me so many of these!

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