The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship
A Certain Disenchantment with Charities is Leading to a Surge in Interest in Social Entrepreneurship.
Many of the larger charities are no longer as nimble or as risk-taking as they once were and are increasingly accepted as part of the very establishment they once set out to challenge. In the last decade alone, charity income in the UK more than doubled to nearly £50bn a year, giving rise to a small number of increasingly large operators . The 0.5% of charities with incomes above £10m now absorb more than 50% of all charity income.
Growth has not necessarily been a bad thing. It has allowed many charities to offer help to millions more vulnerable people, and the growing importance of charities to deliver the government agenda has increased their influence on the way policy is shaped. However, the focus on getting the cash and delivering the contract has taken attention away from the person who should matter most to a charity, the beneficiary.Two Real Threats
First, there is a problem of trust. Public trust in charities is high - only the armed forces, the NHS and schools are trusted more. But that trust is volatile: according to one survey
, people's trust in charities has swung wildly from 51% down to 42%, and back up to 65% in just three years. Public alienation is a real risk.
Secondly, as charities grow, the distance between the beneficiary and the management grows with it. Some charities manage to embed client-centred responsiveness within their structures; cf. RAPt and Mencap
, where stakeholders are intrinsically involved. But for many charities, beneficiaries are passive recipients of services and their needs come a long way behind those of other stakeholders.Up Steps Social Entrepreneurship
Many specialist social venture intermediaries (SVIs) first emerged in the 1990s as interest grew in social enterprise and venturing. They include: new sources of finance (such as Impetus); new providers of skills (such as the School for Social Entrepreneurs); new orchestrators of networks (such as Ashoka); providers of buildings (such as the Hub); and advocates (such as the Social Enterprise Coalition
SVIs are playing an increasingly vital role for the emerging sector of social ventures
. This survey found that ventures that had worked with intermediary organisations reported the following benefits:
- 132% increase in their numbers of beneficiaries (from an average of 1,251 to 2,901).
- 149% increase in their revenues (from £338,618 to £844,850).
- Around 50% reported that the intermediary they worked with had helped them raise additional investment.