Blog post from Stuart Vaughan – Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Specialist
I’ve worked in the voluntary sector for over 20 years and with the Growth Company (GC) for just over 2 years. For me, Social Enterprise Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great things the VCSE sector does – particularly social enterprises, who work in every potential area of business.
The VCSE sector, also known as the ‘third sector’ is a term coined for organisations that aren’t created to make a profit, but who exist solely to help improve people's lives and contribute to economic growth. They aren’t part of the public or private sector.
My role at GC supports VCSE organisations who are looking to develop their traded income – the products or services they sell, whether to the public sector, individuals, businesses, or other VCSE organisations.
What is a social enterprise?
There are a combination of elements which make up a social enterprise, but principally that it's not trading for a profit for shareholders – rather, it's trading to make a profit, which it can reinvest to do good in either the organisation, or in the community or cause that it’s set up to serve.
People sometimes call it the ‘not-for-profit’ sector, at GC we call it ‘profit-for-purpose,’ all organisations need to trade at a surplus, otherwise they'll go out of business.
The important question which helps define a social enterprise is, what do organisations do with the surplus they make? Do they reinvest it into their community or the environment, or into the business itself so it can continue to do good work?
The importance of ‘social value’
At GC, although we’re commercially focused and entrepreneurial, our GC values have been shaped and driven by our colleagues and underpin our core business beliefs. These shared attitudes and behaviours enable us to evolve and succeed without compromising our principles, making us a great place to work for – and work with.
As an organisation, we’re contracted to deliver business support, leadership development, education and skills, and lots more – and that's all of value to society. We build our ‘social value’ on top of what we’re contracted to do. This ensures we do business in the right way – doing what you have committed to do but also benefitting society at large. Many of the contracts that we have include an element of ‘social value’ and specific things we're going to do.
In 2022, GC was awarded the ‘Social Enterprise Gold Mark’ – which demonstrates we’ve been through a rigorous external assessment process to achieve a recognised social enterprise quality standard.
It shows we’re doing the things we ought to be doing to truly be a fantastic social enterprise. For example, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is very much at the heart of our service delivery and a key part of who we are. Also, we’ve awarded some contracts to external providers to help us increase our reach into various underserved communities.
In terms of putting back into the community, we offer all our colleagues the opportunity to have two days volunteering that our organisation subsidises so they can give their time and their skills to local charities and good causes.
Regarding role modelling our social enterprise credentials with others and helping develop within the social enterprise sector – that’s why I’m here at GC, I help social enterprises grow and develop.
Watch this video to find out more about how we are geared up to support growing social enterprises.
A different way of reaching communities
Social enterprises are at the heart of communities and causes and can respond to their needs, they have the knowledge by being close or on the ground to know what will benefit them. There are lots of different ways of being a social enterprise. For example, it might be local people coming together to trade as a co-operative, or it might be they've set up a small company limited by a guarantee.
They’re able to deliver a tailored service to those they serve, much more so than a large national charity or a big corporation. That’s where the governance of a social enterprise comes into play – they’ll often have people from their local area on their board, either as directors, or in some other way involved in decision-making.