Interview: John Mulkerrin

The next government must do something to tackle the uncertainty surrounding the CIC Association, says the joint founder of the CIC Association

The next government must make a decision about the future of community interest companies, according to John Mulkerrin, joint founder of the CIC Association.

The Labour Party manifesto, published last week, promises to promote CICs and says the party wants to see more CICs.

But Mulkerrin says the model has so far been hampered by a lack of support structures, and he believes many potential social entrepreneurs are uncertain about whether to use it.

"I'm often asked for advice by potential social entrepreneurs about the CIC structure, and I'm unsure whether to recommend it to them," he says. "The CIC model is a valuable tool, but there is a lack of resources for those who want to use it."

Mulkerrin believes this lack of information on CICs, whether individuals or charities, is one of the biggest barriers to the model's success. He says the association wants to develop template legal models and an online marketplace for funding, and provide resources for many different stakeholders - investors, employees, entrepreneurs, business advisers - to help bridge this information gap.

There are definite advantages in forming a CIC, he says. "The CIC asset-lock acts as an effective assurance of social purpose," Mulkerrin says. "And the fact that CICs are all legally similar means it is easier to design investment products that suit them than it is for conventional social enterprises. But before they form a CIC, people must know the model will receive some support."

He says the association has started to provide some of that support by gathering data on the CIC sector and providing a forum for existing businesses to meet and learn, but the organisation has been hampered by a lack of resources.

"CICs form a constituency similar in size to development trusts, cooperatives and many of the regional social enterprise groups," he says. "These organisations all have government funding. A support organisation for CICs need the same.

"There has to be a body that will publicise the model, promote it and provide information, data and advice. There must also be research into the CIC model and a strategy for developing it."

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