Monday, February 15, 2010

does your legal form make you a social enterprise?

The current launch of the national social enterprise mark has brought to the fore once again the issue of how we identify and recognise social enterprise.

Many argue that in order to be a 'true' social enterprise, your organisation must exhibit specific characteristics and that these must be present in one of a number of limited legal forms (limited in number and choice, that is) - asset locks, accountability to more than just investors, controls on how profits and used and distributed, and so on...

Given the complexity and range of such characteristics, most generally accept that any form of co-operative, company limited by guarantee, CIC or other similar legal forms are acceptable as 'true' social enterprises.

BUT - what about the S&M Club that almost became a CIC (pdf article - see p2)? the Thailand lap dancers co-operative? and so on...

Given the importance that as a sector we ensure that our image is consistent and easily understood, should be perhaps be moving away from simply accepting enterprises at face value on the basis of their legal form?

especially when those legal forms can be used for activities and services that we would not necessarily recognise as meeting social and environmental needs...

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