In February 2019, Dr Mariana Estrada-Robles chaired a panel discussion on social enterprise. This Q&A Panel consisted of social entrepreneurs at different stages of their journey discussing the motivations of starting-up their enterprises and challenges they are currently facing. Mariana was joined by:
- Stephen Curry – Upper Calder Valley Renaissance
- Dawn Wood – Fabrication Crafts Ltd.
- Jesha Effendie – Kreatif Satu Indonesia.
Social entrepreneurs make significant and diverse contributions to their communities and societies, adopting business models to offer creative solutions to complex and persistent social problems
(Zahra et al., 2019:214)
We began the event providing a definition, from the many in the literature, of what a social enterprise is. The Q&A started with the panellists being asked to provide an overview of their social enterprise and social cause. Stephen is looking to further develop his enterprise’s social purpose, Jesha is starting her CSR consultancy social enterprise, while Dawn has been running hers for over 10 years and has now moved to new premises competing with high street shops. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives at these different stages. Of course, all of them with diverse valuable motivations to create a positive social impact.
Stephen’s main motivation is working in and for the community. Due to cuts in funding and shrinkage of local authority there are gaps in services showing there is scope for new social enterprises to step in. Dawn’s motivations on the other hand are very different. She was a fashion designer and found that it is an isolating profession. Along with her husband they set up the enterprise as they needed work space, and Dawn reflected that “if we needed this help and support, then it’s likely that other people do too”. Jesha’s motivations lie within reaching personal goals, giving back to society and helping private sector organisations give back to their community.
Due to the different life cycle stage of their social enterprises and their varied motivations, each one of our panellists is faced with particular challenges. This gave us a great perspective of the many struggles social entrepreneurs face. Stephen noticed that the funding for the majority of things that society is crying out for is disappearing and it is getting very competitive. Some companies rely too much on receiving funding from grants rather than creating funds themselves. Further challenges include deciding how the enterprise is going to fit into the community, work with local authorities and other social enterprises and charities?
Competing on the high street has been challenging for Dawn, with many people failing to understand that social enterprises can exist on the high street! Competing with traditional enterprises while supporting a social cause can be challenging. An international perspective, as experienced by Jesha, is trying to explain what social entrepreneurship is as it is relatively new and unknown in Indonesia. Therefore, people are sceptical about it – Is it a charity? Is it creating profit? The challenge is finding the right partner and the right employees who understand social entrepreneurship and share the same values as you and the organisation.
Finally, students had the opportunity to ask questions, an interesting question was around sustainability in terms of maintaining the business afloat. Panellists agreed that this was a challenge but focusing on different strategies can help. Stephen mentioned income generation focused on the business level even when it is not for ‘personal’ profit you have to make profit and get it back into the enterprise, while Dawn mentioned the importance of marketing. Jesha made a valuable point when answering if they felt the responsibility tends to be placed on social enterprises, she said “We are not trying to solve every single problem in the world”. It is true, social enterprises are not a panacea but can help face big challenges.
If you are interested in attending events such as this in the future, make sure to check us out on Twitter where we post about upcoming events and opportunities available to students across all faculties.
Any questions, feedback or just want to get in touch? Contact the CEES Centre Administrator Natalie Jackson via our contact page here.