One of the great advantages of having an older sibling is being able to observe his wins and losses. On some levels, the U.K. and the United States share older-younger sibling status – we are keen to enjoy a bit of a rivalry at times, yet stand together when our values are tested.
Luckily for the U.S., we can still reap the benefits of our younger-sibling station in social entrepreneurship where our country is following in the U.K.’s footsteps and has big shoes to fill.
While our American hubris does not like being second to anyone in anything, we may save ourselves a lot of time and money by watching as the U.K. tests these social entrepreneurship ecosystem limits. Though the U.S. has made great strides in social entrepreneurship, the U.K. is the clear leader and has many gems to share:
Ecosystem Trend #1: Building the Political Bandwagon:
Political support has been tremendous for building the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in the U.K. At the recent Social Enterprise Alliance Summit in Nashville, Tennessee, Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise U.K., stressed how important it is to have the backing of government officials and the royal family in building policies that support the growth of the social enterprise movement. Its first champion, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and his successors have carried the social enterprise torch, enacting policies like the Public Services Act of 2012 that ensure social value is considered in public spending decisions.
Ecosystem Trend #2: Show Me the Money:
In order for social enterprises to spring and flourish, the U.K. recognized financing vehicles and incentives must be put in place to attract private investment. Earlier last month, Social Investment Tax Reliefkicked in, allowing private investors tax relief up to 30% for qualifying investments in charities, community interest companies, community benefit societies and social impact bonds. The U.K. was also the first in the world to pilot social impact bonds and now development impact bonds for international development projects.
Ecosystem Trend #3: Going Mainstream:
The social enterprise movement would be meaningless without public support. In the U.K., social value has become much more mainstream than in the U.S. Social Enterprise Zones are geographic areas dedicated to creating and supporting businesses that generate financial, social and environmental value, and they are thriving. Social Enterprise U.K. also launched a Buy Social campaign to encourage consumers to use their purchasing power to support businesses that support people and our planet. The video is worth watching!
It will be interesting to see how successful our big brother is in building an ecosystem where social enterprises can grow, and we cannot wait to see how successful the U.K.’s innovations are in impacting lives, creating jobs, increasing earnings and more. Their success holds great promise for both our countries and the way social services are delivered in the years to come.
Suzanne Smith, MBA (Dallas, Texas) is a serial social entrepreneur and bridges many disciplines, including serving on the National Board of the Social Enterprise Alliance, coaching nonprofits as Managing Director of Social Impact Architects, and Co-Founder of Flywheel: Social Enterprise Hub, and educating future leaders as Adjunct Professor at the University of North Texas. She holds an MBA from Duke University, where she was a CASE (Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship) Scholar and continues to serve as a Research Fellow.