Public ‘misunderstands’ social enterprise

Survey reveals 50% wrongly believe social enterprises rely on grants and donations

Social Enterprise is the fastest growing sector in the economy but only half the population understands what it actually is, new research has revealed.

There are an estimated 62,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing over 55,000 people and contributing an annual £28bn to the economy.

However, a study by O2 and Social Enterprise Magazine found that over half the population wrongly believe social enterprises gain most of their income through grants and donations as opposed to trading.

The study also revealed that 70% of people assume social enterprises are performing worse or equal to mainstream small businesses when in fact, social enterprises are outperforming them – 56% have improved turnover during the downturn.

The issue of where the boundary between a social enterprise and normal business lies is causing confusion, the study found.

Some 56% of study respondents correctly identified The Big Issue as a social enterprise. However, 49% thought homeless charity Shelter was also a social enterprise.

Sam Conniff, is the co-founder of social enterprise Livity, a marketing and communications agency which specialises in youth and ethnic minority campaigns.

He said: “Social enterprise is not only as ambitious and entrepreneurial as any other sector, social enterprise is also ahead of the curve in terms of understanding how to deliver competitive advantage through social innovation.”

O2 is now launching a consultation with social enterprises to hear their views on how the company can support the sector.

Conniff praised the company’s support saying it would “set the bar for future corporates who want to work with social enterprise”.

© Crimson Business Ltd. 2010

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