Have you heard this term before?
It was a new one on me, but it succinctly describes the position that many social enterprises are feeling at the moment. A big contractor comes along and promises to pass some business a social enterprise’s way and in return they are named as a partner to tick the ‘social impact box’ on the bidding from. When the contract comes through the promises are not honoured and nobody seems to care (least of all the contract holder). Perhaps it’s about negotiating clear subcontractor terms, but as we know, when you are at the end of the food chain it’s very hard to negotiate and there often isn’t the time. Barriers exist with tight bidding deadlines and lead contractors that are focused on the profits for shareholders rather than the social and environmental outcomes.
So, what do we have to do to be taken seriously?
It might be about sometimes saying no, but it is also about encouraging those big businesses to see us differently…. to see us not as a free lunch, or a nice fluffy teddy bear, but as a business to business relationship or partnership. The Social Enterprise Mark is actively moving the positioning of the sector through the 50in250 campaign by influencing corporate supply chains so that social enterprises are paid a fair price for their services.
Contract managers, directors, and ministers should also take more responsibility for looking underneath the carpet. The A4E situation is a classic case of image over track record of delivery and to cap it all provision of huge profits for shareholders. I’m not saying that everything in the social enterprise world is perfect, but if we are shouting about why we are different, there has to be a clear and consistent way of proving it, otherwise it’s just platitudes.
I first talked about this almost a year ago – it feels a bit like Groundhog Day! See https://lucyfindlay.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/suffering-from-social-enterprise-identity-confusion/