Danger the customer base for social enterprise may exhaust
Individual communities and large organisations have always strived to find ways to help improve the way of life for society. Now, with ‘almost’ every need catered for, there appears to be duplication of well meaning social provisions which causes confusion amongst its customer base and a wastage of funds from the well meaning organisations.
Can social enterprise suffer from an over indulgence in secular actitivies over the wider primary customer base objective, yes and no, the former relating to a focussed feedback gathering exercise and the latter being based on results of the initial secular feedback exercise.
It appears that it is the ‘almost every need catered for’ that spurs such social enterprises, emphasis on the ‘Almost’? So one way of looking at any potential duplication and exhaustion of relevant customer bases is to have a clear and defined focus on what the customer actually needs and not what the customer can do for your service/provision. Sounds simple, but actually delivering what the customer needs is exactly what social enterprises are all about and where a need is identified some times a solution is afforded. I for one believe it is one of the better ways of seeking and actioning sometimes preventative measures that help many, many people to have much improved lives.
Social Enterprise is an area of development that has puzzled me for some time. In-so-much that I have never really quite understood how, while catering for the needs of a local group, wider links to other similar groups have not been sought. My observation and in no way shape or form a criticism of any such group, primarily because of the fact that the development of a social enterprise has, more often than not, sprung form a very real and present need for those who may have been either passed over, overlooked or in some cases ignored by wider society, despite the existence of a largely comprehensive welfare system.
Catering for the immediate needs of local group(s) often results in that group becoming the sole focus of attention; leading to a silo operating model. A possible way forward is to perhaps appreciate that many groups just like yours who have been around for either less time or indeed much longer have a great deal to share: how they got themselves started (funding, local government contacts etc) and even how they survive today. The sharing of good practice is something that we should perhaps bare-in-mind, especially if it means the less time we spend reinventing the wheel, they more time and effort we can give to our respective causes.
You make some very good points, I have also seen an insular approach to social enterprise whereby specialist organisations deliver quality services, but seem to be limited to their area of expertise which on numerous occasions does not fully benefit the customer in terms of a holistic development of that individual. On the plus side, I have also seen some great partnership working with seamless links being afforded for the customers within each organisation showing the true ethos of social enterprising.
I would like to expand on my earlier statement if I may in relation to social enterprise suffering from an over indulgence in secular/local activities over the wider primary customer base objective, if there is to be progress made in terms of delivering to a wider market there needs to be a process of analysis from feedback on local provision and a firm business link established with other appropriate organisations to ensure the customers needs are met fully rather than completing one aspect of their needs i.e. customers need housing, money, furniture, food, specialist help, access to leisure facilities etc, if all these needs and more are met via establishing proper working partnerships with other organisations then the full ethos of social enterprise can quite easily be expanded to a wider customer base if funding is available.