The Editors’ Post: Bring on the bold social enterprise number-crunchers

Julie Pybus global editor

It's time to stop the vague guesses, overblown claims and sugar-coated case studies when we talk about social enterprise. This week's landmark global report gives us a great starting point. Plus, this week's top stories.

This week we learned how many social enterprises there are likely to be across the world thanks to a landmark new report from the British Council and Social Enterprise UK. The figure (which is revealed in our story) shows that social enterprise is ‘one of the largest movements of our time’ according to Dr Francois Bonnici, director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. As a comparison, we know that there are 3m co-operatives worldwide and 5,000 B Corps.

So, this is all very nice, and it gives us a good headline, but what significance does it have? Well, those who campaign for more support from policymakers and funders now have some up to date facts and figures to draw upon. Not only do we have an estimate of how many social enterprises there are, but we also have insights into what sort of people lead them, their success at generating profits, the people they support and the sectors they work across.

But, of course, there are still more fascinating questions that need answering like: What is the world’s largest social enterprise? How much do social entrepreneurs get paid (or not)? Can we quantify their impact (yes, I know that’s a tricky one)? Who are our most successful social entrepreneurs? (And perhaps: why is it so hard to explain to our friends and family what we’re all doing and why?)

This means opening up social enterprises to more scrutiny. Being courageous about saying what we think works and where mistakes have been made. Setting out measurable ambitions. And being frank about where the money is coming from and where it’s going.

 If we are shy about what we are doing, then the outside world will pick up on this uncertainty

We know there is more research under way, such as the Euclid Network-led European Social Enterprise Monitor, which launched last year. As a journalist who has reported on social enterprise for 20 years, I am convinced we need more robust facts and figures. It’s easy for me to find out the revenue of the world’s biggest corporation (thank you, Wikipedia), but if we seek specifics on social enterprise we too often end up in a woolly mess of vague guesses, overblown claims and sugar-coated case studies (which is, by the way, what we try to avoid in Pioneers Post).

As Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes of Euclid said at the British Council and Social Enterprise UK research launch this week, if we are shy about what we are doing, then the outside world will pick up on this uncertainty. It’s time to be bold.


SE100: it’s time to celebrate!

We’re delighted to reveal today this year’s finalists for the NatWest SE100 Awards, a programme to celebrate the best and brightest of the UK’s social enterprises that we launched more than a decade ago. On the theme of facts and figures, the largest business among our finalists turned over £234m in its most recent year of trading, and the smallest had an annual revenue of less than £75k. Be sure to book your place for the awards event on 23 June. The Pioneers Post team look forward to welcoming you there.


This week's top stories: 10 June 2022

First global social enterprise census reveals ‘one of the largest movements of our time’

Flat-packed social purpose: how Ikea’s ‘impact integrity’ clicks into place

Fish or trees? Horses or leisure centres? Social enterprise finalists line up for NatWest SE100 Awards



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