Starting Social Enterprises

Collective Action for Distributing Surplus: Establishing businesses that meet social and environmental needs directly

Social enterprises may emerge from local community need or in response to a withdrawal of government services. Whatever the origins, the numbers of social enterprises are rapidly growing in all countries.

Some examples of social enterprises in various locations include:

Community Energy Solutions in the north of England is a not-for-profit company that helps households, especially low-income households, switch to renewable energy and put in place energy savingtechnologies.

Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles runs seven social enterprises to train and employ ex-gang members (both men and women). They also provide additional supports including substance abuse treatment, tattoo removal and education.

Laca Ginger Tea social enterprise was established by a small group of elderly women in Bohol in the Philippines to produce and sell ginger tea for local markets and thereby generate small amounts of much-needed cash.

Soft Landing is a social enterprise in Australia addressing social and environmental wellbeing by providing jobs and diverting waste mattresses from landfill and salvaging the components for reuse.

Yackandandah Community Development Company was started by residents in rural Victoria, Australia, in response to the proposed closure of the area’s only petrol station in 2002.

In the UK, social enterprises can register for the Social Enterprise Mark.  Since 2005, there has also been a new company structure in the UK, the Community Interest Company (CIC), for enterprises that reinvest their surpluses back into their social purpose. There are many examples of CICs.

The book Australian Social Enterprises: Stories of Challenge by Cheryl Kernot and Joanne McNeill documents examples of social enterprises in Australia.