Written by Steven Moe, guest writer for TheSpinoff
Social enterprises are everywhere right now. But what are they? And how do we make sure they are not just businesses exploiting a trendy term? Lawyer Steven Moe outlines how social enterprise can become a legitimate force for good.
When the poet Robert Frost published his most famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ in 1916, he certainly did not have the New Zealand social enterprise sector in mind. Yet the words that end the poem seem particularly apt in the post Social Enterprise World Forum environment that we find ourselves in:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Social enterprises seek to make a change in the world by combining both profit and purpose. Anecdotally there is definitely a move towards this new way of thinking being applicable for both existing businesses and new startups.
But what does the social enterprise road actually look like and how do we know if we are even on it? What shape will the social enterprise sector now take here in New Zealand, after having its profile raised by the 1600 participants who journeyed to Christchurch from all around the world?
I think there are five critical questions we need to be asking to find the answers we need – whether we are participants, advisors, regulators or just curious (or cynical) about social enterprise.