Hope is of course both a social enterprise and a charity. Lots of people still fail to understand the meaning of a social enterprise, partly because there is such a diversity of them out there!
All social enterprises are businesses that have to demonstrate their social value, something Hope is doing by seeking a renewal, this autumn, of our Social Enterprise Mark, which have proudly held over the last year. It shows that our enterprise does offer social value. But what does that mean?
Social Enterprises are basically companies which seek to deliver some sort of additional social benefit, but are still designed to make money, some of which is used to deliver that social benefit. At one end of the full continuum of business activity, which includes social enterprises, some companies deliver no social value – arms dealers, cigarette manufacturers – but at the other end, social enterprises are explicitly designed to deliver good, alongside profit.
Hope’s enterprises aim to add social value through training and employing people who have suffered issues in their lives and are far from the labour market, and who need help and support to get a foothold within it. It’s important, but we can do more. Our tools recycling business adds social value not just by training but throughout what it does and how it does it: trainees and staff produce a product that is recycled, giving environmental benefit, and which when put to use helps beautify land and gardens, grows crops and improves the environment, alongside giving people skills.
Whilst still great, our catering does not have as wide a social value. It’s valuable in training people in need, but the core business of serving food, given that most of our customers are members of the general public rather than any in-need group, is not specifically something that adds additional social value in itself.
Hope is actively considering these issues right now, and exploring how we can do more though our enterprises to add social value throughout what they do. Training and employing people in need will always be part of the mix, but where we can we will seek to draw on the tools approach and do things which intrinsically add value through what they do and how they work.
Our new Foodclub and related growing project tick these boxes. They will sell stuff to raise money, sure, but that stuff will be valuable: healthy fruit and veg will be grown by people getting training in horticulture, and supplied to people in poverty, recycling food that would otherwise go to waste and reclaiming urban land for good use. They will recycle money from people with very little, to empower and help other people with very little. Their spending will create a community asset that helps lots of people, rather than see that spend flow out of the community to enrich some international super-corporation. It’s an explicitly economic model, delivered as a business, but which will add social value in spades.
We believe that’s how all social enterprises should be. If you want to get involved in our social enterprises, get in contact!