Social enterprise is a business model that puts people and community first, ahead of private or personal gain, while operating in a commercially viable and sustainable manner. Social enterprise is committed to social justice, social inclusion, enhancing quality of life, building community spirit and providing affordable and accessible services. Ownership of the enterprise is within a community, or amongst people with a shared interest and surpluses generated by the enterprise are reinvested to further their social objectives.
Internationally, social enterprise is considered to be a vital part of a country’s economic and social infrastructure. Countries that recognise and value social enterprise as part of the ‘real’ economy have achieved significant growth in employment and output in the sector while addressing genuine social and environmental needs. Across Europe, the social enterprise sector accounts for between 4% and 7% of GDP and it is one of the fastest growing areas of entrepreneurship. The development of certification systems and brands such as the Social Enterprise Mark
and the Fair Trade Mark
are further indicators of the growing maturity of the sector internationally.
In Ireland the social enterprise sector is less well developed and must grow and be stimulated to fulfil its potential. Social Enterprise can play a very significant role in Ireland’s national recovery and the achievement of economic growth and employment objectives. It estimated by the Social Enterprise Task Force that social enterprise in Ireland has the potential to grow significantly to represent 5% of GDP and to generate at least 65,000 jobs.Benefits of a vibrant Irish Social Enterprise sector:
- A strong job creation focus to help local people and communities
- Support for disadvantaged groups and communities
- Strengthening communities, building trust, promoting co-operation for mutual benefit and developing social capital
- Pathways for people to get back to work and get active in their community
- Needs-focused and innovative services that would not otherwise be delivered by the public or private sector
- Meeting environmental challenges and delivering on the green agenda
- Regeneration of urban and rural areas
- Wider sharing of ideas, innovation and experience
- An optimal vehicle for implementing Government strategies on the ground in relation to employment and labour market 'activation'
- Due to is unique social remit, emphasis on innovation, and on the environment, increasing numbers of young people will be encouraged to become the next generation of social entrepreneurs
In summary, Social Enterprise offers a win-win opportunity for our economy and society:
* Economic growth and employment that supports community development
* A cost effective means to meet the full range of real social and environ mental needs
* Innovative solutions to economic, environmental and social objectives
* Doing business in an ethical and fair manner