We’ve recently started working more on the community side of the business with Dot and Valentina at let’s co organise. A great company based in Brighton who are community organisers, I met Dot at Laughton Lodge a co-housing community where i lived for a year, but that’s another blog 😉
So we are currently setting up a pilot scheme for bringing people together in Horam, East Sussex. We are in the very early stages but we hope it will help us learn how we might improve rural communities. If you’d like to get involved please let me know…
How it’s evolving?
So, back to social enterprises. They are springing up all over the place. As government funding is cut and people are squeezed tighter with their income, charities and NGO’s are really suffering and their business models are not working so well in the current climate. A lot of people believe that social enterprises can fill the void…
My experience in India
So, I decided that I wanted to learn more about social enterprise. So, naturally I came to India in January! Winter is a quieter time of year for us and I found a programme called social starters which ran for 6-8 weeks in Hyderabad, India.
I’ve now been working with Abdul Mujeeb for the last 6 weeks and his intrepid band of interns for his social enterprise Allika. Allika produce hand-woven handicrafts from water hyacinth (a terrible weed which is choking 50% of Indian water systems, introduced by the British 100 years ago, ahem). The products are made by rural women which gives them livelihoods that they didn’t previously have. The handbags and purses are pretty nice as well.
I’ve learnt a lot from working in India about the country and market and how social enterprise works in another country. Unfortunately I have found that it’s often the same problem for social enterprises whatever country they are in, making profit comes first and the social impact comes second, (it’s the capitalist way)… I guess what’s especially good about Allika and the best social enterprises are that the social impact is achieved through the business processes, it’s not bolted onto the money making business as an after thought.
Conclusions and summary
So, it’s been a crazy 18 months since we started Community Oven.
I’ve found out that passion and purpose in running your own business is essential and that social enterprise is a good way of delivering that personally and professionally.
I’ve also found that it’s not the silver bullet that I first thought it might be, and that like it or not, you need to have a product that people love and make a profit in order to have your social impact, which is hard to achieve but not impossible.
So, onwards and upwards as my old dad would say. Let’s see what happens in the next 18 months, it’ll be exciting if nothing else… x