When we started Prosper Strategies in 2012, social enterprise was still a “fringe” concept. B Corp was still in its infancy, with only about 500 member companies and many of the social enterprises we now know and love were still figments of an idealistic entrepreneur’s imagination. The game has changed considerably in the last five years. 89 percent of social enterprises currently in existence were launched after 2006 and 29 percent were launched since 2011. Today, the B Corp Movement is 2,221 companies strong, and with stores like Whole Foods and Target carrying social enterprise products from brands like Method and REI, even consumers who aren’t explicitly aware of the social enterprise movement are familiar with (and even buying from) the brands that champion it.
This growth and progress is encouraging, but some recent data indicates that it may be starting to slow.
We simply cannot let that happen. We cannot become complacent and allow the social enterprise movement to stagnate now. Why? Because social enterprises are more important today than ever.
Our changing political climate and Donald Trump’s early months in office have left many Americans with a growing sense of uncertainty and unease. Our country’s social and economic future feels less clear than at any time in recent history, and the programs, systems and institutions that have long supported at-risk and high-need populations face an unstable future.
From proposed cuts to the E.P.A. and the National Endowment for the Arts to new threats to nonprofit budgets, it’s clear we can’t continue to rely only on government and the nonprofit sector to drive meaningful environmental and social change. We must seek creative solutions from different players, and private business has the potential to be the most powerful player in the game.
In this time of change, we need to support and help accelerate the growth of the social enterprise movement.In this time of change, we need to help accelerate the growth of the social enterprise movement. Click To Tweet
But how? Here are some ideas to get you started.
If you own or work for a social enterprise:
- Start a peer group to discuss challenges and opportunities with other social enterprise leaders.
- Join existing groups like Social Enterprise Alliance or B Corp and partner with other organizations to advocate for policies that give social enterprises an advantage.
- Invest in product development, talent and marketing to put your social enterprise in a competitive position and help it reach as many potential customers as possible.
- Spend (a lot) of time with the people your social enterprise hopes to impact to better understand their needs and structure your company to meet them more effectively.
- Stay informed. Pay attention to changes to funding for nonprofits and government programs that focus on the same populations or needs as your social enterprise and be the first to recognize new gaps your company can help fill.
- Speak at universities, community events and other centers of influence about your work. You never know when you might inspire someone to start the next high impact social enterprise.
If you work in the nonprofit sector:
- Seek social enterprises in your community you can partner with to pursue shared goals.
- Be vocal about the funding challenges your organization faces and the creative solutions you feel social enterprises and private business could help you discover.
- Consider launching a social enterprise as part of your organization. Traditional, donor-supported nonprofit models are becoming less sustainable for many organizations, and developing your own revenue streams through the development of a social enterprise could be the answer to many of your funding problems.
If you’re a consumer:
- Buy from social enterprises. It’s cliché but true: money is power.
- Talk to your friends and family. As much as I love and believe in marketing, I know your “word of mouth” support is still the best hope we have for helping social enterprises become the force for change we so desperately need.
It has never been more important for entrepreneurs to start businesses that intend to change the world and for consumers to support them. What will you do to help?
Accelerate your social enterprise’s impact.
Social enterprises have the unique potential to be the most powerful drivers of positive social change. How will you do your part? Download the Essential Social Enterprise Marketing Plan Template here to create a strategy that will amplify your message and help you further your impact.