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A skills approach

The second edition of this popular book has been inspired by the increasing interest around social entrepreneurship scholarship and the practice of delivering innovative solutions to social issues.

Although social enterprises generally remain small, the impact of social entrepreneurs is increasing globally, as all countries are endeavouring to respond to increasingly complex social problems and demands for welfare at a time of government cut backs.

Additional chapters and international case studies explore new developments, such as the rise of the social investment market, the use of design thinking and the increasing importance of social impact measurement.

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The book is laid out in three parts. Part One: Skills in Policy Analysis provides an overview of the policy context that has brought social enterprise to the forefront of UK government policy. It also defines social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Part Two: Skills for Social Entrepreneurship looks at the key skills social entrepreneurs need to pursue their dreams to build, finance and manage sustainable organisations. This section also looks at the increasing importance of social innovation. Part Three: Skills in Practice places all of these skills in their applied context and broadens the scope of our exploration to a global level. These studies present the very different perspectives exhibited by social entrepreneurs while also showing the commonalities of problems they all face.

In Chapter Two, Ian Buchanan describes the UK policy context which has shaped the development of voluntary and state welfare activities that have emerged during the 20th century. The argument that the state cannot, and maybe should not, meet every welfare need is explored. This theoretical approach gives the reader analytical tools to evaluate material in subsequent chapters, especially those that contain case studies of real organisations. He looks at the ability of social enterprises to address state and market failures and the future and sustainability of this particular form of social organisation. Buchanan’s ideas show how the creation of social value for communities is being delivered by organisations that have to balance a social mission with economic sustainability and long-term viability. In Chapter Three Christopher Durkin looks at the changing landscape since the publication of the first edition, focusing in particular on the UK, the changes in government, the economic climate and the regulatory framework and the impact this has had.

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Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘we have done this ourselves’. Lao Tzu (600 BC–531 BC)

The above observation can also be true of the very people who become representatives of the community or a service user group, because by involving them in the design of and potentially running of a service may separate the individual from their constituency, in other words there is a need to look at the issue of legitimacy. Despite these limitations, involving stakeholders in the development and running of an organisation can have considerable benefits, in such areas as identification of need, defining of the organisation vision, and mission and goals as the start of an evaluation process. In turn, the stakeholders can provide invaluable information about how a service is working. For instance, how a user experiences a service may reduce organisational drift and ensure managers remain focused on the organisational values and aims.

This chapter addresses the centrality of stakeholder involvement in third sector organisations and the need for management to take account of a number of different ‘audiences’. Service user and stakeholder participation in the design, delivery and management of third sector organisations is seen as of crucial importance. The chapter is divided into four sections. First we look at the social policy context of stakeholder participation, looking at its developing position and current emphasis on consultation.

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In this book the editors have set out a three-stage vision of the different skills required to analyse, instigate, sustain and reflect on different aspects of social entrepreneurship. We have used this particular focus to examine how social enterprises have evolved in a UK policy context and explored the difficulties in defining organisations that can have diverse structures and pursue different aims. The one thing that seems to bind them all together is the desire, by social entrepreneurs, to pursue a social mission using an organisation that is funded sustainably.

We have expanded our investigation beyond the skills required to set up and run organisations to look at the realities that entrepreneurs face. While skills are essential and can be learned from attending courses or reading books, personal and professional reflection has also been shown to be important in the learning that has taken place among the entrepreneurs whose cases we have highlighted. Management of change is an important issue and learning by doing and reflecting on real outcomes in order to keep organisations viable and sustainable appears to be another key skill that entrepreneurs develop as they pursue their social missions. We have chosen to focus on organisations that are located in a specific community and are generally small in organisational terms. We have seen that community and participatory approaches are important ways of identifying need, and in the process we have looked at the role of the individual and the community in which they are based and to which they relate directly.

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