Social enterprise research: CIC-ass results?

All bad puns aside, the research in this month’s Social Enterprise Magazine on CICs makes interesting reading. The survey of the 296 CICs (they interviewed 65 of those, which is not a bad sample size) has some good stats to chew on. Most interesting is the "Why did you choose a CIC structure?" question, of which the results were:

– Most appropriate form between business and charity: 43%
– Less regulation than charity: 19%
– To prove social purpose: 16%
– Asset lock: 9%
– Clear brand: 8%
– To get funding: 3%
– Simplicity of setting up: 2%

Although I remember several of the early CICs saying that they were in it for the free PR! Though maybe that comes under "clear brand". Obviously, for most organisations it would have been a mix of all of the above (they also asked "which was the most important factor for your decision?", and proving social purpose came top, followed by less regulation)… is intriguing that the asset lock scored relatively lowly, although the regulator’s role is also a key part of the CIC make-up, and that was obviously welcomed.

The other stats that seemed most interesting to me were the regional breakdown (19% London, 15% South East, 12% South West, %10 North West and all others between 3% (Wales) and 9%) and the "What is the biggest barrier facing your company?" The answers to the latter were as follows:

– Access to finance: 37%
– Lack of understanding of CIC model by others: 20%
– Dealing with growth/cashflow issues: 9% (surely these are separate problems?)
– Winning business/contracts/sales: 8%
– Finding premises: 6%
– Getting the right staff and skills: 6%
– Marketing: 6%
– Other: 5.5%

So, there is obviously further work to do promoting the CIC model, but it’s still early days, so that comes as no surprise, really. Nor does the ‘access to finance’ issue….is this ever not a barrier for any business, I might ask, if I was being unfair – but just because we always hear it doesn’t mean it’s not true (or still true). It’s also good to see that the model can be used by a diversity of different businesses (environmental, youth, restaurants, transport and so forth). The finding that the "typical manager is aged between 30 and 50, white and male" is less encouraging, and I hope the SSE can help in changing that picture (which is probably similar for the sector as a whole).

Other research is available for download from SEL’s website: the Social Enterprise Journal, Volume 2 (pdf), which has some interesting pieces worth a flick through (or a longer peruse, if you find the time). Most relevant to us seems to be the "Developing fledgling social enterprises? A study of the support required and means of delivering it" and "Developing emerging social enterprise through capacity building", so I will report back on those another time…….

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