Social enterprise seen as "woolly and confused", says research

Social enterprise needs to be clearly distinguished from the voluntary sector and promoted more vigorously as a credible business option, according to research commissioned by the Office of the Third Sector.

The OTS asked the Government's Central Office of Information, an agency of the Cabinet Office specialising in communications advice, to conduct the research.

The COI's summary presentation of the results, Is Social Enterprise at a Crossroads?, says most people identify social enterprises with the non-profit sector and characterise them as woolly, confused, worthy, inefficient, grant-dependent and lacking dynamism.

It suggests launching a drive similar to Tony Blair's ‘Respect' campaign to promote social enterprise. It says the OTS's existing social enterprise ambassadors programme, which uses a roster of 30 well-known figures from within the sector to promote social enterprise, should be "taken onto another level" and recruit mainstream celebrities.

Potential recruits to social enterprise, such as young people with strong business knowledge and social drive, should be specifically targeted in campaigns that emphasise social enterprises' commercial dynamism, according to the report.

It says such drives should look like they come from within the sector itself, rather than being government initiatives.

"Great things might be happening, but this is a sector ‘in waiting'," the report says.

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