Is social enterprise the answer to our community's most pressing issues?

Founder and CEO of Impact Boom, Tom Allen explores the rising trend of social enterprise

Which businesses do you think have been the most successful over the last century? Well, surely it depends on how we measure success, right? We could base success on profitability, revenue, number or employees, products or services sold or growth. But what about the positive social or environmental impact a business has had locally in nearby communities, or the planet as a whole?

Whilst a bunch of tech startups may be in a race to become a Unicorn (a startup whose valuation is $1 billion), another bunch of purpose-driven entrepreneurs are focused on building economically sustainable business models whilst using them as a vehicle to deliver positive impact. Enter social enterprise.

Whilst not a new concept, social enterprise, or ‘business-for-good’ has been on everyone’s lips recently. After conducting 55+ interviews (and growing) with purpose-driven leaders internationally, the consensus is clear. Social enterprise is on the rise. “In general you see social entrepreneurship becoming much more mainstream. Even in multinationals. It used to be just talk, but times have really changed, especially in the last five years,” explained Wouter Kersten, a Dutch innovation manager we recently interviewed.

Local social enterprise leader Robert Pekin of Food Connect believes social enterprise has a large role to play in tackling community issues. Whilst sharing his experience on the podcast he told us, “All businesses should be social enterprises. They should have a social and environmental conscience. All direct social and environmental impacts should be internalised. That's why social enterprises exist, to try and amend the malaise of the market-driven business world.”

So how might someone successfully develop their purpose-driven enterprise to take it to the next level? How might they build a sustainable business model which not only generates revenue streams, but responds positively to some of our biggest community challenges?

The Elevate+ Accelerator Program has been designed to help early-stage startups to develop and maximise their impact. Running from February-May in 2018 from The Edge, Elevate+ gives Brisbane-based entrepreneurs personal mentoring, weekly digital modules to help them grow and industry-led workshops and exposure to help find potential customers, partners or investors. You can now apply (until January 24th) for a fully funded place on the program, thanks to support from Brisbane City Council. With great networking opportunities and a public pitch event to be held at The Powerhouse on May 31st, this is an exciting opportunity for the local purpose-driven community.

So is social enterprise the answer to our community’s most pressing issues? Living in a world of such complex, ‘wicked’ problems, we’d be naive to say yes. However, when using a systems-thinking approach which considers and understands the root cause of problems, (and coupling that with an innovative business model), we do believe that social enterprise can provide a strong response to tackling both local and global issues.

The world has plenty of ideas, people and resources (although some are fast running out). It’s time for an impact boom and we invite you to be part of it.

Check out Impact Boom's interviews with 55+ global leaders in design, social innovation and enterprise.

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Tom Allen is Founder & CEO at Impact Boom. As a social entrepreneur, design strategist and educator, Tom is passionate about helping others to create positive social impact.


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