So the big news is SEC have finally decided (succumbed?) to back the Social Enterprise Mark that originated in the South West: see news story here. Which comes on the back of a lot of pressure not only from the regional bodies and various practitioners, but also from government (who have commissioned COI to do a piece of work about the need for an ‘identifier’).
I think SSE are fairly relaxed about the whole mark debate….sitting outside the definition debates as we tend to do….although I do think this is potentially useful if it helps practitioners communicate better the impact, quality and community-focus of what they do. If it only serves to confuse / lead to infighting, then I guess it won’t be.
It was interesting to chat to COI about all of this; we particularly talked about the CIC. My point was that the CIC’s primary value has actually been as a “badge” or “identifier” as much as the nature of the legal structure itself (to which amendments are coming, we are told)…that, particularly if you are seeking to gain contracts from the public sector, then a CIC structure is a recognisable badge which identifies the organisation as a social enterprise.
I won’t get into the drawbacks of the CIC structure now particularly, but it was interesting to hear from Peter Holbrook the other evening that he’d found it particularly good for the staff/users he worked with, in that they were able to become directors and therefore in control of something. And that being a director of a CIC was more than just being director of a company, because of the social enterprise focus / identification. Worth thinking about in this whole identifier/brand/mark/legal structure debate.
Finally, looking further into the future on this stuff, it was interesting to hear a panel discuss Fair Trade on Peter Day’s World of Business podcast (March 9th episode if you can find it). Particularly good for the debate between those who held that its value was through the rigorous certification criteria (the “it’s a certification mark” group) and those who felt that it had now superseded those beginnings and that its value was now simply as a brand (the “it’s a brand group”). As the social enterprise sector ponders a similar move, learning from the experiences of others (Fairtrade, Soil Association + others in the sector who’ve developed their own quality systems, like Social Firms and ourselves) must surely be high on the agenda.