Monday, November 30, 2009

Poll Shows UK Public Optimistic About Social Enterprise

A new survey and a new poll out in the past week by the UK’s Social Enterprise Coalition, a British organization of social enterprises and related organizations operating in the UK, shows optimism and fast growth in the sector, despite the recession.

In the organization’s poll, conducted by YouGov for the advent of Global Social Entrepreneurs’ Week November 15-21, nearly three quarters (or 71 percent) of 2,000 British citizens surveyed said they believe that social and environmental values of business are as or more important now than before the onset of the credit crunch. The poll also showed that people want more social enterprises in the UK. When asked what is needed to ensure a sustainable economy in the future, some 42 percent of respondents chose social enterprises – ahead of government institutions, charities funded by donations, and traditional business.

Results of the Social Enterprise Coalition’s first-ever “State of Social Enterprise” survey, a separate study of member organizations, show there is “optimism and growth” in the sector, chiefly when compared with other businesses. According to the social enterprises surveyed, social enterprises are twice as confident of future growth as typical small to medium enterprises (SMEs), with 48 percent of social enterprises responding positively versus 24 percent of SMEs. The survey also found that social enterprises challenge the so-called “glass ceiling” in that 26 percent of social enterprises could be described as “women-led” – almost twice as many compared to small businesses (26 percent compared to 14 percent, respectively.) Further, some 41 percent of all board members are women, compared to just 11.7 percent of board members in FTSE 100 companies and 4.9 percent in AIM-listed companies.

Other findings include:

* Social enterprises are motivated by community. The most often-cited reason cited for starting up or working for a social enterprise was “putting something back into the community” – which accounted for 45 percent of all responses.

* Social enterprises are as capital-hungry as small business. One-third of social enterprises have sought financing over the past 12 months, with 60 percent of it required mostly for growth.

Jonathan Bland, CEO of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said the finding that social enterprises are doing well overall despite tough economic times “is very heartening, as this is an incredibly tough climate for all businesses.” Bland added: “Business models that are built to be sustainable and accountable to a wide variety of stakeholders are often better able to withstand economic uncertainty. Additionally, it is evidence of a shift towards more people engaging with businesses whose bottom line includes social and environmental benefit.

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