Private imitators may 'discredit' enterprises

Social enterprises are in danger of being discredited by private sector imitators, an eminent entrepreneur warned last week.

"Now we are in a position where people want a bite of the cherry," said Cliff Prior, chief executive of social enterprise support organisation UnLtd, speaking at a debate on how enterprises could build on their success.

It might be a good idea for charities to adopt a social enterprise model, Prior said, but if a profit-making business did so there would be a risk that social enterprise could be discredited.

However, Nigel Kershaw a fellow panellist and chief executive of social financier Big Issue Invest, which is setting up a fund to buy up private businesses and turn them into social enterprises, played down the distinction.

"If you are transforming society, it doesn't matter what you are," he said. "The important thing is to make change happen."

Prior also raised concerns that no legal framework, trademark or regulated form existed for social enterprises. But Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Social Enterprise London, who was also on the panel, said a quality mark for social enterprises would be difficult to set up because of the range of activities they are involved in.

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