14 Dec Social Enterprise and the Kindness Economy
I came across a social media post the other day that reminded me of why I am drawn to work within the third sector and had veered away from the profit and growth focussed private sector.
Jess Phillips (Labour MP for Birmingham) gave a moving speech in parliament, castigating the lobbying for tenders that business with the ‘right’ connections practice as a business model, while she struggled to get funding for charities and smaller voluntary organisations providing victim support, child advocacy and other necessary social services. I empathised with her as she expressed the frustration and struggle of filling out reams of application forms, evidencing the impact these organisations have in our communities and having to justify every penny spent and quarter-hour earned by those who run them.
Source: Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham, Standards Debate in the House of Commons, BBC Parliament, 8 November 2021 – Click view on Twitter.
For these organisations, the most fundamental necessities need to be transparently accounted for, to qualify for the few thousand pounds needed to keep the bottom from falling out of many people’s worlds. I know what it’s like dealing with rejected funding applications and having to close the doors, switch off the lights and walk away, leaving people adrift from support.
Here was a woman speaking truth to power and no matter what your politics, the truth is of it strikes at the heart of our public realm and the spirit of community and self-help that underpins our collective strength.
Standards Debate in the House of Commons, (BBC Parliament, 8 November 2021) – Click to view on Twitter.
When we set up MHScot Workplace Wellbeing, we were determined not to have to rely on funding to function, so adopted the trading model of a Community Interest Company (C.I.C.) which is a limited company benefitting the community rather than private shareholders. This way, we are not dependent on funding to operate but can trade and make a small income without losing the value of putting people first.
The Third Sector
We are proud to be part of the third sector. The umbrella term covers that part of the economy, belonging neither to the public sector (the state) or to the private sector (profit-making, private enterprise). This sector is made up of social organisations such as charities, social enterprises, co-operatives, community interest companies and other voluntary and community groups, whose primary intent is to enhance the collective good of our communities and our wider society.
The public and private sectors do good too, but their sole purpose is not always to make a positive impact on our individual and collective wellbeing. There is a strong argument though for the private sector to improve their social commitments and the ethics that underpin their business. Consumers are demanding better accountability and a fairer deal for employees, suppliers, customers and the environment.
The Kindness Economy
The Kindness Economy (both private and public) has always been around in one form or another. Mary Portas has been banging on about private sector business ethics for some years and has produced online podcasts on the Kindness Economy that are worth a listen.
(Source: Mary Portas, Welcome to The Kindness Economy, TedX, London Women, You Tube, (December 2019) Mary Portas: Welcome to The Kindness Economy)
In this age of ‘social enlightenment’, where we are tackling all types of injustices and trying to rebalance the odds in favour of the planet, people are coming to terms with the impacts of having neglected our social and environmental needs.
The message of buying ethically and spending with care, cuts across all sectors of the economy from food miles to fast fashion, recycling to fair trade but it is notoriously difficult to make informed choices without knowing an organisation’s true credentials. Whether as individuals or corporates, we are left to rely on the watchdogs and standards authorities to guide our buying decisions or look to the press to learn who to avoid.
Added to these complexities is the impact of Brexit and Covid, creating further uncertainty. With money tight and businesses struggling, we need to be a bit more judicious in our purchasing and lifestyle choices. Many small drops can produce huge waves of change and change for the better is overdue on many fronts.
Scottish Government messages are encouraging us to buy local and to support small businesses and we’re all for that. The social economy needs local support to survive but we can also ‘buy social’ when dealing with any size of firm. Supporting companies that produce positive social impacts, as well as profit, is in everyone’s interest. You only need to read the news to see that employees are demanding better pay and working conditions, better line management and flexibility; more meaningful work and autonomy – all of this adds up to healthier working lives and happier citizens.
The Age of Reckoning
With so much going on in this ‘age of reckoning’, where we are tackling issues like the Black Lives Matter, the Me-Too movement, re-analysing colonial history; gender rights; causes of poverty and inequality; Extinction Rebellion and climate change as well as ongoing political, social and economic contentions, we are challenging many of our outdated ideas, values and ways of life. Who we work with, buy from and do business with allows us to vote with our feet and our wallets, so I’m glad that I work for a social enterprise, as that’s one ethical box I can tick with confidence. Whew! I need a cup of tea now, organic and Fairtrade of course.
Ps. Learn more about the values that underpin social enterprises on Senscot’s website: https://senscot.net/
Written by MHScot Team Member, Sonia Last
Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in our blogs belong solely to MHScot.